I’ve decided I’m going to try and blog more often. Here’s my starter for 10 …
I’ve wrestled with my conscience about whether to vote in yesterday’s elections for Police Commissioners. It struck me right from the start that these elections would be marked by a mixture of total apathy, and by outright opposition. If I’d been keeping up to my blog I’d have been able to link to a previous post so that I could say “I told you so !”.
Well I didn’t keep up to my blog so I can’t, and I didn’t, but I could have.
It all seemed so obvious to me …
In the first instance, the public simply don’t have the appetite for more ranks of elected officaldom. (As demonstrated by the widespread rejection of the option of having elected Mayors ). Democracy for the British people it would seem is about electing people with sufficient seniority to appoint other people that they choose on our behalf to do the donkey work for them.
And really, what’s wrong with that ?
I’m actually fine with that state of affairs.
Secondly – if you’re going to politicise any thing, then please do not make it the Police Force – it’s the last thing in the world that most people would want dominated by an elected official.
It feels very wrong in my own opinion – and also feels decidedly un-British. A bit like having a Sheriff in the Wild West.
I’m not actually sure where the idea came from – was it an issue in the general election ? If it was then I missed it. It seems we’ve had this wonderful idea dropped on us from on high – and unlike the idea of AV voting, and elected mayors, this time we weren’t given a choice of whether to accept this innovation to our democratic process – we were merely given the choice of who we wanted to do the job that had been invented.
Well I didn’t want anybody to do the job. OK – I’d prefer a Labour candidate. And I’d prefer any candidate that’s not part of a far right racist group. Really though – I’d prefer it if our time wasn’t wasted on this rubbish.
So what happened at the Ballot Boxes ?
Record low turnouts; very high numbers of spoiled ballots; and a high number of independents elected (it remains to be seen how many of them are well qualified ex-policemen, and how many are dangerous authoritarian nut cases – I’m hoping the former is the case).
We’ve also had the Electoral Commission announcing that it will launch an inquiry into the low turnouts, which they describe as “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.
So what does David “I’m in touch” Cameron have to say ?
Well according to the BBC David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected. (which begs the question of why he didn’t address that before polling day). When told that ‘Numerous areas have confirmed turnouts ranging from 13-20%.’ – he said
“It takes time to explain a new post,” and he predicted voting numbers would be “much higher next time round”
What was that Prime Minister ? Next time ? Next time ? – are you having us on ?
I’m sorry Mr Cameron but you’ll have to do better than that.
Cast your minds back about a year – when various unions took ballots regarding strike action to protest against Government plans for public sector pensions.
A well reported one was this : Unison members vote for pension strike which Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude responded to by calling on Unison members not to go ahead with a strike.
“Today’s Unison ballot received a very low turnout – with less than a third of their members even voting – which shows there is extremely limited support for the kind of strike action their union leaders want,”
So what he was saying was that despite the technical legitimacy of the mandate for strike action by Unison, they should not take the action because there was no ‘popular’ mandate – no ‘moral’ mandate if you prefer.
This on a vote of members who’d chosen to join the union, members who would not be bound by the result of the ballot; and who voted 78% to 22% in favour on a 29% turnout.
This equates to around 22.5% of the total eligible to vote. Admittedly it’s hardly overwhelming.
It stacks up well though compared to the Conservatives’ share of total possible votes in the 2010 general election – 26% – slightly more than 1 in 4 of the electorate.
And it looks very much like a landslide in comparison with the victory for new Conservative PCC Matthew Ellis in Staffordshire. Mr Ellis described his share of the vote as “a decent mandate” – yet on the meagre 11.63% turnout his share of the vote amounted to just 6% of the electorate.
Mr Cameron when 6% is a decent mandate, then we have a problem. The process of appointing these commissioners needs, at the very least, to be suspended pending further parliamentary debate. While no one seriously questions the technical legitimacy of these elections, it’s clear that there is very little support for the new proposed Police Commissioners- how ill any one gain by imposing this measure on the public ?
Elsewhere all the elections went pretty much as expected. Two Labour holds in Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth; from which precious little can be learned especially on the very low turnouts.
The turnout was more respectable in Corby where Labour’s Andy Sawford won with a large swing to Labour following semi-celeb Louise Mensch’s resignation recently.
It’s difficult to really divine what this means in national terms – it’s by no means an absolute death sentence for the Government – but it’s also still a pretty positive and healthy result for Labour.
What really struck me about the Corby by-election though was Louise Mensch staying
true to her media image by singularly failing to keep her gob shut.
Having ousted a Labour MP incumbent since 1997 at the 2010 general election, Louise handed a hard earned Conservative seat straight back to the opposition half way through the parliament. Perhaps she’d have thought today was a day to merely congratulate the victor, and offer some apology to the defeated Tory candidate.
Here’s what she said :
Election result will not be a verdict on either Christine, or the Conservatives, but only on the decision I took to step down mid-term
Well get you Menschy !
Who the hell does she think she is ? Obviously she thinks she’s so important that the people of Corby will vote on no other issue other than her resignation – they won’t be bothered by the omnishambles of a Government, they won’t bother looking at what any of the candidates have to say – for any of the parties. No they’ll just be so furious at the loss of their darling Louise that they’ll take it out on her old party.
And with these words Louise once again illustrates that character trait running right through the Tory Party – the characteristically self-centred sense of superiority and elevated status which they feel is their entitlement. Perhaps if Louise had campaigned with Christine in Corby and told the pleb electorate to know their place and vote for who she told them to, then they might have won.
Finally we had the news of John Prescott failing in his bid to be elected as a Police Commissioner in Humberside. Conservative MP Robert Halfon exhorted to Twitter :
At least John Prescott didn’t get elected as Police Commissioner -#notalltoday’sTorynewsisbad
And yet even in this hashtag he is at least partially mistaken.
John Prescott’s defeat, was not achieved through the First Past the Post system. It was achieved through the AV system – that system that the country voted so overwhelmingly to reject, and which most of the Tory Party (including Robert Halfon) campaigned vigorously against – rejecting it as undemocratic.
On a first past the post vote, John Prescott would have been elected.
On a count of first preferences, winning candidate Matthew Grove’s 29,440 votes account for just 4% of the total electorate
Yet the Tories seem to be dancing in the street.
Do they even know what democracy means ?