Nick Clegg: I’m not voting in this Thursday’s PCC by-election

Police helmetThere’s a by-election taking place this Thursday. The good news is the Lib Dems won’t lose our deposit.

The reason is the party’s not standing a candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner by-election triggered by the resignation of former PCC Shaun Wright over the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.

Here’s how Nick Clegg explained the decision to the BBC earlier this month:

“Having looked at the experiment of police and crime commissioners, I’ve come to the conclusion it just doesn’t work. Look what happened in South Yorkshire and across the whole of the north of England; it’s all re-hashed, re-tread Labour politicians and, guess what, the public don’t like it and they don’t bother to vote for it at all.”

Asked why the Liberal Democrats had chosen not to put forward a candidate in the PCC election, despite fielding one in 2012, he said he did no want to “prop it up”. He said: “It would be slightly odd for me to say on the one hand this experiment in police and crime commissioner has failed and on the other hand we’re going to compete in an experiment we think has failed.”

I don’t get that argument, I’m afraid. After all, Lib Dems contest first-past-the-post elections though we think it’s a failed system. And we appoint peers to the House of Lords though we think it’s a failed system.

Oh, and we also contested the West Midlands PCC by-election held three months’ ago.

It may well be the South Yorkshire regional Lib Dems have taken a look at their finances and decided there’s better ways to spend money than on trying to save a £5,000 deposit in a PCC by-election. If so, that’s a rational reason I can understand.

However, it does mean no-one eligible to vote in South Yorkshire has the chance of casting their vote for the Lib Dems this Thursday. That happens to include the leader of the Lib Dems, as Michael Crick noted this evening:

Nick Clegg thereby becomes, I believe, the first party leader since Alec Douglas-Home in 1964 not to vote at a public election (hat-tip: Alan Holloway).

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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31 Comments

  • Five grand is a lot to throw away

  • Tony Greaves 28th Oct '14 - 8:20pm

    Why did Douglas-Home not vote in 1964?

    Tony

  • Scott Berry 28th Oct '14 - 8:26pm

    He should vote – terrible example to set in an age when turnout is so low (particularly among the young). He doesn’t have to say who he voted for, he doesn’t have to vote for another party (there are I assume independent candidates) but he should vote. Just as any Lib Dem would second preference someone who isn’t a Lib Dem if we got our preferred voting system.

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Oct '14 - 8:46pm

    “I don’t get that argument, I’m afraid. After all, Lib Dems contest first-past-the-post elections though we think it’s a failed system. And we appoint peers to the House of Lords though we think it’s a failed system.”

    For once, I agree with Stephen!

  • Bit rich of Nick to chalk up the failure of the system he endorsed and voted for to the wrong kind of people standing for election.

    I wonder how many more of the policies the Lib Dems backed in government they can back away from before the election? Maybe someone can run a book on which policy will be next?

  • Alec Douglas-Home was not a peer in 1964. He renounced his peerage upon becoming Prime Minister in 1963 and was subsequently elected as an MP in a by-election.

  • Paul In Wokingham 28th Oct '14 - 10:30pm

    Was Douglas-Home preoccupied with the consequences of Kruschev being deposed the day before the GE?

  • He should at least go and spoil his ballot

  • The issue of not fielding a candidate is one thing, the point Jennie raises seems a fair, if distressing, reason to me.

    But not even going to vote, I’m not having that at all. As Iain rightly says, go and spoil the ballot if you must, or vote for somebody and keep quiet – but for Nick not to even vote is a poor example of anyone, let a lone a Deputy Prime Minister. I’ve had to hold my nose at times and vote for least worst options, but I have done it. I absolutely feel that we all have a duty to excercise our democratic right – I don’t support mandatory voting by any means, no Liberal should, but how can our DEMOCRATIC party’s leader decide to give it a miss?

    There would be no doubt many column inches written about who he voted for and scorn for not fielding a candidate, but a simple statement saying the balllot is private and that we don’t support PPC’s so don’t field them would be in line with both party policy and uphold democratic principles. Let them through brickbats and let us stick to our principles.

    Ah well, I’m still firmly in the minority of LDV commenters who very much support Nick – but that has really riled me.

  • A Social Liberal 28th Oct '14 - 11:32pm

    For once I agree with Nick (I never ever thought I’d say that).

    If you catagorically disagree with a concept then you have a duty not to associate yourself with it. Voting for or placing candidates in an election for Police Commissioner lends it a legitimacy. We accuse UKIP of hypocrisy for standing in EU elections, voting for or placing candidates in PPC elections smacks similarly of hypocrisy.

  • I have to agree with Nick Clegg. Voting in a FPTP general election is one thing – we need to elect MPs, hopefully those who will eventually change the system, and so we work to change the system by voting. However, the post of elected commissioners is so horribly wrong that it just needs to be shunned and have the ground taken from under its feet. Get rid of the concept right away!

  • There were basically three reasons for not standing: first, our policy to scrap PCCs; second, the cost of standing a candidate in a ceremonial county where we’re relatively weak outside Sheffield; and third: the fact that we were going to be squeezed by the English Democrats and UKIP to a lost deposit anyway because of the circumstances of the election. We only got 7% in 2012, after all.

  • Jack 28th Oct ’14 – 9:21pm
    “Bit rich of Nick to chalk up the failure of the system he endorsed and voted for to the wrong kind of people standing for election….”

    Can anyone remind me how Nick Clegg voted on the bill to introduce Police Commissioner elections and what he said at the time?

  • I have gone some way to answering my own question —

    In the 2010 British general election campaign, both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats’ manifestos outlined plans, respectively, to replace or reform the existing police authorities, both parties raising concerns about the perceived lack of accountability of police authorities to the communities they serve.

