Surrey Lib Dems hail best ever PCC result

13 May 2024
Will Forster and Paul Kennedy shaking hands

Liberal Democrats secured over 31% of the vote in the recent Surrey-wide police and crime commissioner (PCC) election. They were also the biggest winners in Surrey's borough and district elections, gaining an additional 11 councillors mostly from the Conservatives in the elections held on Thursday 2 May.

Surrey Liberal Democrats have hailed their best ever PCC election results after their candidate, Mole Valley councillor Paul Kennedy, reduced the Conservatives’ lead by over two thirds from nearly 43,000 to just 13,325 votes.

Cllr Kennedy’s vote surged by nearly 13,000 to 82,213 votes (31.3%) - easily winning the popular vote in Woking and Mole Valley - while Conservative incumbent Lisa Townsend’s vote fell back nearly 17,000 to under 95,538 (36.4%). Labour came 3rdwith just 42,813 votes (16.3%).

Cllr Kennedy said:

“During the campaign I travelled all over Surrey and met thousands of residents, most of whom disagreed with PCCs, and shared our view that the money would be better spent on community policing instead.

“Residents are fed up with paying the highest council tax in the country for our police service under the Conservatives; yet all they get is more spin from the current PCC, who has increased her own office budget by 70%, while forcing Surrey Police to cut staff, and performance has deteriorated in six out of seven areas according to the most recent external PEEL inspection.

“I would like to thank everyone who voted for my alternative vision of a professional, ambitious, community-based approach to policing and tackling crime.”

Controversially, the Conservatives held on by changing the voting system, so as to split the anti-Conservative majority. In previous elections, the second preferences of the Labour and other candidates would have been added to the top two candidates’ votes, in order to identify the candidate who commands an absolute majority of votes. Most Labour voters would prefer a Liberal Democrat to a Conservative.

The Conservatives also benefited from lower turnouts. In Liberal Democrat strongholds such as Guildford, Surrey Heath and Waverley turnout was barely over 20%, attributed to no council elections being held in those areas. Furthermore, the majority of votes cast there were postal votes and the Conservatives traditionally get most of their votes from postal voters.

As a result of the low turnout and a change in the voting system, the Conservative candidate "won" with the support of a desultory 10.8% of the total electorate, with a large majority of voters having voted for another candidate, especially in Woking and Mole Valley, or even spoilt their ballot papers (over 3,000 votes).

Commenting on the results, Surrey and Woking councillor Will Forster, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition on Surrey County Council, said:

“Paul was a brilliant candidate, who secured our best ever result in the PCC elections. The  Liberal Democrats also secured the most council seat gains, as the Conservatives lost seats in all the council areas being contested, and were wiped out in Woking. 

“It is clear that residents are fed up with the Conservatives who have lost their mandate across most of Surrey; and that the Liberal Democrats are the only party that can deliver change. A vote for anyone else just helps the Conservatives.”

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