Thursday, July 25, 2024

Baroness concerned over possible low turnout for police elections

Baroness Smith of Basildon rose on the floor of the House of Lords to express her concerns at the possibility of a low turnout in next months police commissioner elections.

Baroness asked: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the likely turnout in the elections for police and crime commissioners.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, the election of police and crime commissioners will be one of the most significant democratic reforms of policing in our lifetime. We want and encourage everyone to have their say and we are confident that come 15 November the public will not only be aware of the elections but will have the information that they need to make their choices.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour)

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to his new role at the Dispatch Box and look forward to many long and interesting discussions with him. However, I found his Answer somewhat disappointing.

The Electoral Commission fears an 18.5% turnout for these elections. That is not surprising, given that the elections will be held in November when it is cold, wet and dark, and that the candidate information has been made available online instead of in the normal leaflets for every household, as in similar elections. May I press the noble Lord on this point and ask him what level of turnout he would accept as evidence that the Government have respect for the police and the candidates and that this is a serious policy and not something dreamt up on the back of an envelope?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

The noble Baroness is very kind in her welcome, and I am grateful for that. The whole point of the information campaign is to make sure that the public are in a position to make a proper choice. For this election, the Home Office is setting up a website on which all candidates will be able to post an election address-and, if they wish, there is a call-line as well. All this information and the contacts will be on the poll card. They will in a position to get a hard copy, should they wish to do so.

I am not going to answer the question about turnout. No one would do that. The success of this campaign will be in the effectiveness of the policy, which is to bring democratic accountability to the police force in a way that has not been the case up to now. I am sure that the noble Baroness supports that.


  1. I am also not sure how many people realise how important this election could be for everyone.
    Instead of a committee of people deciding their counties Police Forces policy and budgets, there will be only be one supremo in charge.
    Not very democractic me thinks!

  2. Slightly odd to describe it as not very democratic when its a directly elected person replacing a hodge podge of people who have been offered it as second prize. Sorry you’re not in cabinet, why not go on the police authority, nice little earner.

    Even odder to describe it us undemocratic on a post made by… An unelected politician.

  3. Descamisados, the point I was trying to make was that surely it is better for a group decision, rather than a single?
    I know many Police Officers are very worried for the future.

  4. An interesting point. I can think of good decisions made by groups (introduction of minimum wage by Labour Cabinet in late 90’s) and bad decisions made by groups (Real IRA / ETA, etc). I can think of good decisions made by individuals (whistleblowers) and bad decisions made by individuals (“‘ll run away to France with my student”).

    I personally like directly elected posts because they provide a clear line of accountability to the electorate. But, of course, most decision making processes can benefit from having a wide range of viewpoints and experience heard around the table.

    My own view is that, given the importance and size of the policing budget, it’s a good idea to have a high profile, accountable person elected directly to be in charge of that. The alternative is an obscure committee in some back office somewhere. But I agree that the PCC should take on input from a range of sources.

  5. Had my voting cards through but still have had no literature about the candidates that are standing and what their policies will be, if they cant be bothered to even send out leaflets or knock on the doors then why should we be bothered to go out and vote for them?


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