By Tom Knowles
With a 12.8% turnout in Birmingham – even lower in the local area with estimates of 11% in Weoley Castle and 7% in Longbridge – Bob Jones (Lab) has been elected Police and Crime Commissioner of the West Midlands, controlling an annual budget of more than £521 million.
I’m sure all of us hope Bob succeeds, not least for the sake of policing in the place we call home, but when we think about it, what has been won, and what lost? Bob has gained a new job and £100k a year, which is nice for him. We’ve gained a new PCC, for better or worse. More than that, though, some obvious problems have come to the forefront.
Let’s start with the turnout. 12.8% is terrible. It is the lowest turnout in Birmingham, in the city’s electoral history. And what are the reasons for this? There are some who chose to protest, and not attend the ballot at all or to spoil their papers. There are some who chose not to vote because they felt uninformed, because no information had been provided. There will be a small few who just didn’t know there was an election.
Of those reasons the only one I cannot fathom is the second. I simply do not understand. Everybody who is reading this has access to the internet. The day before the polls opened, I curiously Googled “West Midlands PCC candidates” to see what came up. Within the first three results I was presented with a full list of candidates, and their websites. In five seconds I had access to all the information available to inform myself, and make my choice.
We need to stop, all of us, relying on other people to make choices for us. We complain that ‘they’re all the same’, or that we weren’t given information, or that we didn’t know enough to make a choice. We surrender our freedom to choose when we do, and say those things. If we want the world to change, it’s not enough to hope that it happens, we have to do it ourselves. Next time there’s an election, spend 5 minutes seeing what each candidate stands for. It’ll take you half an hour at most, and you’ll gain power in that time that you never had before. You can choose and understand why.
Those of you who did not vote today lost something, and those of us who did lost something too. We lost the power to make a choice together. We lost an election, because we let it get away.