Until Shadow Communities Secretary Jon Trickett mentioned it on Monday, very few people had clocked that although there are not local elections in every part of the country, every voter in the UK will have an opportunity to vote this May.
That’s because the whole of England (except Greater London and now Greater Manchester where the Mayors cover the policing role but there are other elections in any case) and Wales has elections for Police and Crime Commissioners. Most of the 40 PCC roles have only been contested once before, in 2012, though there have been a couple of by-elections in the interim.
That first round of elections was notorious for its record-breaking dismally low turnout (15.1%), caused partly by public disinterest PCC concept, partly the timing in cold and dark mid-November with no coincidental elections in most of the country, and partly by lack of campaigning by the political parties. When I was on Labour’s NEC, Denis Skinner and I had to fight to persuade the party to even stand in every PCC seat, rather than stepping aside for independents in many weaker areas – which was the plan cooked up by the leader’s office. One polling station in Bettws in Newport suffered the ignominy of a turnout of zero.
Other than the turnout story and the high number of independent elected, the 2012 PCC elections were eclipsed in the news by Labour’s triumph on the same day in the Corby parliamentary by-election, a key marginal seat gained from the Tories.
In 2012, 16 Tory PCCs were elected, versus 13 Labour and 12 independents.
This time round turnout will undoubtedly be higher than in 2012 in all those parts of the country with local council elections (which includes Labour’s metropolitan borough strongholds), or in the case of Wales, National Assembly elections on the same day. Even in areas without another election taking place, the turnout should be up on 2012 because May is a more pleasant time of year to campaign and vote than November, with better weather and more daylight hours.
For once, there will be no need for the BBC to estimate vote share nationally using imaginary projections from areas with no local elections, they can use real votes from across the country to show how well the parties are doing in this first nationwide political test under Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour’s candidates are strong. There is a mix of former MPs Alun Michael, Vera Baird, Paddy Tipping, David Jamieson and Jane Kennedy; other veterans such as former minister Lord Bach (Leicestershire) and rising stars such as former adviser to Peter Hain, David Taylor (in North Wales) and former key seat parliamentary candidates Tristan Osborne (Kent) and Kevin McKeever (Northamptonshire).
Crime and antisocial behaviour was a strong policy suite for Labour in the Blair years and whilst it was bizarrely soft-pedalled under Miliband (given that toughness on crime plays well with Labour’s working class voters and presumably there aren’t many votes in being soft on crime) it hasn’t been the subject of ideological strife since Corbyn’s election in the way defence or the economy have. Presumably the space is there for our PCC candidates to present voter-friendly tough on crime policies. One hopes!
The voting system is Supplementary Vote (where voters can cast a first and a second preference), so it will be interesting to see if Corbyn’s Labour can attract tactical transfers from Greens, Plaid Cymru or Lib Dems.
The PCC seats Labour is defending, are in order of majority:
The PCC seats where Labour is in second place are as follows, in order of majority:
Given this was seen as a rather miserable set of results in 2012, we need to be making significant progress compared to it – net gains, and overtaking the Tories to have the largest number of PCCs.