He's got a tough job ahead of him, though - he's now the Head of Blame for crime in the West Midlands. Never mind that the biggest chunk of his budget comes from the Home Office - the police precept that we pay with our council tax only makes up 14% of the total spent on policing in the West Midlands and would have had to rise in total by over 40% last year to cover the cuts imposed by central government. From now on, though, the government will have a defence to criticism - they will point to your Police & Crime Commissioner as the person to hold to account.
The election itself saw a record low turnout, which the Prime Minister blamed on the public
the turnout was always going to be low, when you're electing a new post for the first timeOddly, the people of London weren't used to voting for a mayor in 2000, but 34% of them turned out. In Stoke in 2002, 24% of the electorate made it to the polls for their inaugural mayoral election and 28% of the people of Bristol turned out this Thursday to vote for their first mayor. A national turnout of 15% indicates something is seriously wrong with the policy that has led us to this. Even Conor Burns, Conservative MP in Bournemouth, was moved to tweet that he now regrets voting for the bill - although this may not be unrelated to the fact that a Bournemouth Tory councillor failed to win the post there in what seems to have been a particularly ill-tempered campaign with mudslinging aplenty. (FullFact have a series of graphs detailing turnouts here)
Every election brings a handful of ballot papers spoilt with insults to the candidates or the process, but only a handful (the candidates and the agents get to see all of them). I've never seen so many ballot papers spoilt with such clear opposition to this policy - people brought pre-prepared stickers detailing their objections or just scrawled across the paper comments opposing the politicisation of the police, the cost or even just noting that they couldn't decide because they didn't have enough information about the candidates.
This election has been an unmitigated policy disaster - a normal day at the office for this government. From the timing of the election - the cold, dark days of November do not encourage voters to trudge up dark alleyways to find polling stations, to the decision not to fund the same mailout to electors provided for all parliamentary and European elections, to the expensive error that meant emergency legislation had to be pushed through parliament to allow ballot papers in Wales to be printed in both English and Welsh, to a complete failure to explain why these posts were even necessary and even to the point that they were not made to fit in with the normal election timetable in May, just speaks of the appalling mismanagement of the implementation of a policy that the public showed absolutely no appetite for. £125 million has been poured down this drain.
I'm not sure we can draw an awful lot of firm conclusions from such a low turnout and so many additional parties in the form of independents. Indeed, in the Midlands, Cath Hannon fought an excellent campaign, even running neck and neck in Sutton Coldfield with the Tory candidate, Matt Bennett, a great achievement given the challenge of running any sort of campaign across 28 parliamentary constituencies, something that stretched even the organised parties. The Liberal Democrats, with just two candidates in the region (the other being in Gloucestershire) did see their vote slump - putting Ayoub Khan down in sixth place out of seven. Until the Birmingham vote came in, he was in serious danger of losing his deposit and he lost the Yardley vote by a crushing margin, took a beating in Solihull (both currently Liberal Democrat parliamentary seats with a solid base of Liberal Democrat councillors) and in Coventry, more people actually preferred to spoil their ballot papers than vote Liberal Democrats. The uncharitable would suggest that voting Lib Dem is actually a waste of a ballot paper in any case.
It is always possible that these posts may prove to be rampantly successful. I doubt it very much. I hope that Labour will commit to scrapping them at the first opportunity and replacing them with an effective system of local governance of the police. Ironically, the model of governance deemed unsuitable for policing has been accepted as perfectly adequate for the regional bodies designed to drive economic development and growth - the Local Enterprise Partnerships.
I wish Bob every success - he'll be a fine PCC for the West Midlands. I also hope he will be the last.