Poor turnout casts doubt on purpose of new role

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In his speech after being declared the first-ever police and crime commissioner for Hampshire, Simon Hayes spoke as if he was almost trying to justify his role to the public.

Such was the poor turnout in Thursday’s polls that a grand speech declaring a magnificent victory would have been plainly wrong.

He said there was a purpose, a point in a police and crime commissioner.

But it is clear the position – newly-created by the coalition government – has failed to capture the public’s imagination.

Figures show that just 11.5 per cent of voters in Gosport turned out to the ballot box.

The highest in our area was still just 19.3 per cent in East Hampshire. That’s poor for any election.

In other parts of the country, it is even worse. One polling station in Newport, Wales, didn’t have a single voter turn up.

Supporters of the new role say it will take time to bed in and that the next vote will coincide with local council elections so turnout will go up.

But can it be right that the one person who is now in charge of determining the policing agenda for the whole of Hampshire can do so after gaining support from just five per cent of the total electorate?

Locally, it was only in Gosport that Mr Hayes polled the largest number of votes.

As chairman of Crimestoppers and former chairman of the Hampshire Police Authority, Mr Hayes has great experience in dealing with crime and policing issues.

In fact, in an election which inevitably became a political dogfight, some might say it was good to see an independent candidate get the role.

And it’s clear that, while he may not have polled the most primary votes, he received a lot of support from people who put him down as the second preferred option. So, while there are questions still remaining over the commissioner role, we look forward to see what Mr Hayes will do. Let’s hope he makes a big impact so next time round, the public will conclude there is a point to the post.