‘That’s just boring waffle!’ shouted Evan Davis on Radio 4 this morning when policing minister Nick Herbert refused to give direct answers to his questions on the turnout expected in the police and crime commissioner elections.
Herbert repeatedly argued that ‘any turnout will confer greater legitimacy’ than the current system of unelected police authorities. But his repeated refusal to pin down any figure for the percentage of voters who will trudge out of their homes on a cold and possibly rainy November evening to vote for the commissioners betrayed an unease about how well these elections are going to work out in practice. Herbert and his colleagues will know that a low turnout will be awkward, not least once the new commissioners are in place and start taking unpopular decisions.
There is a sense that CCHQ has not pushed PCCs, not just in failing to drum up top quality candidates, but also in encouraging local parties on board in campaigning. Autumn conference will be key for drumming up enthusiasm for these elections, but as with the attempt to introduce city mayors (which failed in all but one of the cities where referendums took place this May), they currently look like a good idea that the Tories haven’t quite managed to capitalise upon.