The arrival of the results of last week’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Dorset brought an embarrassing episode in campaigning to an end for the coalition government.
Friday’s results, gifting independent candidate Martyn Underhill the new post, almost ranked as a footnote to the news of the dismal voter turnout for the November elections.
Mr Underhill achieved victory through second round votes after neither him nor Conservative candidate Nick King managed to make the required 50% of votes.
However, the turnout for the elections only reached a shocking 16.3% after only 96,149 of the registered 588,436 ballots were cast.[one_half]
Such low turnout for the elections is hardly a surprise for those involved, Martyn Underhill criticised the “poor publicity” of the PCC elections which led to a severe “lack of public awareness” before the November 15 election day.
Furthermore, Mr Underhill gave a damning assessment of the government-produced television advertising campaign for the elections (see video clip) describing it as “simple scaremongering.”[/one_half] [one_half_last] [/one_half_last]
Unsuccessful Labour candidate, Rachel Rogers, supported Underhill’s assessment of the advertising campaign by describing the government’s attempts to advertise the new post as “lamentable.”
The former prison officer continued saying that “if you looked at the advert you’d think we were electing ‘super cop’ and frankly we’re not.”
The dismal failings of the coalition government to engage the electorate in an important election day becomes more striking given the amount of money put into staging the elections themselves.
The figure of £75 million over the two and a half year planning process is a shocking amount given the ensuing 20% cuts in policing budgets, resulting in the loss of over 300 officers and more than 200 staff in Dorset alone over the next few years.
But this striking waste of public money is just another part of an election which seems dominated by the money which has been invested into it.
Martyn Underhill’s campaign, whilst dominated by rhetoric concerning ‘keeping politics out of policing’ (the perceived consequence of the new PCC role), was supported by funding none of the other candidates could hope to match.
The candidate’s transparency publications revealed £28,000 pounds had been donated to Underhill’s campaign by two unnamed business men.
The new PCC claimed he was working on an uneven playing field as he was required to detail every donation made to him of £50 and over, in comparison to £1,500 for the party representatives.
However, the party representative’s funding transparency reveals that aside from a £5,000 donation made to Rachel Rogers by the Labour party, in order to pay her deposit, both Mrs Rogers and Nick King were the largest contributors to their own campaigns meaning they had little hope of matching Underhill’s budget.
The success of the PCC role itself remains to be seen, however on the evidence of the recent elections, lots of work needs to be done to save the coalition’s stuttering policing experiment.
Main image courtesy of getoutandvote