In my area there are two elections this May. Whilst I will be voting Green in the local council elections, I might be spoiling my ballot for the Police and Crime Commissioner, because there are no candidates I can honestly support. If you’re not familiar with the term, a spoiled ballot is a ballot paper that is not valid for some reason, and spoiling your ballot is the only way to actively abstain from voting. It is better than not casting a vote at all, because then the politicians know that you don’t want any of the candidates, rather than that you simply can’t be bothered to choose.
Before you take this as an attack on my party, there is no Green candidate on the ballot paper. The feeling amongst Greens in the West Midlands (my police area) is that finding a deposit of £5000 for an election where we aren’t guaranteed to retain the deposit, for a post that is almost certain to be abolished next year (the powers to be rolled into the not-Greater-Birmingham-honest Mayor that’s being created) was not a wise use of our money.
There are, in fact, only four candidates standing.
Pete Durnell (UKIP) – there are very few circumstances where I would consider voting for UKIP, and all of them would involve an outstanding candidate. Nothing I know about Peter Durnell suggests that he is outstanding, or that his approach to policing would be in any way similar to what I would like to see.
Andy Flynn (Independent) – an ex-UKIP official, whose platform is apparently to “take the politics out of policing”, which would seem somewhat hypocritical at best. He is just as unappealing to me as the actual UKIP candidate.
David Jamieson (Labour) – the current Police and Crime Commissioner (elected in a by-election in 2014). Given the rest of the ballot, I probably would have reluctantly voted for a generic Labour candidate. However, there has been a big controversy over his deputy, Yvonne Mosquito – whom he recently suspended from her post. Everything I have heard from both insiders and media coverage suggest that his handling of the affair raises serious questions about whether he is suitable for the role.
Les Jones (Conservative) – Like UKIP, there are very few circumstances where I would consider voting for a Conservative candidate. And, again, there is nothing I know about Les Jones that makes me think he would be an outstanding candidate, or that his approach would be what I would consider to be a good one.
So, faced with the lack of any candidate who strikes me as at least “the best of a bad bunch”, I am considering spoiling my ballot paper.
How the Police and Crime Commissioner election works
The PCC elections are slightly different to other elections, they use a system called “supplementary vote”. Basically, you get a first preference vote and a second preference vote (you mark a cross in a different box for each of the votes). If nobody gets over 50% of first preference votes, then everybody except the top two is eliminated, and the second preference votes of all the other candidates get given to the top two. Which means that voters are expected to know who the top two are supposed to be.
If you live in an area with Police and Crime Commissioner elections, all of the candidates have statements posted on the website choosemypcc.org.uk.