THE country’s first ever police and crime commissioners have taken power after elections branded a “complete shambles” following record low turnouts.
Lord Prescott, the Labour candidate for Humberside, was the most high-profile casualty, losing a vote in the area for the first time in his career, to Tory councillor Matthew Grove.
The turnout for Thursday’s controversial polls, which failed to capture the public imagination despite costing more than £100m, was the lowest ever recorded in the country, and in some areas was only just over 10 per cent.
In West Yorkshire, the turnout was just 13.77, in South Yorkshire it was less than 15 per cent and in North Yorkshire only 16.75 per cent bothered to vote.
Humberside recorded the highest turnout in the country with 19.48 per cent, due in part to the high-profile campaign run by Lord Prescott who travelled across the region on the election trail and was joined last week by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The former Deputy Prime Minister lost, however, to Mr Grove by 39,933 votes to 42,164 in the second preference ballot.
Last night, he told the Yorkshire Post it felt “strange” to have been beaten for the first time in the area where he was an MP from 1970 to 2010.
“I’ve always been winning but I knew when I started it was a marginal seat,” the former Hull East MP said. “But it’s nothing to be defeated in a democracy, is it?”
“I’ve always been in public service rather than anywhere else. And I don’t think I’ll be standing for election, no. But this was one occasion where you were required to have lived in the actual constituency. I was one of the constituency, I always wanted to make service so I put my name forward and you have the results today.
“I nearly got it, didn’t I?”
Mr Grove was at one point rated at 100/1 by bookmakers to become Humberside’s new commissioner and was previously urged by Yorkshire MEP and UKIP candidate Godfrey Bloom to step down from the race to allow him to take on Lord Prescott. Mr Bloom ended up fourth in the voting behind Independent candidate Paul Davison.
Meanwhile Labour candidates Mark Burns-Williamson, the former chair of West Yorkshire Police Authority, and Shaun Wright, former vice-chairman of South Yorkshire Police Authority, seized power in both areas.
Julia Mulligan, the Conservative candidate for North Yorkshire, beat Labour rival Ruth Potter in the county which was the only area in the country guaranteed to have a female commissioner.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper yesterday accused the Government of ignoring warnings of a low turnout and said the elections had been “a complete shambles”.
And the Electoral Commission announced it is going to undertake a review of the polls.
Chair Jenny Watson said: “The low turnout at the police and crime commissioner elections is a concern for everyone who cares about democracy.
“These were new elections taking place at an unfamiliar time of year, which is why we have made clear at every stage that it would be important to engage effectively with voters.
“The Government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with. But what is important now is that the right lessons are learnt.”
Police Minister Damian Green said: “The measure of this policy is not the turnout, it’s what the police and crime commissioners achieve.”
The 41 new commissioners will control police budgets, set priorities and have the power to hire and fire chief constables.