Electoral turnouts need boost
Congratulations to Conservative candidate Sir Clive Loader on winning the election to become Leicestershire and Rutland's first Police and Crime Commissioner. Commiserations to Sarah Russell, for Labour, and Independent candidate Suleman Nagdi, but well done to both on their well-fought campaigns.
During the run-up to these elections, there has been a great deal of concern about the prospect of low voter turnout and to nobody's surprise this proved to be the case across the country.
The picture emerging yesterday indicated that most areas saw a turnout of between 13 and 20 per cent. In Leicestershire and Rutland, the figure was 16 per cent.
By any assessment this is extremely disappointing and it is the Government which is to blame for this mess. It failed to win public support for the idea of Police and Crime Commissioners in the first instance. It then ploughed on with an election without very much effort to make people aware of what the post entailed or even that an election was taking place. To make matters worse, it timed the poll for mid-November instead of running it alongside other elections in May.
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Labour yesterday accused the Government of wasting £100 million on the exercise which could have been better spent on paying for police officers. It is a fair point.
However, there is a wider story here about electoral turnout which all politicians should be worried about. The turnout was not only low in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections but also in two parliamentary by-elections in Manchester Central and Cardiff South.
In the former, Labour held the seat on a turnout of just 18 per cent of the vote, the lowest in a UK parliamentary by-election since 1942.
Even in General Elections, there has been a decline in voter turnout. In 2001, the figure fell to 59 per cent, having previously been above 70 per cent. Since then it has recovered slightly but even in 2010 was still only 65 per cent.
There will be various theories about why this is happening, but the one thing which is certain is that this not a healthy situation for a democracy. Much more thought needs to be given to how to improve these figures and make sure that more people have a say in the running of our country and its institutions.