Anthony Stansfeld (Con) was re-elected for a further period of four years. At 25.6%, turnout was nearly double the figure for the first ever PCC election in 2012 when it was only 13.3% – most likely due to the election coinciding this year with local council elections. Laetisia Carter put in a strong showing for Labour to come a respectable second.
As well as local elections in Oxford City on 5 May there is also an election for Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley. The first elections for this post were held in November 2012 (see under ‘Elections – PCC’ in this blog). Here are the candidates.
Anthony Stansfeld is the current PCC and is standing for re-election. The official twitter account for the Office of the PCC is @TV_PCC.
Thames Valley PCC
|Laetisia Catherine CARTER||Lab||@laetisiacarter|
|John Orrell HOWSON||LibDem||@John4PCC|
|Anthony Hamer Rennie STANSFELD||Con||@StansfeldPCC|
Here is the list of the four candidates standing for election as PCC for Thames Valley in the 5 May elections.
In the French Presidential elections you get to vote twice, but you only cast your second vote once the top two candidates from the first round have been declared and go forward to the final two weeks later. In the PCC elections on Thursday you have to choose who (if anyone) gets your second vote before you know who the top two candidates are.
I’ve been thinking about how you choose your second vote. Is there any case for tactical voting or should you just vote for your second favourite? Probably the latter but not necessarily, I suggest. If you need a reminder of how the voting system works, see here under ‘Voting Procedure’.
The problem is we have virtually no idea how the voting will go in this election. There’s no history and very little demographic analysis. In the Thames Valley you might think the six candidates form three natural pairings, Con/UKIP, Labour/LibDem, and the two Independents, any or all of which could split their supporters’ votes. If the turnout is as low as expected you might also think that those who do turn out will tend to vote along party loyalty lines, which would favour the three main parties. But in our case Barry Cooper of UKIP has mounted a strong campaign and could take votes from Conservative and disillusioned LibDem supporters. The two Independent candidates may well benefit from the popular line of keeping party politics out of this election.
So I think we can’t rule out a situation where after the first preference votes are counted most or even all the candidates are fairly close together. If this happens the top two candidates could be any of the six and the final outcome almost random. Does this affect how you should choose your second preference?
I think the answer is generally ‘No’ – you should choose your second preference as the candidate you would like to see as PCC if your first choice isn’t elected. A situation I can see where this isn’t true is if your first vote is going to a candidate who you don’t think has a chance but for whom you want to vote anyway to make a point. In that case you can either not give a second choice (it’s not compulsory) or if you don’t want to waste your second vote you should give it to the candidate you rate “least-worst” of the ones you think may be top runners. This might not be your actual second choice preference, but to vote for two no-chancers (as you see them) is a waste of time because your second vote won’t be allocated to one of the top two so won’t be counted.
Here’s a chart:
Even so, given the uncertainties and with the best will in the world anyone may end up with their number one choice not being in the top two and their second vote not being counted because it’s not for one of the top two either.
But hey, folks, whatever happens turn out and vote on Thursday! Let’s get Thames Valley confounding the doomsayers with a turnout well above the national average!
In a reply to @RubyMalvolio’s comment on my previous post I said that turnout next Thursday might – just might – surprise us by being as high as 25%. That set me looking for other forecasts, and I found this from yesterday on the authoritative politicalbetting.com website. It seems there’s not much betting interest in the election: none at all for the candidates, only for the turnout. Ladbrokes were offering odds of 5/6 on a (national) turnout of both more and less than 17.5%; Bet Victor had 8/11 for higher than the same figure, evens for lower. Bet Victor’s odds had shaded marginally today towards the lower range at 4/5 and 10/11 respectively, still centred on 17.5%. What the bookies seem to be saying is “we reckon turnout will be 17.5% but we really don’t know if it’ll be higher or lower than that”.
If the odds were better I might back my hunch, but at 4/5 I’ll save my cash!
Update: Just to clarify, my hunch about higher turnout only relates to Thames Valley. I haven’t been following campaigns in the rest of the country.
There have been moments over the last day or two when I almost wish I hadn’t got involved in this PCC elections business. My reasons for voting are still the same and I’m certainly better informed about the candidates than when I wrote my first piece on the subject on 19 October. But now I think I’ve seen, heard and read enough. I was as much interested in the process as in the final result. In particular I wanted to see what might be done to stimulate debate on twitter and the blogosphere: that has happened to a reasonable extent not just on my blog but others too*. My thanks to the candidates who have joined in.
I set out to take a neutral stance, to be objective, to encourage debate and provide a platform for everyone. But unless something dramatic happens in the last week of campaigning I don’t think anything new will emerge. So instead of writing my own account of the Oxford hustings I started thinking about the job of the PCC. Drawing on past experience I thought about how I would select a PCC from a short-list of candidates – what qualities would I look for? What experience?
At which point it dawned on me that no-one really knows what the job is. We can read the publicity – representing the people, prioritising resources, liaising, communicating, managing the budget, determining strategy and so on, but until PCCs have been doing the job for a few years we and they won’t really know what they can and can’t be expected to do. Each PCC will be parachuted into a position where he or she has the power to fire the head of a large, powerful and culturally closed organisation. What will that be like?
