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Polls for pols for Peelers
November 15, 2012 10:24 AM   Subscribe

England and Wales go to the polls today...or do they?

All parts of England and Wales (but London) are holding elections today for 41 newly established Police & Crime Commissioners. The elections have been accused of being a "US-inspired" vehicle for bringing in privatization, politicizing policing, and there is a widespread air of apathy about the whole thing. There are few voices in defence.

Turnout so far does not look good.
posted by Jehan (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I went out and voted about an hour ago, and saw that maybe only 10 to 20% of the names on the list had been crossed off. The turnout definitely looks so low where I am.
posted by Jehan at 10:32 AM on November 15, 2012

I completely forgot about this election shortly after I received my polling card a few weeks ago. Only remembered because of a friend on Facebook. Just back from the polling station.
posted by Urtylug at 10:35 AM on November 15, 2012

I've been debating whether or not to spoil or abstain.

There's a Conservative who I won't be voting for, an independent who asked to be the Conservative candidate who I also won't be voting for, and a Labour candidate who (as a former MP for the area) voted strongly in favour of identity cards, idiotic anti-terrorism laws and a litany of other political issues I disagree with. He did send me a leaflet opposing the privatization of the police though.

I'll probably spoil.
posted by knapah at 10:46 AM on November 15, 2012

I spoilt. I wrote "Please no commissioners" on my ballot. There has been a lot of debate about the merits of abstention against spoiling. Which is a very weird thing to read in run-up to an election...
posted by Jehan at 10:51 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Admittedly, most of my rationale for abstaining is that it's quite cold outside...
posted by knapah at 10:54 AM on November 15, 2012

I voted, only on the grounds that the English Democrats (racist nuts) might get in otherwise. Tough call on whether to just abstain though.
posted by crocomancer at 11:06 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

This will be handy for bringing up when they moan about strike ballot turn-outs though.
posted by Abiezer at 11:10 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Eh - you guilted me into voting. Hope you're happy.

Not too impressed by any of the candidates and the position itself strikes me as being a bad move, but since we're doing this I might as well take it semi-seriously.

The polling station I went to was quiet. They said that they'd seen about 50 people over the course of the day - this is from a catchment of about 1000 people and with three hours left to vote.

This has not been a well-run campaign by any stretch.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:12 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well I did it.
I wrote no in every box and then a brief note about how the election was a pointless waste of money and politically idiotic anyway.
posted by knapah at 11:17 AM on November 15, 2012

This reminds me of the Mayoral referendum in Birmingham where the role of 'mayor' was defined as 'To Be Announced after the government has seen who you elected'.

For a gov't with two-asses it sure is strange how half-assed everything they do is.
posted by srboisvert at 11:28 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Well reminded, I will wander down before they shut, we actually have 10 candidates, the 3 main parties, UKIP and 6 independents. Had zero information about any of them. I looked up their statements on the web at the weekend and some of them can't seem to formulate policy beyond let's lock up criminals, which to my mind seems not to really have grasped the complexities of modern policing, its the PCC equivalent of Alan Shearer's football analysis. Spoiling is very tempting.
posted by biffa at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2012

What good does spoiling do?
posted by pracowity at 11:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

After some thought, I drew a kitten on my ballot paper.

There are probably going to be lots of spoiled ballots around here - I imagine it'll be unusually interesting being the people who count them!
posted by gnimmel at 11:37 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm another spoiler. Plenty of people in my Twitter and Facebook the same. It makes me slightly uncomfortable that I might let the far-Right in, but I think not challenging the process is more dangerous than failing to vote for what will inevitably amount to the lesser of two evils.
posted by howfar at 11:46 AM on November 15, 2012

I have literally no idea who my candidates are or what differentiates them. I haven't seen a single leaflet, sign or article in the local free paper. No one has mentioned it to me during day to day discussions, apathy seems to run deep on this one.

I did see an advert urging me to vote. It annoyed me to know that I had, in some convoluted and indirect way, paid for it.

I dislike the American model of voting for every office, where many of the electorate pick based on party allegiance or how many kerbside signs they've seen recently. If I ignore it then maybe it won't happen. I can dream can't I?
posted by samworm at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2012

This Brit had absolutely no idea about this, and having skimmed the links I'm not sure what I would have been voting for, or how I would have been expected to make a decision. What an omnishambles.
posted by Decani at 11:54 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

What good does spoiling do?
For me, spoiling was about having a say on the introduction of the commissioners themselves. Abstaining would mean that I might be seen as apathetic, and voting would legitimize whichever candidate won. Even though I know it won't lawfully make a difference, if the number of spoilt ballots is high enough it will help win future arguments. When it comes to remove the office, hopefully my vote will mean something there.