    Following the election the 2010 Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition agreement set out that:–
    ” We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives…”

    Later in 2010 the Government published ‘Policing in the 21st Century’, a consultation on the Government’s vision for policing, including the introduction of police and crime commissioners.
    This was followed by the introduction of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill into Parliament in December 2010.
    The Bill received Royal Assent on 15 September 2011, becoming the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.

  • Oh dear — a bit more research indicates that our exalted DPM seems to have changed his personal position on voting in these elections.
    This is Clegg in Hansard less than two years ago–
    The Deputy Prime Minister: ……on the police and crime commissioner elections. I hope that everyone will turn out to vote, …. …. I hope that people will participate in these important elections.
    7 Nov 2012 : Column 861

    Oh dear! I wonder hat could possibly have gone wrong between November 2012 and now?

  • Tsar Nicolas 29th Oct '14 - 7:10am

    @Paul in Wokingham

    The Kruschev removal was announced after polls closed and Home was in his constituency all day – a piece of trivia I gleaned from watching the 1964 results on youtube.

  • Paul In Wokingham 29th Oct '14 - 7:41am

    @Tsar Nicholas – yes, I saw that on BBC Parliament years ago but recall only three things from it: Kruschev was kicked out, Grimond blasted the Tory campaign in Smethwick, and Richard Dimbleby introduced the nation to pizza.

    In terms of the substantive issue here, I agree with Jenny: it sounds like someone on Lib Dem Towers decided that 5 grand was a lot of dosh to throw away in order to get humiliated in the polls yet again.

  • Tony Dawson 29th Oct '14 - 8:48am

    The Police and Crime Commissioners join the NHS ‘deforms’ and the retrospective Bedroom Tax as failures of judgment of the Lib Dem leadership of the Coalition which they tried to persuade the rest of us to support..

    Some of us not only did not vote in the original PCC elections – we used the opportunity to publicly call for others to follow suit. We ‘won’ this battle with a massive overall majority. 🙂

    Let us hope that the next half-baked similar idiocy we are asked to endorse is not elected City Mayors.

  • There is a risk that, given the likelihood of a low turn-out, UKIP will win. I don’t know how big a risk it is but it’s not negligible. Discouraging voters in these circumstances seems irresponsible.

  • It would be possible for the Lib Dems, along with all the other parties and Tory rebels to vote for some sort of motion calling for PCCs to be disbanded. Why won’t he do this if he believes the policy has been such a disaster? Surely if he’s so disillusioned that he won’t even vote then he should act?

  • Leekliberal 29th Oct '14 - 1:48pm

    iain 28th Oct ’14 – 10:37pm says ‘He should at least go and spoil his ballot’. Is he aware that in spoiling his ballot paper the spoiled ballot paper will be added to the total votes thus increasing the turnout which adds to the credibility of the election. If you believe, as I do, that the Tory wheeze of having votes for PCCs has been damned by derisory turnouts and the Act setting these ridiculous and expensive contests needs to be repealed, you will take no part in them.

  • David Allen 29th Oct '14 - 2:47pm

    Not voting in an election is one more failing which Nick’s opponents will mark down against him, to be used whenever it suits them in the future. Here are the one-liners that Cameron can use when Nick next calls for electoral reform, perhaps in the GE 2015 leaders’ debates:

    “I will not take lectures about democracy from a man who didn’t even bother to vote in last year’s South Yorkshire byelection!”

    (Clegg, splutter, PCC, experiment which failed, etc)

    “Well, I know the Liberals had trouble finding a candidate, but there were n people who did stand for an important position overseeing the work of the police, a public position which the Liberals themselves called for in their last manifesto. Mr Clegg didn’t even bother to choose between the candidates. He didn’t even bother to vote. And then he comes here and tells us all about his latest cockeyed ideas for changing our voting system. It’s unbelievable hypocrisy!”

  • Julian Tisi 29th Oct '14 - 2:48pm

    PCCs are a Conservativ idea which have clearly failed. The quality of the PCCs has been extremely poor and the lack of voter engagement or understanding of why they were apparently needed has been astounding.

    Given the area, it would have been a Labour shoe-in had it not been for the circumstances of the election and their exploitation by UKIP. The sad truth is that one or other of UKIP or Labour will win this and neither deserve to. Labour, because they deserve to be punished for Rotherham – and their party’s abject lack of judgement in putting the previous PCC forward as their candidate. UKIP for too many reasons to mention, some of which highlighted by Sal in a post yesterday https://www.libdemvoice.org/sal-brinton-writes-ukips-hypocrisy-on-tackling-serious-child-abuse-issue-is-breathtaking-43106.html

    So in this situation, not voting or spoiling your ballot, as some have suggested, might be reasonable.

  • Julian TIsi
    Unfortunately we cannot get out of it that easily.
    Unlike the hated bedroom tax or massive subsidies for new nuclear, our party actually signed up to elected police commissioners.

    The coalition agreement said quite clearly :–
    ” We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives…”

    Later in 2010 the Government published ‘Policing in the 21st Century’, a consultation on the Government’s vision for policing, including the introduction of police and crime commissioners.
    This was followed by the introduction of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill into Parliament in December 2010.
    All Liberal Democrat MPs present voted for PCCs except for one who was a teller for the Bill.

    Some of us may have thought it was complete and utter madness from the word go but our exalted leader seemed to be very happy about these directly elected posts until recently.
    I am not sure what his latest position on directly elected mayors is. Does anyone else know?

  • Really?

    We have the leader of a political party refusing to take part in something that he promoted and implemented whilst blaming the electorate for voting for another party and I’m not allowed to comment on the complete absurdity, dishonesty and sociopathy of Nick Clegg?

  • @johnTilley

    Are people not allowed to change their minds in your world?

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