The Police and Crime Commissioner election battleground may be starting to emerge. I’ll not repeat all the caveats about the recent Police Foundation research on voting and these elections, but instead look to identify the closest races.
The Police Foundation do this in a chart in their report, which is based on votes in the 2010 election for Parliament in these Police Areas. That gave a list of the 10 closest races in England as being (in alphabetical order), Avon & Somerset, Cheshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon & Cornwall, Humberside, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. In Wales, the races in Dyfed Powys and North Wales were closest.
However, while these have the benefit of being based on real votes, they were real votes without the reality of Coalition government, and things have moved on, including the fact that in many areas there seems likely to be no LibDem candidate. Factor-in recent opinion polls and the lack of LibDems and which areas look like the closest fights?
To answer that, TopOfTheCops looked at which areas in the report had the two main parties finishing within 10% of each other after the predicted distribution of second preferences when recent polling and a loss of LibDems is taken into account. In these areas a 5% swing of votes from this prediction could give a different result in a total of 12 areas, as follows, with those in bold having also appeared on the above list. Note that, for technical reasons, this can only be done with police areas in England, not Wales.
1. Bedfordshire – Conservatives 2.2% ahead
2. Leicestershire – Labour 2.75% ahead
3. Staffordshire – Conservatives 4.7% ahead
4. Avon & Somerset – Conservatives 4.8% ahead (of Labour unless LibDems stand which they might).
5. Northamptonshire – Conservatives 6% ahead
6. Gloucestershire – Conservatives 7.5% ahead
7. Lancashire – Labour 8% ahead
8. Norfolk – Conservatives 8.3% ahead
9. Cheshire – Labour 8.5% ahead
10. Cumbria – Labour 8.6% ahead
11. Humberside – Labour 9.7% ahead
12. Suffolk – Conservatives 9.5% ahead
Keep in mind though that achieving a majority of Police and Crime Commissioners is largely symbolic for the parties. These are not seats in a Council or Parliament, where majorities matter as to who is in control. They are individual independent offices.
The value of these elections for other elections will be twofold:-
1. Momentum – looking like a winner or loser can colour public and press attitudes to parties and their leaders, creating expectations for them to live up to or down to. The first elections after these are the May 2013 County Council elections. Collectively, these are mid-terms, where governments expect to suffer, and where Oppositions need to look impressive. Yet on current polling, the Conservatives might take over half the PCC positions, which could look like a mid-term victory.
2. Results in individual areas create impressions because of stereotypes and the narrative they provide. If the Conservatives take Lancashire or Humberside, they look like they are excelling nationally. If Labour take Cheshire or Norfolk, they look like they are on the advance.