I sometimes despair of our news media in this country. How long is it going to take for them to cotton on to the real story about the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners? It's not the empty Gwent ballot box or the pathetic turnout or even the rejection of party political candidates, it's the massive increase in spoilt papers.
We've had a long history of spoiling ballot papers as a defiant act of civil disobedience in this country. When the news media finally get around to realising what actually happened on Thursday and tot up the totals for all police areas, I'm confident it will be a very significant number indeed.
Make no mistake, by and large this wasn't people confused about a new election and the possibility of recording a second preference, it was very angry people determined to register their disdain for the whole charade and making that clear by comments left across the ballot paper. I know because I sat for 15 hours in a draughty school hall running a polling station and some voters seemed to be taking a great deal of time over what they were writing on their papers.
As Returning Officers have found out at the count, thousands of disgruntled voters throughout the land have left some very angry comments directed at the government. In Devon and Cornwall, the last area to declare, a total of 6,339 papers were 'spoilt' representing 3% of the total and more than were cast for one of the independent candidates in the election. If that is representative of the rest of the country, in my view it is the real story of what happened on Thursday and government would do well to take notice.
I feel I want to put on record that Thursday was a huge missed opportunity. Readers will be aware that I advocated spoiling papers a couple of weeks ago, but the idea was sadly rejected by Inspector Gadget who advocated not voting instead. Unfortunately this action merely supports the view that people were apathetic about the process, when in fact many were angry and wanted to register that anger. The spoilt totals could have been much, much higher.
By the way, I have absolutely no confidence that the very expensive and toothless Electoral Commission will have anything remotely useful to say on the subject.