Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections

Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, November 14 2012

IT is one of the ironies of the government's proposals for directly-elected police commissioners that public indifference to the idea is in stark contrast to the importance voters place on crime and safety.

(You see the same with Europe and voter turnout in the EU elections).

So, if the forecasts of pollsters are credible, turnout in tomorrow's ballot looks like being pretty dismal although there are some surveys suggesting that it might not be as bad as some fear.

Read our special report on the elections and find out who the candidates are

Plenty of people dislike the concept of elected commissioners and are uneasy about the idea that politicians who have to serve the twin interests of their party and residents may be in charge of such an important public service.

Many others remain thoroughly confused by what is going on and are labouring under the misapprehension that they are voting for American-style sheriffs, who will have control of the police force on a day-to-day basis.

Even some of Kent's candidates have failed to grasp the distinction between their strategic role, outlining pledges that stray into the chief constable's territory.

The government has to shoulder some responsibility for this confusion and apathy. It has not done as much as it should to promote the elections and explain clearly what they are about.

But this week's ballot is not on the government's handling of its flagship policy, much as some want it to be.

It is about who you think is the best person to do the job of ensuring Kent Police is keeping the streets, towns and villages safe and making sure that taxpayers are getting value for money.

And while there are undoubtedly imperfections in the arrangements for commissioners, the policy, for the first time, gives voters a direct say in who they want to do that job.

No-one has ever voted for anyone to be on the police authorities and the checks and balances on what they did were pretty non-existent.

Police commissioners, on the other hand, will have to be more transparent and accountable to residents. They will also be answerable to independent crime panels, who will be able to summon them to account - in public - about their decisions.

So, many may not like the idea but it would be wrong to stay at home as a way of registering disapproval.

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Making a prediction on the result appears to be beyond even those involved in masterminding their candidates' election campaigns.

The low turnout, coupled with a new voting system involving second preferences could skew the outcome in unpredictable ways.

For what it is worth, I would be surprised if any of Kent's six candidates win by securing a majority on first preferences.

Which brings us to which two candidates will make it through to the final round and the tricky issue of where second preference votes will go.

Best guess? There will be a run-off between the independent candidate Ann Barnes and the Conservative Craig Mackinlay.

But knowing where second preferences will go is virtually impossible. Possible scenarios? The Conservatives may pick up second preference votes from UKIP supporters - whose campaign has bordered on invisibility - and some of those backing the English Democrats.  

There is no natural second home for Labour supporters but I would guess they will go for an independent candidate (if they use it) as a strategy to stop the Conservatives winning.

Liberal Democrats have no candidate but it's a stretch to think they will back a Conservative or Labour candidate and are most likely to go for an independent and that will be Ann Barnes. Some may opt for Dai Liyanage who is a former Liberal.

One thing that could tip the scales is postal votes. Ann Barnes sent out a personal letter with the postal voting pack and her team believe it has paid dividends. For some reason, the Conservatives did not and feel they may have missed a trick.

Given all the uncertainties, perhaps the only safe thing to predict is that by Friday we will have Kent's first-directly elected police and crime commissioner...

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Categories: Police | Politics

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Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis

News, views, gossip and analysis on Kent's political scene, from County Hall to Westminster.

Welcome to my blog. As KM Group's political editor, I keep an eye on the county's corridors of power.

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