We’ve been having a look at the results from the Police and Crime Commissioner elections – not uniquely I add and I would recommend the analysis on the Guardian Data Blog as well as Sam Chapman’s writing over at http://topofthecops.com/.
The success of the independent candidates is perhaps the most interesting outcome once we look past the turnout figures.
We all know the top line figure: 39% of the new PCCs are Conservative, 32% are Labour and 29% are Independent. If we look at who they won against those second place candidates breakdown 39% Conservative, 42% Labour, 17% Independent and 2% English Democrat. However when we look at all of the areas we can see that 55% of the final results were between Conservative and Labour and 45% saw the mainstream party being beaten into third place and an independent being in the running.
Sam Chapman has an excellent post here about what this might mean with respect to the Conservative vote and makes the very valid point that many of these ‘independents’ were in fact local conservative candidates who failed in a seemingly flawed process for choosing local candidates. However it shows a very different picture to anything we would experience at a General or Local election at this point – this is the first time we have seen anything like this level of success for independent candidates.
The intriguing question is what, if any, effect will this influx of independent politicians have on Local politics and how much more difficult will this make it to integrate PCCs into the National democratic conversation which relies on party politics to function?
Part of the answer to this question lies in how effective the new PCCs are at creating effective relationships not only with the Chief Constable and partner organisations but also with the public. I wrote last week about the urgency with which the PCCs needs to address their relationship with the public and for independent candidates this is going to be even more important as they have to expect that the mainstream parties will take these elections far more seriously next time.
It’s possible to link the number of Independents with the low level of voter turnout – the lack of even name, let alone policy, recognition being a reason why people didn’t vote – and to suggest that this is a one-off result which will not be repeated once the PCC position has a higher profile with the public. It’s also possible to link it to a general protest against the post itself or a protest from people who wanted to show their dissatisfaction with mainstream parties. We can finally link it to the fact that many people truly believe that politics has no place in Policing.
However, the fact remains that having a large group of independent politicians represented in the ‘tribe’ of Police and Crime Commissioners reinforces the opportunity that PCCs offer to do politics in a different way. If we want our politicians to be open, digital, networked and agile then perhaps Independents who are not hindered by having to update a party machine will be able bring these principles to bear quickly. The political party structure brings with it support, expertise and resources – but it also brings with it the negative connotations of ‘traditional’ politics. It will be interesting to see how these tensions play out over the next few months – and whether we see any related impact at the next Local Elections in May 2013.
I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of Independents gaining posts; given the potential for party-aligned candidates to better fund their campaigns, combined with the low turn-out, I was anticipating that voters would vote ‘politically’, rather than based on an understanding of the candidates views.
Perhaps, those voters that did turn out had done the ‘due diligence’, and had the election been promoted better and brought more people to the polling stations, the results would have been less independent.
I was told the other day that each PCC appoints his/her own Deputy. They have a free hand in this, and I gather that if the Commissioner dies or resigns or is otherwise removed from post between elections, the Deputy automatically takes over until the next election. No by-elections or anything.
This had the cynic in me wondering whethere there might be some tactically (ie politically) positioned Deputies waiting in the wings, and that we might see some strange resignations in those areas? But then, like I said, I am increasingly becoming a cynic in these matters.