One version is on Jon Harvey’s entertaining blog “The Secret Diary of a PCC“. My approach is to imagine the views of the people in the police force – how will they react to this new régime? I think the constables and PCSOs on the streets will generally ignore it and leave it to the higher-ups to worry about. The middle ranks are too busy to bother much as long as they’re left to get on with the real job and the new order doesn’t get in the way or interfere. For the top brass it means the likelihood of more meetings, more interference, more questions, more reports, and possibly someone trying to hold them to account without themselves adding any value. I would expect the police force’s reaction to be to close ranks and give away as little as possible while keeping a polite but formal relationship towards the newcomer who’s not ‘one of us’.
To make any progress a new PCC will have to cope in that environment. He or she must have a strong enough personality not to allow him/herself to be marginalised, and the patience to work on developing relationships over a period of years rather than months. At the same time as trying to earn the respect of the police he/she must find ways of communicating with the public, which means listening as well as telling. Hard as it may be, the PCC is expected to listen to everybody and treat their views with respect (or at least appear to). All at the same time as overseeing the disposition of the police budget, preparing strategic plans and running his/her own office and staff. It’s not going to be easy.
So I’ve decided the most useful thing I can do, with just a week to go before the elections on 15 November, is to use what I’ve learned about the candidates to see how I think they measure up to my view of the job. I set aside all the promises of action on this or that front, bridges to be built with one or other agency, more of this, less of that. None of the candidates can know whether they’ll be able to do any of it. I assume all of them are honest and truthful people who haven’t falsified or exaggerated their achievements – well, no more than a little bit here or there. And I won’t say in writing anything I wouldn’t say to their faces.
Starting from the bottom, here’s my appraisal.
Geoff Howard, Independent.
Geoff, I’m afraid you’re the least convincing candidate. You say you see your role as being “the voice of the people … the link between people … and their local police”. You will make yourself “accountable to the public at all times”. But you haven’t published any contact details except a postal address, which says to me you don’t want to hear from the public. If you had election leaflets at the Oxford hustings I didn’t get one. Your hustings preformance was, well, unmemorable. I don’t know who you are, what if anything you really believe in. I don’t know why you’re standing, and I can’t see you holding your own against the Chief Constable and senior police. I have nothing against you, but this job’s not for you.
Patience Tayo Awe, Independent
Patience, you have earned my respect for keeping your campaign going. It can’t have been easy and you’ve probably felt out of your depth at times but you’ve stayed the course. Well done! Credit too for being bold enough to speak your mind at the Aylesbury hustings. Your analysis of events before and after last year’s riots is not one shared by many people in the shire counties of the Thames Valley but it is a view, I believe, held by many in other parts of the community who do not always feel they have a voice. I’m sorry, though, that I don’t think you’ve yet gained enough political experience to carry off a job as big as this one. Please don’t abandon your community spirit and fighting for what you believe in. Maybe in future there’ll be a bigger role for you somewhere.
Barry Cooper, UKIP
Barry, it was a close call whether I gave you fourth or third place. You come over well and have been very willing to join in the debate. I still disagree with you about the boundary between ‘strategic’ and ‘operational’ when it comes to arming the police, but that’s not the reason. My reservations are over your UKIP allegiance: I find your (and UKIP’s) politics too unpredictable: I can be having a perfectly reasonable conversation with a UKIP supporter when they suddenly come up with something completely out of the blue, as you found when you suggested cutting the ‘green’ budget and provoked howls from the audience, or dragging in your opposition to HS2 at Aylesbury – bound to be popular, but hardly relevant to policing. So sorry, although I’d rather have a drink with you than the next candidate, having you as PCC would worry me too much so you’re in fourth place.
Anthony Stansfeld, Conservative
Anthony, what can I say? You probably don’t care what I think anyway. You showed that in Aylesbury when you couldn’t be bothered to listen to the audience’s questions to the first four candidates, preferring to read a book on local churches instead. It doesn’t say much for your willingness to listen and represent the views of the whole community. You stress your leadership qualities, developed in a successful army career and in business. I think, though, that your leadership style is one best suited to the command-and-control environment where one person has to take responsibilty and sometimes make quick and difficult decisions. It doesn’t fit with a role that needs to be consultative, consensus-building, inclusive. I put you third, though, because for better or worse I think people would know what to expect if you were elected.
John Howson (Lib Dem) and Tim Starkey (Labour)
Well, you two are my joint first place! I do have a preference but I’m going to try to keep a vestige of impartiality by not saying which of you will get my vote. The other will get my second choice. So in alphabetical order:
John, you give a good account of yourself and I think you’re capable of doing the job. You would think about and understand the issues and although it might take time I think you could earn the respect and co-operation of the police force. You admonished me for saying that at the Oxford hustings Tim was the most engaging speaker: my tip to you would be to try to put more visible energy into your public speaking. As a magistrate you’ve been part of the system and in that sense won’t be seen as a complete outsider. I’m glad you care strongly about young people’s welfare and would use the PCC role to try to improve it.
Tim, you already know I’m not the only blogger to have put you in top place (jointly in my case). Your work as a lawyer means you must be good at arguing your case and putting it coherently and convincingly. You are part of the criminal justice system so again not an outsider. You too care about vulnerable people – victims of domestic violence – and want to make changes for the better. I feel you would stand your ground in any difference of opinion with senior police officers. I think both you and John would do your best to make sure you listened to all sections of the community.
This probably won’t be my last blog on the elections, but enough for now. Thanks for reading: I hope it’s been worth the effort. Don’t forget to vote next Thursday!