Election campaign

The West Midlands goes to the polls

We’re about to witness the largest single by-election ever held in the UK.

A total of 1,974,518 people are eligible to go the polls today. Precisely how many of them bothers to vote is another matter – and one that will have greater significance than the actual result.

The contest to choose a new police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands is an election nobody wanted. I covered some of the background last month; since then, little has changed by way of expectation or excitement.

I don’t get a sense that anybody anticipates a turnout substantially higher than that of 2012. On that occasion the electorate totalled 1,993,998. Just 238,384 came out to vote: a miserable 11.96%, and on a day when similar elections were taking place right across England with considerable media coverage to boot.

This time it’s a one-off, with precious little coverage outside the West Midlands. The electorate is slightly larger, but I wonder if we’ll see turnout fall below even 10%.

The result is a foregone conclusion: David Jamieson for Labour will win, beating rivals Les Jones (Conservative), Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem) and Keith Rowe (Ukip).

Of more interest might be the order in which the other parties finish. The result is being decided using the supplementary vote (SV) system. This means that if nobody wins more than half the vote on the first count, all candidates bar the top two get eliminated and their alternative preferences allocated to the survivors. Whoever emerges with the most number of votes after this round is declared the winner.

Last time it was a run-off between Labour and the Tories. But on that occasion seven candidates were standing, not four. Jamieson may get enough on the first count to top 50%. If so, we’ll get a result around 2pm on Friday – possibly earlier.

Given that Labour is considering scrapping PCCs if it wins the election, Jamieson may end up serving a shorter period than his predecessor. He could also be the last PCC ever to be elected, and on possibly the lowest turnout: two feats I doubt he’ll want to include on his CV.

Polls are open from 7am to 10pm.


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