Why I am spoiling my ballot in the Police Commissioner elections

Quick lunchtime blog post, just to explain in more detail some things I’m struggling to get across in 140 characters on Twitter!

I am spoiling my ballot in today’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections for the following reasons:

  • I disagree with the whole idea of an elected police commissioner*, as I do not believe that policing should be politicised
  • I have almost no idea of who is standing, what they stand for, and indeed what the post will entail, due to the shocking lack of publicity and education around this election
  • The four candidates standing in my area (one LibDem, one Labour, one Tory, on independent) all make generic statements about reducing crime, with almost nothing to differentiate them from each other, so I genuinely don’t know who I would vote for anyway
  • Even if any of the candidates stood out at all, I still wouldn’t know who to vote for, as I am an ordinary member of the public with no experience of policing and no idea what policies would be successful. Why not leave this up to people who know what they’re doing?

I certainly agree that more transparency and more accountability would be a good thing for the police, but I strongly disagree that this is the way to go about it. I am choosing to spoil my ballot rather than just not vote because I do want my voice to be heard. Turnout is predicted to be incredibly low for this election, but I suspect this will be put down to lack of information and/or voter apathy, rather than people actively choosing not to vote. Spoiled ballots are counted, and if enough people do this then it will send a message to the government that the public do not want elected police and crime commissioners.

The only circumstance in which I would be voting today is if I felt strongly about keeping out any of the candidates in my area: for example if there was a representative from a far-right party, or any obvious “hang ’em and flog ’em” types standing. That isn’t the case for West Yorkshire (as far as I can tell), so a spoiled ballot it is.

Obviously this is  a matter for individual choice, but if anyone else is not planning on voting for any of the reasons I’ve listed above, or any other reasons, then I would urge you to make your voice heard with a spoiled ballot instead.

*Unless, of course, I can vote for Commissioner Gordon. Or, failing that, Sam Vimes.


POSTSCRIPT: Just been alerted on Twitter (thanks @ijclark!) to this blog post, explaining in a much clearer way than I have why spoiling your ballot is a good idea (assuming no right-wing shield-munchers are standing in your area)

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  1. Well done for spoiling your ballot paper rather than not turnign out. But I disagree with your reasons.

    Firstly, policing is already politiicsed. The home secretary and the government makes laws and appoints senior police mne according to their political agenda. In theory crime commissioners should be simply devolving and alllowing us more say on these powers already held by political parties.

    It is also worht considering the increasingly plitical role of the police, with senior police officeds both criticising and attacking laws put forward by democratically elected governments and trying to influence the political process. A good example of this was the anti-terror laws and police trying to influence how liong they can detain suspects. another example is the exsistence of ACPO as a private lobbying companby unaswerable to anyone, yet pushing a clearly policitcal agenda. The polce are already politiciised, it is time to give people a say in this politicisation, rather than sitting back and letting them decidce their own agendas.

    Your second point is valid and I think is delibrate because the main political parties feared losing control of the agenda in this election. after all, they have delibrately steered away from actually asking the public what they want, instead telling us what we should want.

    Likewise, I agree with your third point, however the last point is worng. The police are part of day to day life. Democracy is about asserting your say, right or wrong, on things that effect everyday life. The belief that people know better about your life and it is impossible to find out facts for yourself is defeatist and just how the main partys want people to walk away from this (and other) elections. If you doubt this point, sit down when you have a free hour, list how police come into contact with your life, how crime can effect you and then see if you can make changes to this. If you can’t, vote for a candidate who maintains the satus quo, if you can then raise it with representatives and tell them to stop telling you what to think and worry about!

    • Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the delay in approving it – I didn’t get a notification from WordPress for some reason, so only just saw it!

      I feel like I should clarify my last point. I certainly agree that policing is an area that affects my life, and I didn’t mean to imply that I just didn’t know enough about it or that it was impossible to find out facts for myself. My point was that policing is an area that, like all public policy areas (public health being another good example) should be managed by experts and based on sound evidence as to what works and what doesn’t. I do not know the ins and outs of policing policy and what interventions are likely to make a difference (as opposed to simply being populist), nor do I have any particular desire to become an expert in this area – that’s not my job. Just as I wouldn’t expect to have a say in the management of my local hospital, but would rather expect that someone with the relevant experience and expertise was put in charge of those decisions, I don’t see the need to have public say in the governance of local police forces.


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