CRIME COMMISSIONER: Triumph for Tory but apathy reigns at polls

Anthony Stansfeld

Anthony Stansfeld

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

TORY Anthony Stansfeld will start work as the region’s police and crime commissioner backed by only one in 20 people voting for him and an apparent protest against the new post at the polls.

His victory to be installed as the new man overseeing Thames Valley Police yesterday was overshadowed by a poor turnout across the Thames Valley with just 13.3 per cent of the 1.69m potential voters bothering to turn out. In Oxford it was down to just 10.9 per cent – a fraction of the 29.4 per cent of people who voted in this year’s city council elections.

And as well as apathy, commentators said the election drew a large protest vote with 4.7 per cent of Oxfordshire ballot papers rejected by authorities for being spoiled or marked incorrectly. That compares to just 0.53 per cent in the city council elections.

Mr Stansfeld, the 66-year-old former Army man from Newbury, beat a challenge from Labour candidate Tim Starkey, but needed to go to a count of second preference votes to do so.

He polled 76,011 votes as people’s first choice for commissioner compared to Mr Starkey’s 56,631. Because he did not have an overall majority, voters’ second choice of candidates were counted, leaving the Tory the winner with 94,238 votes in total compared to Mr Starkey’s 70,403.

But that total equates to just 5.5 per cent of every eligible voter in the Thames Valley selecting him as their first or second-choice candidate.

However, last night he defended the new £85,000 role against the poor turnout and high number of spoilt ballots.

He said: “I don’t think it undermines the idea. Having an election in November with dark nights makes it very difficult for people to vote. The next time, when it is held with council elections, the turnout will be highly different.”

When asked about the spoilt ballots he added: “People did not understand the election and said it was politicising the police.

“In fact this is handing down power and it is a far more democratic system then we had before.”

The new commissioner role, which replaces the system of police authorities, will be to set the police budget and the force’s crime-fighting priorities. Mr Stansfeld, whose main office will be in Kidlington, will also have the power to hire and fire the chief constable.

Oxfordshire voted along its recent political allegiances. Mr Starkey won in Oxford but Mr Stansfeld won the other four districts in the county.

Last night city council leader Bob Price said voters who spoiled their ballots were rejecting the whole PCC policy.

He said: “Many people who are very interested in politics have regarded the whole thing as a complete farce.

“They don’t see why the system we have at the moment should change.

“I think people were absolutely rejecting the policy.”

TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign manager Robert Oxley said he had heard about a campaign to encourage voters to spoil ballots in protest.

He supported the new role but said: “Ministers should be held to account for their complete failure to explain the benefits of this policy to the public.

“Clearly a large number of people have spoiled their ballots, and this policy is clearly not without opposition. But it’s not about politicising the police, it’s about making them more accountable, and the system we have at the moment clearly doesn’t do that.”

After he as declared commissioner, Mr Stansfeld revealed he would be appointing police authority member David Carroll as his deputy.

Independent candidate Geoff Howard had a strong showing, coming third overall and beating the Liberal Democrats’ John Howson into fourth and UKIP’s Barry Cooper into fifth.

Another independent, Patience Awe, was last overall.

Comments (8)

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11:17am Sat 17 Nov 12

jockox3 says...

Will it take spoiled ballots actually to win an election before our lords and masters listen? How is replacing two elected representatives from Oxfordshire and one from every other unitary or county authority in the Thames Valley area by one chap from Newbury with only one person in twenty actually supporting him and his mate from Bucks with no mandate at all a better system? Is this what they tout as "localism" these days?

Let's hope the ballot spoilers have got a taste for this little form of protest. Join us! It can be fun working out what to write, or a fictitious candidate to write-in in protest. My choice, DS James Hathaway would have done a wonderful job I believe. Setting a Cambridge man amongst Oxford police would have ruffled a few feathers I have no doubt :)
Will it take spoiled ballots actually to win an election before our lords and masters listen? How is replacing two elected representatives from Oxfordshire and one from every other unitary or county authority in the Thames Valley area by one chap from Newbury with only one person in twenty actually supporting him and his mate from Bucks with no mandate at all a better system? Is this what they tout as "localism" these days? Let's hope the ballot spoilers have got a taste for this little form of protest. Join us! It can be fun working out what to write, or a fictitious candidate to write-in in protest. My choice, DS James Hathaway would have done a wonderful job I believe. Setting a Cambridge man amongst Oxford police would have ruffled a few feathers I have no doubt :) jockox3
  • Score: 0

12:24pm Sat 17 Nov 12

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

Apathy doesn't reign - that is an insult. I could have spoiled my ballot paper but chose not to use it at all because I see no connection between party candidates and supervision of the police. I think the salary is too high for any candidate, so I didn't vote for an independent either. That is not apathy; it is total disapproval of the ballot, the idea and the waste of money when police budgets are being cut. What other protest vote do we have if not a non-vote?
Apathy doesn't reign - that is an insult. I could have spoiled my ballot paper but chose not to use it at all because I see no connection between party candidates and supervision of the police. I think the salary is too high for any candidate, so I didn't vote for an independent either. That is not apathy; it is total disapproval of the ballot, the idea and the waste of money when police budgets are being cut. What other protest vote do we have if not a non-vote? Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: 1

2:27pm Sat 17 Nov 12

Watch your back says...

The government and these newly elected commissioners should take note from the voting figures. The public don't want these positions, if these commissioners do the right thing and listen to the public they should resign from the position. Uniformed officers have the experience to run the force correctly not retired past it local people.
The government and these newly elected commissioners should take note from the voting figures. The public don't want these positions, if these commissioners do the right thing and listen to the public they should resign from the position. Uniformed officers have the experience to run the force correctly not retired past it local people. Watch your back
  • Score: -3

2:58pm Sat 17 Nov 12

jockox3 says...

Watch your back: you perhaps forget that these local people "ran" the police in any case. The only additional power I can see these new lot have is to fire the Chief Constable without Home Office approval unlike the Police Authorities.

Milkbutnosugarplease
: Now you can see the problem with simply not voting. You do get lumped in with the "can't be bothered" majority. At least a spoiled ballot gets counted and seen by agents and candidates. Your non-vote does not. Remember the number of times in the past when a non-vote has been assumed to be a "yes" vote. Can't say that with a message on your ballot paper.

But I think I'm going to get a postal vote in future. Then, in the comfort of your own home you can write what you want. It's a bit obvious in a polling booth you are doing more than making on, or two in this case, crosses!
Watch your back: you perhaps forget that these local people "ran" the police in any case. The only additional power I can see these new lot have is to fire the Chief Constable without Home Office approval unlike the Police Authorities. Milkbutnosugarplease : Now you can see the problem with simply not voting. You do get lumped in with the "can't be bothered" majority. At least a spoiled ballot gets counted and seen by agents and candidates. Your non-vote does not. Remember the number of times in the past when a non-vote has been assumed to be a "yes" vote. Can't say that with a message on your ballot paper. But I think I'm going to get a postal vote in future. Then, in the comfort of your own home you can write what you want. It's a bit obvious in a polling booth you are doing more than making on, or two in this case, crosses! jockox3
  • Score: 0

2:58am Sun 18 Nov 12

Pavinder Msvarensy says...

At a time when workers are being forced to retire at 65 on a pittance of a pension from this Tory Government. Is it not a bit perverse that a 66 year old Tory is just starting an 85K a year job?
At a time when workers are being forced to retire at 65 on a pittance of a pension from this Tory Government. Is it not a bit perverse that a 66 year old Tory is just starting an 85K a year job? Pavinder Msvarensy
  • Score: -57

3:59am Sun 18 Nov 12

jockox3 says...

Not at all. You have it the wrong way round Pavinder. This is the government that has stopped firms from forcing people to retire at 65 and would prefer for you to work on until you dropped. So Mr Stansfeld is the perfect example of someone enjoying a resurgence in his career after the old retirement ante :)
Not at all. You have it the wrong way round Pavinder. This is the government that has stopped firms from forcing people to retire at 65 and would prefer for you to work on until you dropped. So Mr Stansfeld is the perfect example of someone enjoying a resurgence in his career after the old retirement ante :) jockox3
  • Score: -2

4:01am Sun 18 Nov 12

jockox3 says...

Oops..."old retirement *age*" of course, above.
Oops..."old retirement *age*" of course, above. jockox3
  • Score: -2

12:46am Tue 20 Nov 12

Severian says...

How ironic that this story was written by the Crime Correspondent!

The whole process is almost criminal in the way so much public money was spent for so long a time on so much, to achieve so little.

At least in some areas there were independent candidates with genuine experience, whereas we in TV just had the main parties trotting out some tired old faces.

All we have achieved is to allow a few old politicos to fatten up their pensions a bit more than they otherwise would have done. And remove almost all the oversight of our police, which now sits in the hands of just one politically oriented commissioner.
How ironic that this story was written by the Crime Correspondent! The whole process is almost criminal in the way so much public money was spent for so long a time on so much, to achieve so little. At least in some areas there were independent candidates with genuine experience, whereas we in TV just had the main parties trotting out some tired old faces. All we have achieved is to allow a few old politicos to fatten up their pensions a bit more than they otherwise would have done. And remove almost all the oversight of our police, which now sits in the hands of just one politically oriented commissioner. Severian
  • Score: 0

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