The unexpected victory of so many independent candidates in the police and crime commissioner elections – 12 at the latest count – has underlined a rejection of party politics in policing among the few who made it to the polling stations on Thursday.
I’m not convinced the victory of independents, who won 12 of 43 crime commissioner offices, was that unexpected. There was certainly talk before hand about how desirable it was for parties to get involved in the role in the first place.
As to whether the public rejected party politics, or merely rejected the three dominant political parties is a matter of interpretation. It could be that the public prefered voting for independant candidates that were primarily ex-Police and therefore experienced. That may be unwise, but that does not stop it being a popular opinion. The Guardian again:
The rise of the independents has also come with the hidden price that at least five of the new commissioners are former officers, leading to claims that it will be the “police watching the police” in those areas rather than their being a voice of the public….
Supporters of the PCC elections, such as the thinktank Policy Exchange, quickly pointed to polling evidence that the public saw a police background as an important qualification for the job.
Data from YourNextPCC shows that no party other than the top two actually won any seats, but UKIP’s run of third places contradicts that on a vote by vote basis. I can’t help but wonder then, whether the public would have voted equally well for a candidate from a minority party as they did for independents? If so, then a libertarian party such as the Pro Liberty Party might have done well, perhaps more so the longer established Independent Libertarian Network – a hybrid of a legal party trading as a collective for independents – might have had a chance of a strong showing.
There is certainly space in this country for a party that promotes the Peelian principles and argues for the de-prioritisation of victimless crimes and we might have done well. Come May 2016 we’ll have another shot at this. Let’s not miss it.