The election of Warwickshire's first Police & Crime Commissioner may not have gripped the county to the extent that I hoped it would, but on Thursday, 66,085 voters chose between three candidates in a poll to determine who would have responsibility for setting the objectives and budget for the county's police service for the next four years.
The turnout for the election was a pitiful 15.6% (which was in line with the national average), and electors got to pick their first and second preferences for the post. If no candidate got more than 50% first preference votes, the second preferences of the candidate finishing third were re-allocated.
The results were:
1. James Plaskitt (Labour) - 22,308 (34.7%)
2. Ron Ball (Independent) - 21,410 (33.3%)
3. Fraser Pithie (Conservative) - 20,571 (32.0%) - eliminated
1. Ron Ball (Independent) - 33,231 (56.9%) - elected
2. James Plaskitt (Labour) - 25,200 (43.1%)
It's fair to say that it was something of a surprise to see Ron Ball winning, although he turned out to be one of 12 independent candidates elected to the 41 Police & Crime Commissioner positions throughout England and Wales, and there may be something in the idea that the public preferred individuals who weren't aligned to a political party.
Two things strike me about the results though. Firstly, how close the first round was, with each candidate broadly getting a third of the vote each. If just 420 of Ron Ball's 21,000+ voters had chosen Fraser Pithie instead, then the eventual winner himself would've been knocked out in the first round.
Secondly, of the 14,713 electors who voted for Fraser Pithie first and expressed a second preference vote as well, 80% chose Ron Ball with that second preference. And that's what did it for James Plaskitt, for despite topping the poll in the first round (albeit by a fairly slim margin), he was unable to secure the second preference votes that this particular electoral system requires you to. I wonder if, in May 2016 when elections for the commissioner post are next held, we'll see candidates make more of a pitch for the second, as well as first, preference votes?
As Commissioner Ball takes up his new position, I've linked to his election manifesto to see what he's pledging to do in the role.
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