Firstly, congratulations to Kevin Hurley and pulling off surely the biggest electoral surprise in the history of Surrey and becoming our first Police & Crime Commissioner. I have already invited him to come to Old Dean when his diary allows and to meet up.
But how did this happen? Surrey has 11 MPs – all of whom are Conservatives with thumping majorities. It was meant to be their safest area in the whole country and even yesterday, were meant to get 59% of the first preference vote on a prediction website. Put simply, it should have been a shoo-in but wasn’t. So why was that and how did the other candidates/parties do?
Firstly, the number of people who bothered to vote in Surrey was appalling at only 15.4% – don’t forget that people can vote by post but the overwhelming majority did not even wish to do that. However, even those who did vote were clearly unhappy at doing so. I spent much of today at the Surrey Heath count and saw numerous ballot papers with words such as “waste of money”, “none of the above”, “why has my child’s school closed for this?” and many other much ruder comments. This followed on from standing at a polling station yesterday and hearing comments from the public that they thought this was a local election or that they were electing someone to talk about Police in Parliament.
Sadly, even those that did want to vote often accidentally spoilt their paper by putting two votes in the same column – again large numbers in the rejected pile.
Put simply, the public across the country were saying that they considered this to be a complete waste of their time and public money and were not engaged with it.
However, something very interesting happened with those who did turn up and also worked out the voting system. With little information being delivered, many electors appear to have made a choice based purely on the information on the ballot paper with the basic views being:-
1) I don’t want to vote as the whole thing is pointless.This is the fault of those useless politicians. However, I believe in voting so…
2) don’t want to vote for political parties as they are all as bad as each other so who does that leave?
3) Zero Tolerance is the second one down – that sounds good – don’t know what it means or who this bloke is but with nothing else to go on,, might as well stick a cross there and oh, there’s also an Independent at the bottom. Don’t know who he is either but at least he is not standing for a party.
Now all of this is fair enough – everyone can vote how they like and indeed many have a genuine belief that politics should never mix with the police.
So, running down the result.
1) Kevin Hurley – stunning win – his Police background clearly played a part – am told he came across well on the radio interview too. However, he now has to work with a Police Partnership Board who can (and I suspect will try) to block his budget and some of his plans. They can do this with 2/3rds majority and more than 2/3rds are Conservatives – this will be very interesting to see as will be the relationship after the honeymoon period with his senior officers. I expect a lot of change – not of it will be positive.
2) Conservatives – Terrible result to only get 26.1% of first preference in Tory heartland. Their candidate was probably not right-wing enough for the activists to be enthused and complacency seems to have set in thinking the result was a foregone conclusion which of course, it should have been. They should have made much more of the fact that Mr Hurley stood to be the Conservative candidate but was not short-listed. If the public had known this, I suspect the Commissioner would now be Mr Williams!
3) Peter Williams – Did very well gaining 20% of first preference and coming third – he should be satisfied with a good campaign and result – I would not be surprised if he is offered a post in the new administration if he wanted one.
4) Labour – Credible result with 13.2% – above last general election (around 10%) but not by as much as may have hoped. However,the main aim was to be the 2nd party now in Surrey and this was comfortably achieved.
5) UKIP – Credible result with 8.1% – roughly similar to national polls but in a right-wing area.
6) Lib Dem – Very poor result at 6.5% and only just kept their deposit. To drop from 2nd to 6th and below both UKIP and Labour shows that the party is in serious decline.
This means a real challenge for all of the political parties in how to engage the electorate – the test will be in the surrey county elections next year where some very interesting candidates are now likely to be appearing….