John Prescott’s trials continue. There will be a run-off between Prescott and the Tory challenger, Matthew Grove. This has been quite a turn around, with Grove staging a late charge in the race for first preference votes when the rural East Riding area was called in his favour. He displaced the independent candidate, retired copper Paul Davison, who finished third by a mere 300 votes. The race has been very close so far; now it comes down to second preferences. Sky News’s Jon Craig reports that the Tories are confident of an upset.
There have already been a couple of shocks in the PCC results. In North Wales, Labour’s Tal Michael was beaten by the independent candidate, Winston Roddick, which has prompted questions in some quarters that Labour has not performed as well as it should have done in these elections. However, the low turnout (12% in some places) should soften such fears in the red camp: these elections cannot reasonably be described as representative of the national picture.
This point is perhaps reinforced by the Tories winning in Dyfed-Powys at the mid-term point of the parliamentary cycle. It is, though, important to remember that the PCC elections are not, in theory at least, a referendum on the government; they primarily concern localism and the law and order policy brief. That said, the Tories’ woeful showing in South Yorkshire (beaten into 3rd by the English Democrats) and in Durham (finished a miserable 4th), to say nothing of the debacle in the Manchester Central by-election (where the party lost its deposit), should concern the party. As James argued in a recent magazine column, the PCC elections gave the party an opportunity to improve their standing in urban areas by fighting on an issue that suited them. These elections suggest that many people, especially in the north, simply cannot listen to the Conservative Party.
Doubtless, the comparatively strong performance of UKIP will lead some on the right to argue that the Tories need to bang on about Europe or tack to the right; but that would be misguided on the basis on these polls: the flavour seems to be distinctly anti-politics rather than anti-wets. This explains why turnout is so low and why independents have polled well across the board. They have even won in a few places – Dorset, Gwent and North Wales PCC, and the Bristol Mayorality (won by George Ferguson). Good on ’em.