Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Show a Continuing Cultural Trend – Conservative Article
Labour suffered a heavy defeat losing both Hartlepool and hundreds of councillors. My colleague has already written a piece on his thoughts for the results, however, one aspect that wasn’t focused on was the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) results, which are absolutely worth looking at. They show a similar trend with all of the other local elections taking place, but they are particularly interesting when understood within the context of earlier events in the year.
Firstly, a quick overview of the results must be given. The Conservatives picked up ten extra PCCs, meaning that three independents and seven Labour PCCs lost their positions. No Conservative has lost their position; however, this might change after the Swindon and Wiltshire election rerun. While turnout is traditionally low in second-order elections such as ones like these, in some areas turnout increased.
Some notable results include the Nottinghamshire one, Caroline Henry beat the Labour incumbent Paddy Tipping, who had been in his role for nine years. Turnout jumped more than 10 percentage points, from 21.8% in 2016 to 33.16% this time. Steve Turner won his election in Cleveland, gaining nearly double the votes of his nearest rival. Labour had also run the PCC for nine years too. Derbyshire had an increase in turnout from 2016, and the Labour incumbent lost her role after five years. Finally, in Avon and Somerset, turnout increased to 30% from 26% in 2016, and the first Conservative PCC was elected for nine years from the independent candidate.
So, overall there has been an increased turnout of the vote from 2016 and Conservatives are winning new areas.
Despite PCC elections ‘not mattering’ because of a more limited turnout and few people knowing what a PCC does, what has been shown by these results is consistent with the idea that politics is being realigned.
Not long ago, the Conservatives introduced the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC). This bill is extremely controversial, with it giving increased police powers on areas such as what counts as an annoying protest. Poor timing with the bill’s introduction to Parliament also scarred its image. The events at the Clapham Common Sarah Everard Vigil became the go-to image for the police could do about peaceful protests should the bill pass. Other controversial elements also included raising the prison time for those who damage statues compared to that of rapists.
However, through the increased Conservative PCCs, it is clear that this does not bother voters. The Conservatives were able to successfully market themselves away from this bill or play up more appealing aspects. Labour clearly didn’t highlight the authoritarian nature of the powers to the voters, and thus lost PCCs as a result. This is unsurprising, as Starmer wasn’t initially planning to oppose the bill, and his opposition was forced following the events at Clapham Common. Labour failed to play on a key issue that is likely still in the voter’s memory.
It also highlights the lack of power social movements have. There were many protests held across the country against this bill, in fact, the entire Kill the Bill movement was founded in opposition to the PCSC bill. There were even riots in some cases. Bristol, which is in the Avon and Somerset area, voted in a Conservative PCC despite its opposition to the bill. But when it comes to democratic elections, these movements don’t hold any sway over the general public. These movements are ineffectual at holding real change and getting their message across to other voters.
These results also show the continued realignment of culture over class. Voters want stronger law and order, they don’t like rioters attacking police and burning vehicles, like what happened in Bristol. As much as the image in Clapham Common is powerful to over-policing, the image of a burning police van is equally powerful in showing the danger rioters pose. Images of other riots and protests such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter have no doubt burrowed into the minds of voters. And although statute prison time is controversial, it shows that our history is being threatened and one party has realised it needs protecting.
The Conservatives understand the increasing power of culture in politics. They also understand a need to communicate a strong stance on law and order to protect our culture. Labour fails to understand the power of culture, and that it should be protected. And until it does, results like this will continue to happen in every election.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Flexible Statistics and a Lack of Optimism – A Labour Response
Kieran’s article is a tale of two halves – advantageous yet mergeable statistics and a lack of optimism, or perhaps realism, surrounding the importance of protests.
Kieran initially gives us a solid overview of the Police and Crime Commissioner election results from earlier this month. Undeniably the conservatives saw great success and, as I have previously written, Labour’s campaign strategy was limited. The results reflect this. However, anyone familiar with statistics will also be familiar with the distortion of such. Yes, these results are consistent with political realignment, as Kieran suggests, but the reality of low turnout reflects the lack of public interest in second-order elections to a much higher degree than the former. So the 6 May results are incomparable to any future general election results, regardless of your use of the stats. I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw some very different trends in the next general election.
The other half of Kieran’s article focuses on the lack of power held by social movements, at least in his eyes. I would actually argue protests hold considerable power both socially and politically. Do the two not go hand in hand?
If you’re after a specific political example, think back to the countless calls for female suffrage that achieved such large scale change or the 2016 abortion protests in Poland that resulted in a retraction of stricter legislation proposals. But more generally, protests and activism inspire and educate. They give a voice to those who are silenced by political institutions and educate people on issues otherwise neglected. This is not a pointless effort or merely an excuse for a shouty riot but a very real opportunity to speak up and grab the attention of both politicians and wider society.
And Kieran’s final plea to almost sway you towards the conservative stance falls short for me, perhaps unsurprisingly. They may understand the importance of culture as a campaign tactic but the existence of the PCSC bill begs the question as to how deep this understanding truly is.
Ultimately, second-order election results would not be the best tip to base your bet on in the next general election, despite the small successes and losses. And for protests, if they educate just one person they will remain powerful.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Conservatives Filled a Void Where Labour Could Not – A Liberal Response
Kieran’s article hits the right factual spots but the wrong narrative conjectures. Instead of showing the success of the Conservative party, it rather displays the inability of Labour to define their stance. Kieran correctly notes Starmer’s flip-flopping on the PCC issue, but this deserves stressing further. Labour failed here, like elsewhere in the election, because people did not know what they stood for.
The PCSC Bill, despite many hating it, is a definitively Conservative act. And the Conservatives stood by the Bill. By contrast, Labour had no concerted opposition against it. As regards the election of a Conservative PCC in Avon county, Labour’s actions need more attention. With the party split between defending and vilifying the protesters, voters felt no assurance either way. The Conservatives at the very least showed united, vehement opposition to the protests. With Labour’s indecisiveness splitting voters between Greens and Tories, the red party unsurprisingly lost out big time.
Kieran’s points about culture deserve the most ire. The only reason why the Conservatives seemingly ‘understand the power of culture’ is because they themselves manufactured the culture war. In reality, the ‘culture war’ is an unnatural construction. In fact, culture has always been understood by the Labour party. Indeed, class and culture have never been completely inseparable, with ‘working-class culture’ often wielded to Christianity being a talking point since the 19th century. Yet, following the Brexit fallout, the Conservatives cunningly got to define this new ‘politics of culture’. Labour’s indecision in Brexit’s aftermath has allowed the Conservatives to consolidate this. No wonder Kieran can trumpet the hollow narrative of ‘culture’. Ultimately it’s a game of rhetoric, not reality.
In the end, Kieran’s article alluded subtly to Labour’s failures rather than Conservative success. Contrary to Kieran’s central point, popular politics is not shifting – but it is being re-defined. The Labour party should not allow the Tories to escape punishment-free with this. The Labour party needs to be decisive again.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen