As voters stay away, was this the secret policeman's ballot?

 

Voters barely darkened the doors of polling stations in many parts of England and Wales today as the Government’s handling of the first elections to the post of police and crime commissioner was branded a “comedy of errors”.

The battle for 41 Police and Crime Commissioner posts were greeted with widespread apathy, leading to predictions that turnout could prove to be the lowest ever recorded in a peacetime national election.

Meanwhile David Cameron is today braced for an embarrassing rebuff from the voters in the parliamentary by-election in Corby, Northants, where the Conservatives are defending a slim majority.

Labour is expected to achieve a comfortable victory in today’s contest, which was forced by the resignation of Louise Mensch because of the pressures of family life.

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) calculated that the turnout in the police commissioner elections could fall as low as 18.5 per cent, which would be seen as a blow to the democratic mandate of the victorious candidates, who will be announced this afternoon.

Anecdotal evidence across the country suggested the turnout could be even more modest.

It took more than two hours for the first ballot to be cast at one polling station in Leeds and nearly three hours at

Wolverhampton civic centre where the first arrival was cheered by officials. A voter in Exmouth, Devon, reported receiving a round of applause when she voted.

After six hours, just 11 people had voted at one location in Cumbria, 27 had turned up at a polling station in Manchester and 35 in the Riverside district of Cardiff.

By 5pm, just 70 out of 1,500 potential voters in one part of Norwich had exercised their democratic right.

Officials in Dorset claimed the final turnout could struggle to reach ten per cent, with similar predictions in Cambridgeshire where voting got off to a sluggish start.

The task of persuading the public to take part was not helped by rain and fog across much of the country today.

The contests took place in 41 police authority areas outside London, where Mayor Boris Johnson has oversight of the Metropolitan Police.

Labour candidates are expected to win control of most forces covering major urban areas including Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire. Their best-known standard-bearer, the former Deputy Prime

Minister Lord Prescott, stood in Humberside, where he faced a close contest with the Conservatives.

However, the Tories could emerge today with the most commissioners as they are tipped to win forces covering largely suburban and rural areas.

The victors, who will earn between £65,000 and £100,000 depending on the size of the forces they oversee, will gain the power to set budgets, determine policing priorities and hire and fire chief constables.

Supporters of the concept argue it will improve police accountability and make forces more responsive to local concerns.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, predicts the commissioners will become the “voice of the people” and would be “visible, accessible and accountable”.

Katie Ghose, the chief executive of the ERS, said: “This election has been a comedy of errors from start to finish. Polling stations are standing empty because voters knew next to nothing about the role, let alone the candidates they were expected to pick from.

“The Home Office has operated under the assumption that ‘if you build it, they will come’. Democracy just doesn’t work that way. There have been avoidable errors at every step and those responsible should be held to account.”

Parliamentary by-elections also took place today in Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth, which are both safe Labour seats. Those contests were triggered after their MPs decided to stand in today’s police commissioner elections.

An election was also held to become Mayor of Bristol, with Labour expected to see off a strong challenge from an independent candidate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Special Needs Support Worker

£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence