Yesterday the first
clusterfuck elections were held for Police & Crime Commissioners. These are meant to be elected officials that oversee policing and crime prevention in 41 areas (excluding London). The turnout for these elections has been laughably low, ranging from 10% to just below 19%. These are the lowest peacetime election turnouts in history. Evidently many chose not to vote, me included. But why was that? I can't vouch for everyone but I can at least give my reasons.
One of the primary reasons is that we're in an age of austerity, yet we're somehow finding £100 million to throw away on an election that nobody really knows or cares about. Instead of spending so much money on a new election, why not spend it on… I don't know, more police?
The claim is that the PCCs will have more of a mandate than those unelected officials they replace. That is true, but it's not exactly a big mandate. The Tories like to talk about the legitimacy of trade union elections or the EU, yet those elections ended up having more of a mandate than these elections.
Another reason is lack of information. The only information I've really seen has been from the electoral commission. I didn't event know who was standing until a few weeks ago, when I saw it was Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems… Wasn't the whole point meant to be that political parties wouldn't get involved and it would be largely local independents? Instead it's becoming a place for retired or failed MPs to go and try and get a job somewhere else.
But that's no excuse for not voting? If you're a true citizen you can go and find information rather than expect it to be spoon fed to you. Right? And not voting is purely down to apathy and you lose your right to complain about the person elected. If this was any other election I would somewhat agree with that. But I did go out and find information and what I found is that it wouldn't matter who I voted for. The policies for every candidate in my area were this:
- Put more police on the streets
- Reduce crime
Every single candidate. They'd all say they'll do the exact same thing, which coincidentally is the job description of the post of PCC. It genuinely does not matter. And to further compound that you need to look at the areas they could have differentiated themselves. Ending the criminalisation of drugs, protecting civil rights, reforming prison services. These are things they have no power over. All they can really do is redirect a bit of money (which is still effectively centrally controlled so they can't roll back cuts to policing budgets).
Effectively we're spending £100 million to elect 41 people to jobs giving them between £65k and £100k a year to just shift a few bits of money around in an already restricted budget. And this is why I didn't bother voting, and why I suspect many others didn't bother voting either.