A group of fading politicians, a clutch of right-wing extremists, local party grandees and a dwindling band of tenacious independents: these could become some of the most powerful figures in policing after David Cameron's rallying call for "pioneers, community leaders and people with experience" to front the most radical reforms for 50 years.
The final list of candidates will be confirmed tomorrow for the powerful jobs of police and crime commissioners in 41 police forces in England and Wales commanding salaries of up to £100,000 and tasked with holding chief constables to account. The final list is likely to be overwhelmingly male and include nearly 20 former police officers.
And among those who have already declared their intention to run are some controversial figures who could achieve high office with any strong public mandate. Pollsters predicted yesterday the elections on November 15 will see a turnout of less than 20 per cent giving single-issue candidates and representatives of extremist groups a greater chance of election in some of the most sparsely attended votes of the modern era.
Katie Ghose, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "The government claims Police and Crime Commissioners will give people a say over how our streets are policed, but from the start these elections have looked like an experiment in how low the Home Office can drive turnout. Put simply if less than one in five of us go out and vote this makes a mockery of the elected PCCs ability to speak for us."
Candidates who have announced their intention to stand include the founder of the English Defence League, Kevin Carroll, and the chairman of the English Democrats, Robin Tilbrook, who has previously criticised the spending of public money on gay pride marches. Steve Uncles is running as an independent candidate in Kent promising to turn the county into a "drug-free zone".
The political old guard are represented by Michael Mates, 78, forced to resign from the Government in 1993, over his links to the jailed tycoon Asil Nadir, and the Labour former deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, 74, who is standing in Humberside. He launched his manifesto at a community centre in Scunthorpe yesterday.
Despite an early rush of interest, the realities of big party funding and organisation means that independent candidates have fallen by the wayside – despite the Prime Minister's hope that politically unaligned candidates would step forward.
Two prominent independent candidates yesterday predicted that there would be fewer than 10 standing on a non-party ticket after complaints that campaigning costs up to £50,000 and a lack of state-funded publicity to promote the vote taking part at the start of winter when turnout is notoriously poor.
While Mr Prescott has spent the past few weeks criss-crossing East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire in a converted people carrier "battle bus" Ann Barnes, an independent candidate in Kent, made use of a VW camper van, Ann Force One, rented by the day.
Ms Barnes, a former chairwoman of the Kent police authority, is considered one of the few independent candidates with a strong chance of success.
"If I don't win with everything I've got behind me, people will know just how cynical this election has been: that we are in the grip of a small and dwindling political elite who hang on to power."Reuse content