I spent this morning live-blogging the West Midlands PCC by-election count. The election was won by Labour’s David Jamieson on the first round – here are the raw results:
- Jamieson (Labour): 102,561 (50.8%)
- Jones (Conservative): 54,091 (26.8%)
- Rowe (UKIP): 32,187 (16.0%)
- Khan (Liberal Democrat): 12,950 (6.4%)
In the first West Midlands PCC elections in November 2012, below are the first round results. It went to a second round of counting, which, as there was no second round in the by-election, I’ve excluded from this analysis.
(I’ve also decided not to comment in this blog on the voting system used. It’s the Supplementary Vote system, summarised on the Parliament website – though, remarkably, still no mention of PCC elections on the relevant Parliament website page!)
Anyhow, I digress…
- Bob Jones (Labour): 100,130 (42.0%)
- Matt Bennett (Conservative): 44,130 (18.5%)
- Cath Hannon (Independent): 30,778 (12.9%)
- Bill Etheridge (UKIP): 17,563 (7.4%)
- Derek Webley (Independent): 17,488 (7.3%)
- Ayoub Khan (Liberal Democrat): 15,413 (6.5%)
- Mike Rumble (Independent): 12,882 (5.4%)
What’s particularly worth noting?
Firstly, the turnout fell, from 12% in November 2012 to 10.4% this time. I suspect that supporters of the PCC system will be heaving a sigh of relief that it didn’t fall into single figures. The Government is probably now also quietly relieved at its decision to spend £700,000 on a leaflet circulated across the West Midlands publicising these elections – might the turnout have fallen below 10% had they not?
Next, the Labour candidate won this by-election with no need for a “second round” – as David Jamieson won over 50% of votes in the first round. It could be argued this is a better performance for Labour than in November 2012, where a second round was needed.
Thirdly, Labour, Conservative and UKIP (with different candidates from last time) all increased the number of votes they attracted, despite the reduced turnout. Notably, the Liberal Democrat vote (with the same candidate) fell.
(Perhaps obviously – but worth restating) there were no Independents in this by-election. Independents, collectively, took 25.6% of the November 2012 first round vote in the West Midlands. If Independent candidates had stood in this by-election, it’s very likely that they would have taken first round votes from the four party candidates who did stand. The four main parties have all undoubtedly benefited from this absence. For all bar the Liberal Democrats, the absence of Independents probably allows them to glean some satisfaction from the results.
It’s well worth noting that the best-performing Independent in the original (November 2012) election, Cath Hannon, has this morning tweeted as follows…
I’ll leave any conclusions on the national political party “share of vote” implications to others. (I’m particularly hoping that @election_data will run an analysis of the figures). Confining myself to policing, and to policing governance…
1. This by-election has highlighted (more) areas where PCC-related legislation is flawed. If PCCs are to remain (and Labour may pledge to replace them with Policing Boards), then the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 will need amendment. The list of potential amendments is not short, and will surely need to include the mechanism for by-elections. It was wholly inappropriate to have to hold the by-election so soon after the unexpected loss of the late Bob Jones, expensive to have to hold it in August, and inevitable that turnout would be even lower.
2. The return of a Labour West Midlands PCC will probably influence the party’s consideration of its approach to policing governance. Why so? Imagine the impact had Labour lost this by-election. The pressure on the party for a manifesto pledge to abolish PCCs would surely have increased very markedly. Instead, David Jamieson can attend the Labour Party conference as its latest by-election victor. Labour may still decide to go with “Policing Boards” to replace PCCs – but the pressure to commit to that would surely have been irresistible had David Jamieson lost or the by-election been closer.
3. Future Independent PCC candidates are likely to find the electoral odds increasingly stacked against them. This by-election not only increases the likelihood of change to relevant legislation, it also reminds the major parties that they are better off without Independents to complicate the voting decision. If PCCs survive the 2015 General Election as the mechanism for policing governance, then the parliamentary process to amend the Police Reform Act could provide plenty of opportunity for amendments that – intentionally or otherwise – will weaken independent candidates’ chances in PCC elections. For example, the November 2012 PCC election date (with very few concurrent elections) helped Independents, the May 2015 date for the next PCC elections (with several concurrent local council elections) will work against them. The political party machines for that May 2015 election will anyway be operating in support of local council candidates, and will inevitably assist party PCC candidates. If more discretion were (rightly) provided for PCC by-elections, who will decide when those by-elections should be held? Maybe only those incumbent Independent PCCs who have delivered an impressive track record will be able to buck this trend.
I may add to this blog if or when anything else strikes me. In particular, I’m planning to comment soon on the campaigns (insofar as they were visible) that the four parties pursued in this by-election, and the policing policies that they set out.
In the meantime, I’d love to have your comments and feedback on what’s above…
UPDATE (Friday 22nd August 2014, 4.30pm): @election_data has now published some excellent mapping analysis of this by-election here.