(Also, one of my candidates was Matty Groves. (Sadly can't find the John Baez version.))
This Brit had absolutely no idea about this, and having skimmed the links I'm not sure what I would have been voting for, or how I would have been expected to make a decision. What an omnishambles.
London isn't voting. You've already got Boris Johnson.
posted by Jehan at 11:58 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I voted but I didn't spoil. Like others I was too worried about privatised police or far right people being elected.

I have no interest in elected police commissioners though, and judging by the difficulty everybody has had in receiving any information about this election, it seems that nobody else does either.
posted by mnfn at 11:59 AM on November 15, 2012

It kind of makes me wish I'd organised a little ironic welcoming-party at our local polling station - maybe a little pre-recorded trumpet fanfare, some truncheon-shaped cucumber sandwiches, and a little souvenir plastic bobby's helmet for every voter...
posted by pipeski at 12:02 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

...but it was cold out, so I stayed in.
posted by pipeski at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I popped down as mentioned above, thought I would mention a data point, the lady on the desk said I was the 100th person in today. I asked how many were eligible: 1040, so not great stats. Incidentally when the crime stats were published last month we were one of very few who hadn't dropped and instead crime had gone up 7%, which is a pretty big jump. Doesn't seem to have motivated anyone to go out.

What good does spoiling do?

As someone else noted it registers an objection to a meaningless and pointless vote. Secondly, if enough people spoil then it delegitimises the winner. I wouldn't normally do it, but in an election like this with low turnout and (in my region) lots of independents with potential to split the vote (my county kicked out all Labour councillors and voted in 25% independents in 2010) then a decent number of spoils might be an embarrassment to someone and remove a mandate. And given the crappy candidates and lack of substantive policies who was there to vote for?
posted by biffa at 12:10 PM on November 15, 2012

We were number's 96 and 97 at our station; at 8pm, once they found our street anyway. We asked - they've had less than 6% turnout so far. The Elections Officer half joked that he hoped they wouldn't have to go past 100 because its a lot of work to start a new pad...

Dorset in the news is projected to see less than 10% turnout. I think the overall message of the electorate is 'meh, what a waste of time and money'. I don't think the rank bunch of non-entities up for the vote helped - I read all 4 of their manifestos and managed to boil them down to:
'I can run a spreadsheet I can'
'I started a business when I was 25, I know how to sack all the plod and hire cheapie special constables'
'I'm a qualified teacher that worked in a prison, so I'm perfectly qualified to form a committee to learn what people want as priorities'
'We need to save the children by sending all the young people to prison'

Oh, and all of them want to form greater links between the police and the needs of the local community. What a load of meaningless waffle and waste of money. Oh, and they'll be paid more salary than our MP.

On the plus side, I now know the difference between a giant and a hobbit with super powers going shopping for a freezer in Curry's thanks to my conversation on the way to the polling booth.

Just don't ask. Really.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

London isn't voting. You've already got Boris Johnson.

What, so that shows we can't be trusted with a ballot box?

You may have a point.
posted by Grangousier at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have literally no idea who my candidates are or what differentiates them. I haven't seen a single leaflet, sign or article in the local free paper

I believe the budget they were given for electioneering was precisely zero pounds, which explains the lack of paid advertising by candidates. The only place I've seen anything is on the BBC, which puts up their manifesto summaries, and the wonderfully titled
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:34 PM on November 15, 2012

I too spoilt my ballot.

It is the only action open to me to show disapproval with the vote without appearing to show apathy.

When they recently held regional votes on whether or not to have elected Mayors in major cities, these mostly came out as no (except Bristol).

I suspect that had they done the same for Police Commissioners the result would have been similar.
posted by devon at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2012

Theoretically I'm voting 1. Independent 2. Labour. But in practice, it's too cold and I really don't care. It's just such a waste of time and effort. And I vote in European elections. To think people died so I could get the vote.
posted by plonkee at 12:47 PM on November 15, 2012

On the one hand, Ian Blair - that lying sack of shit who's an apologist for police murder of the innocent - thinks we should boycott the elections, which automatically makes me think it's a good idea.

On the other, I really wish now I'd written in 'none of the above' and put a box with cross next to it. And to apologise for the utter waste of time the poor volunteer ballot counter is sitting through, drawn a picture of a nice balloon.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:55 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

When they recently held regional votes on whether or not to have elected Mayors in major cities, these mostly came out as no (except Bristol).
Are we getting that result tonight? I seem to recall that we're having the Bristol mayor, two of the three MP by-elections, and one commissioner tonight, but the rest Friday or the weekend. Apart from Corby (She Whose Name Will Not Be Menschioned), I guess the media will only be interested in the other elections if the commissioner polls really are a "no-show".
posted by Jehan at 1:13 PM on November 15, 2012

I spoiled too, mostly for the novelty. From the admittedly biased sample group of my Facebook feed, we're gonna win a in a landslide.
posted by anagrama at 1:16 PM on November 15, 2012

I was going to spoil, but by the time I realised it was Thursday it was too late to vote.
posted by fullerine at 1:33 PM on November 15, 2012

- it's not too late. polls close at 10pm

- what a waste of feckin time. Electing Home Secretarys has no effect on crime so how does electing a Police [& Crime?!!?] Commissioner help? [I don't want the winner commissioning any crime, thanks]

I voted Labour for the first time ever, & Independent also the first time ever.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:46 PM on November 15, 2012

"Spoiling your ballot" sounds like a euphemism for some unspeakable bodily function - "Eh, open a window, Darren's spoiled his ballot again."
posted by Grangousier at 1:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

the other half and I were no. 80 and 81 at about 5:30 this evening in my polling station, officers said they weren't expecting more than 7% for our catchment area and that having two people in voting at the same time was a novelty today.

This whole thing is a clusterfuck, the refusal to give a free mailshot means that no one knew anything about their candidates without resorting to the internet, which then disenfranchises the many who still fall on the wrong side of the digital divide in the UK. Urgh.
posted by halcyonday at 1:56 PM on November 15, 2012

ArkhanJG, I'm in Dorset too. That's a good summary of the idiots we had to choose between. Four people woefully unqualified for the job apart from having a massive need to be in charge of stuff.

And can we not find a way to maroon Nick King somewhere where there are no possible committees or 'public service' roles for him to try and elbow himself into? I'm sick of having that gurning face staring at me out of some Tory pamphlet or other.

A chaotic day prevented me from voting. I don't quite know what I would have done but it's the first time I've considered spoiling my vote or writing in protest.

What a hideous waste of money on a post no-one needs filled. I'm sure this isn't how to make the Police accountable or responsive to local needs.
posted by dowcrag at 1:58 PM on November 15, 2012

I voted, mostly because I always vote. "What if a tory wins by one vote?" says the nagging vote in my head. I was apparently the 70-somethingth person to vote, at 8pm at night, which is about a 5% turnout, discounting postal votes. The polling station felt quiet and eerie, like a bit of Assault on Precinct 13 during a lull. A guy wearing an official-looking lanyard was outside having a fag when I ambled up; he knocked to get one of the staff to open the fire door from the inside to let me in.

I didn't vote for an independent - something about someone being really keen to run the police as an independent candidate worries me. I imagine them having a room in their home like Father Fitzpatrick. I'd much rather vote for a candidate I knew was in to cynically further their political career.
posted by liquidindian at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't vote, but mainly because I had forgotten it was on. It's hardly been the most advertised thing ever. I am not entirely sure who was running, nor why we need police commissioners anyway.

And why are many of them politically affiliated? I don't want police to be political.

We had one leaflet through the door and I did check out the BBC site. But how do you choose when each of them state they are "against crime" or "want to stop criminals". No shit Sherlock.
posted by milkb0at at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2012

These elections a farce.

We have an electorate who don't want to vote and candidates who don't want to campaign.

At least the vote counters will still get their pay for the ten minutes they had to work.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2012

truncheon-shaped cucumber sandwiches

Why would you take something already truncheon-shaped, chop it in to non-truncheoniform slices, put them between bread, and then carve the resulting thing into the proper shape? Why not just paint the cucumber?
posted by kengraham at 5:05 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

If I ever form a sixties psych-pop band, "The Truncheoniform Slices" is the name it shall bear.
posted by howfar at 12:52 AM on November 16, 2012

You know this is Newport
posted by fullerine at 3:19 AM on November 16, 2012

The only outcome so far is Wiltshire, won by Conservatives. Angus Macpherson got 36.2% of a 15.8% turnout. Which is, what, 5.7% of the whole electorate? Not exactly a strong mandate.
posted by Jehan at 3:34 AM on November 16, 2012

If I ever form a sixties psych-pop band, "The Truncheoniform Slices" is the name it shall bear.

I, for one, will buy your album, "Blunt Instrument Salad".
posted by kengraham at 6:17 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looks like the polls will be historically low.

In other news Labour have won all three by-elections turning over the Tories in Corby with an above the national average swing. The Lib Dems were crushed, ending up 4th in Corby with a lost deposit.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:20 AM on November 16, 2012

Cameron arguing that commissioners elected by 7% of the electorate do have a mandate. Will be fun to see that on being thrown back at him, next time he whines about the turnout in a union ballot for strike action.
posted by reynir at 1:12 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I haven't had chance to catch up with all the news yet, but hasn't Mark Serwotka already thrown that at Cameron? Whether or not you agree with unions, these PCC elections set a low bar for democracy.
posted by Jehan at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2012

Read that spoilt ballots beat the Lib Dems in Coventry. Ho ho.
posted by Abiezer at 8:58 AM on November 17, 2012

The independent candidate (who wanted to be the Conservative candidate) won in my area, Warwickshire. Not too surprising given there were only 3 candidates.
posted by knapah at 12:13 PM on November 17, 2012

My region was won by an independent who seems to have no experience in policing or anything related... but used to be a presenter on the local news. Face palm.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2012

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