However, what we can definitely say is that it will cost the country a lot of money. Elections are a pricey way of demonstrating a country’s commitment to democracy. How much better it would be if the people could choose without all the expense of closing schools, employing returning officers, and putting Ed and Dave on telly when we’d all rather be watching the weather forecast. The recent failed attempt to get the people of South Yorkshire to pick a replacement Police and Crime Commissioner is reckoned to have cost more than eleven quid a vote, and that’s without party political broadcasts or the airing of fights between Ed Miliband and Myleene Klass.
When the original lot of elections for Police and Crime Commissioners was staged, I didn’t turn out and vote. I think it was the second time I ever failed to vote, the first having been because I got the day wrong. I have friends who went to the polling station and scribbled things like ‘what a waste of time and money’ on their PCC voting forms. While I agree entirely with the sentiment, their votes will have boosted the ludicrously low turnout figure, even though (one assumes) they didn’t contribute to the result.
The government suggested that people didn’t vote for the PCCs because they were lazy, or feckless, or because the elections were held in November. There are people who do indeed think I’m lazy and feckless, but neither my laziness or my lack of feck was the reason I didn’t vote. Nor was it because it was November. Like many people, I often go out in November, as did the good burghers of Rochester who voted for Mr Reckless. I didn’t vote in the PCC election, because I have no idea what would qualify someone to be a good PCC. I didn’t vote, because although I had no idea what would qualify someone to be a good PCC, all the candidates manifestly lacked it. I didn’t vote, because a lot of the candidates were affiliated to political parties, or professed their support for assorted causes, and I think the police should be impartial. If there had been an option stating that I thought the whole thing was a waste of time and money, I wouldn’t mind betting that a lot of people would have ticked it, and I would certainly have turned out. To my mind, the best people to know what the police should be doing are the police. Give the police the cash, and tell the overpaid mandarins to hop it.
The UKIP by elections are also a drain on the public purse. Since in both cases the sitting Tory got elected, wearing a shiny new UKIP hat, we could have just given them the nod, and Dave and George could have stayed in Westminster and got on with trying to run the country. After all, that’s what they get paid for, not pounding the streets of Essex and Kent touting for lost votes.
There is another way. The bookmakers regularly make their fortunes by correctly forecasting the outcomes of elections. They were bang on the money in the Scottish referendum, and had UKIP as odds-on favourites in both the by elections. If we just asked the bookies who should be running the country, not only would we save all the money spent on organising elections, but the government would start its term of office with a tax windfall, from the bookmakers’ surge in profits. Never mind voting for Nigel Barton, just listen to William Hill.