I wasn’t very popular when I turned up at the polling station at 9:55pm on Thursday to vote in the election of our new Police and Crime Commissioner.
The polling station staff were obviously keen to get home after a mind-bogglingly dull day at the ballot box and were already taking down the tables and packing up when I walked through the door.
I don’t know how many people had bothered to turn out at that particular station, but overall only 272,153 chose to exercise their democratic rights – a paltry 13.8% of the Greater Manchester voting population. Which I suppose makes my single vote worth about eight.
There has been a lot of hand wringing about why the electorate stayed away in droves, the obvious one being: what is the point? The present system of a local authority nominated police committee seems to works okay and is equally democratic, if indirectly.
The new commissioner is hardly likely to be in a position to change, certainly not the constant interfering and target setting of central government.
Another reason for the voter apathy has to be the lack of awareness. I’ve read somewhere that the cost of the whole process works out at £14 per vote, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the dearth of public information.
I got my voter registration card through the post early in October, but the candidate details weren’t be announced until later in the month. And when they were I had a hard job tracking them down.
My own local authority website referred me to the Manchester City Council site which was blank save for the generic description of the process. And when I emailed the authorities to find out more, I was told to try the BBC instead.
But the most obvious of obvious reasons to explain why people stayed away is that the whole thing is so blatantly party political. We are policed by consent and the new PCC is meant to be impartial – the last person I want to see in charge is some party apparatchik or retired politician looking to pad out his pension pot.
Which is what we’ve ended up with in Greater Manchester now that we’re landed with former MP Tony Lloyd who secured 51.2% of the ‘popular’ vote, or about one in sixteen of the population. And they call that a mandate.
As for me, the main reason I turned out just before closing time so I could give my eight votes to Roy Warren, the only independent standing. That’s him at the top of the page, and not someone I’d have much in common with normally.
Of course, what we really need is a Commissioner Gordon and a Bat Phone.