Low turnout at the Police and Crime Commissioner elections
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Last Thursday we were all given the opportunity to vote for our local Police and Crime Commissioner, but unfortunately not many took it up.

The turnout for last week’s election across the country was the lowest in living memory with an average turnout of 15%. Our neighbouring county Staffordshire had the lowest turnout of the whole country with only 11.6% of its population making a trip to their local polling station. As a passionate believer in democracy, that worries me. So why did it happen?

Certainly the low turnout cannot be put down to any lack of enthusiasm from or the quality of the candidates who stood in West Mercia– of course, I was disappointed that the Conservative candidate, Adrian Blackshaw, was unsuccessful but I wish Bill Longmore the best of luck in his new important role.

Nor can it be put down to a shortage of coverage in our local papers. The Worcester News was one of many papers that did a great job of informing local people of the elections and gave a lot of space to the candidates and their credentials.

A number of factors played a role in this election’s particularly low turnout, including people becoming fed up with the political classes generally, the strange choice of date and the use of an unfamiliar voting system. From the letters and emails I have received and from what I heard while I was out canvassing, I also know that many people just weren’t convinced of the need for these elections in the first place and positively abstained in protest at the change to the police service.

Another frequent complaint was the lack of campaign literature through letter boxes.

Membership of all local parties is declining at a rapid rate and this makes it increasingly difficult to recruit local volunteers willing to give up their time to campaign. To me, this is the most worrying aspect of the election - many people wanted to know more, but the political parties didn’t have the resources to tell them.

Without effective political parties working at the grassroots there will be a real and growing disconnect between politicians and the people. This is something we need to address urgently if we are to ensure the survival of a healthy democratic system which, like it or not, depends on parties to function.

Last Thursday was not only disappointing day for the unsuccessful candidates but also, and much more importantly, a disappointing day for democracy.

Ends


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