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Apathy rules in Police Commissioner contest

Apathy rules in Police Commissioner contest

🕔25.Jun 2012

The West Midlands’ first Police and Crime Commissioner is likely to be a Labour politician, but the party faithful have shown little interest in deciding who should fill the £100,000-a-year role.

Just over a quarter of Labour members in Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Walsall, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley bothered to vote in the selection process to choose a candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner.

Only 29 per cent of members across the region returned their postal ballot papers, with a clear majority opting for veteran police authority member, Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones.

This means that 71 per cent of Labour members decided to play no part in selecting the party’s candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner.

The figure is in line with the disappointingly low turnout at the city council elections in Birmingham this May and reinforces concerns that police commissioner elections in England and Wales on November 15 will be ignored by most people.

Since only 29 per cent of Labour members bothered to vote, and given that those who join a political party are interested in public affairs and generally lore likely to vote at elections, it must be likely that participation in poorly promoted police commissioner elections may even fall below 20 per cent – raising questions about the democratic legitimacy of whoever is elected.

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The winning candidate in November will enjoy substantial powers and duties, including:

  • The right to hire and fire the Chief Constable.
  • The right to require a report at any time from the Chief Constable about the execution of his functions.
  • A duty to draw up a five-year police and crime plan setting out local priorities.
  • A duty to set the force budget and the precept to be levied on local councils.
  • A duty to consult widely with the public and community organisations.

Coun Jones is the red hot favourite to win the PCC election, based on support for Labour in the local government elections this May.

He received 1,580 votes. Birmingham city councillor Yvonne Mosquito, his only challenger, picked up 827 votes. There are about 8,300 Labour members in the West Midlands.

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Former Minister James Plaskitt was selected to run for PCC in Warwickshire, with 291 votes. His only challenger, Clare Edwards, received 102 votes.

In Staffordshire, 402 Labour members voted for Joy Garner to run for PCC. A close run contest saw her only challenger, Michael Potter, pick up 351 votes.

Former MEP Simon Murphy was selected unopposed to run for PCC in West Mercia.

A breakdown of PCC selection ballots across the country shows that the Labour Party opted for shortlists of just two candidates in most police force areas. Exceptions were in South Yorkshire, Durham, Lancashire, Merseyside and Derbyshire where members were able to choose from three candidates under an alternative vote system.

While Labour now has all of its PCC candidates in place across the country, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are yet to make a choice in the West Midlands.

The Conservatives have announced that they will hold primary elections in the West Midlands, allowing people who are not party members a vote in the selection process. An announcement about which two Tory candidates will go through to the primaries is expected shortly.

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