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Negativity and antipathy are the hallmarks of the EU debate and the crime commissioner election


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There is an important election on May 5 but candidates vying to become Kent’s next crime commissioner are fighting their battles in the face of widespread public indifference.

This is not the fault of the candidates. They are doing their level best to bump start voter interest in an election that voters either don’t know is taking place or do and have no real engagement with the campaign.

Why? Whoever wins will be paid £85,000 and take charge of overseeing the budget of one of the largest forces in the country with some of the most complex and challenging issues.

And there is every chance that the successful candidate will - should Home Secretary Theresa May fulfil her pledges - take on even more powers than they currently hold.

So, here’s some factors that might explain voter torpor:

  • Voters remain confused about the role and what powers the commissioner has. An apprehension persists that commissioners are like town sheriffs, riding in to solve crime and drum out of town unsavoury elements.
  • Many dislike the fact that commissioner candidates are, in the main, party political nominees and are uncomfortable with the idea of decisions being taken to serve another purpose.
  • The public image of commissioners has taken a severe knock since the first generation took office in 2012. Even Ms May acknowledged her fear that she had created “a monster”. Some of this reputational damage is taking a long time to heal.
  • Kent has a huge electorate - about 1.2m people - and with the best will in the world, candidates are never going to get to every place in the county - especially independent candidates with fewer resources and at best, a limited number of foot soldiers to go knocking on doors.

Which brings us to the question of who will win.

My feeling is that the advantage rests with the candidates from UKIP, the Conservatives and Labour and it will be from these three that the winning candidate will come.

Each seems to be focusing campaigning in areas where they are strongest and clearly have decided to zone in on getting their vote out. I doubt whether there will be a winner on the first round which brings into the calculation where second preference votes will go.

For UKIP, the hope is that they get the second preferences of Conservatives to push them over the winning line. And vice versa.

It is hard to read where Labour voters will go with their second preferences. You can be pretty certain it won’t be to the Conservatives.

Equally, it is hard to see many plumping for UKIP as second choice but they could go tactically to the independent candidate Gurvinder Sandher.

As to the turnout, I suspect it won't be much higher than the 16% who bothered to turn out in 2012.

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Meanwhile, the debate on whether to stay in or leave the EU has ten weeks to run - possibly to the dismay of many voters.

This is an equally momentous election - a “once-in-a-generation” poll.

The rival groups are bludgeoning each other with claim and counter-claim but neither are delivering the knockout blow. In boxing terms, this is a fight that will go the distance.

The remain camp clearly believe the more it frightens voters, the more likely they are to vote for what they know rather than what they don’t. It is a crude campaign and they may be over-cooking it a little.

With nine weeks to go, this kind of attritional political trench warfare may wear down even the most engaged voters - especially as the strategy is providing rather more heat than light.

This “Project Fear” strategy will surely have run out of scare stories long before June 23 but you can't tell.

It won't be long before we are told that leaving will condemn us to wet summers for eternity.

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