Rupert Matthews re-elected as Leicestershire PCC despite close-run vote

The Conservative candidate won by just 860 votes, but it was enough to see off Labour challenger Rory Palmer.

Rupert Matthews confirms his election on stage at the Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner election count.
Matthews has been PCC since 2021. Photograph: Ian Davis / Leicester City Council

Rupert Matthews, the incumbent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, has been re-elected to the role, despite a strong showing by both the Labour Party's Rory Palmer and the Green Party's Aasiya Bora.

The Conservative candidate secured 62,280 votes (35.3 per cent) overall in the first past the post ballot. Palmer ended up with 61,420 votes (34.8 per cent), just 860 votes behind. Turnout was 21.70 per cent, down from 2021. In his victory speech, Matthews said: “I think that it's been very nerve wracking in the last few minutes because we've all been on tenterhooks as to what the result's going to be because it is a very, very close result.

“I think that the results here show that the Conservatives are getting policies right on law and order, we are delivering on the commitments that we made both in the last general election manifesto to get the extra 20,000 police officers and the pledges that I made at my election three years ago to deliver on reconnecting the police with the public, to getting the rural policing team in place, and [to make] a lot of work together with volunteers such as neighbourhood watch and parish councils, and other organisations.”

While the Conservatives have met their national target of 20,000 new police officers, it has largely replaced the loss of about 20,000 police between 2010 and 2019. The Conservatives cut funding under successive governments by 20 per cent during this period.

Rory Palmer stands on stage next to Rupert Matthews as the results are announced.
Rory Palmer (left) was in attendance with prominent local Labour Party politicians, including Sir Peter Soulsby and former PCC Willy Bach. Photograph: Rhys Everquill / Great Central Gazette

Palmer, who was defeated, left the count shortly after the result but posted a statement on social media at the weekend. In it, he said: “The Conservatives won this contest by the narrowest of margins: the majority of those who voted supported other candidates. I hope that is recognised in the PCC's approach as he begins a second term.

“I am proud of the ideas and vision for the role of PCC we put forward in this election. Our ideas and approach won the support of people across the political spectrum and of people who hadn't engaged with the political process before.”

This election, all eyes were on Charnwood for Labour where they were hoping Loughborough would secure them the win, but they fell short by just 892 votes in the borough — which could have made all the difference to the overall result.

Palmer continued: “Looking at the political map of Leicestershire and Rutland, winning this election for Labour was always a big challenge. However, I always believed Labour could win this election… We must now reflect with humility and a genuine determination to listen as we strive to earn the trust and support of people who felt unable to vote Labour last week.”

Matthews won a significantly smaller share of the votes this election than when he beat Labour's Ross Willmott in 2021 — 135,566 votes versus Labour's 102,211. Both parties saw a significant drop in support as there were more options on the ballot paper this year, with the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and One Leicester all standing candidates. This spread of support is something we're likely to see in the general election — which is expected to be held in autumn, but no later than January 2025.

In an interview with The Gazette, Matthews said: “In my first term, I've completed 70 per cent of that term's plans. So we've still got about 30 per cent left to go and with the very nature of these things it's the more difficult 30 per cent that still needs tackling.” After Covid-19 delayed the election to 2021, he only served a brief three years in office. In his second term, set to last four years, Matthews intends to focus more on crime prevention. “It's much better to stop that from happening in the first place than to try to chase around after the criminals afterwards.”

On the subject of former PCC Willy Bach's critical op-ed for The Gazette, Matthews said, “[he's] entitled to his opinion. But, of course, he's a career Labour politician. And I'm a part-time Conservative politician, part-time historian.

“Enough is enough”: Willy Bach on the record of his successor
Exclusive: Labour peer Willy Bach, former Police and Crime Commissioner, examines the record of his successor ahead of the elections this Thursday, 2 May.

When asked if the number of people leaving the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner might be as high in his second term as in his first, he said:

“I've made no secret about this — when I was between chief executives, I was promoting heads of departments to see how [they] get on. It gives them good experience, a sort of on the job training… I've always been a big believer in staff training and improving staff. So yes, I know Labour used this against me. I think it's a shame because I'm a big believer in giving the people the chance to act up. And I'm not going to apologise for that. That is the right thing to do for an employee. You've got to help your staff develop and help your staff improve. That's what I do.”

Poll workers patiently wait to count the votes at Morningside Arena in Leicester.
The ballot papers were verified on Friday, 3 May during the morning and counting began at 12pm the same day. Photograph: Leicester City Council

The Green Party had a strong showing in this election, having previously never stood a candidate for PCC in the Leicestershire Police area. Bora, who has stood in city council elections before, placed third with 23,649 votes (13.4 per cent). The party picked up a lot of support in Charnwood, where they were expected to do well, but they did better than anticipated in Leicester, achieving a record level of support in the city.

The Liberal Democrats' Ian Sharpe came in fourth, with 22,041 votes (12.5 per cent), down from 42,951 in 2021. One Leicester's Fizza Askari drew support away from the main parties with 7,104 votes (four per cent) overall. One Leicester was set up by former Labour assistant mayor Rita Patel after she was suspended by the party for backing a motion to scrap the elected mayor role — but later resigned and stood as an independent mayoral candidate.

The Greens campaigned on a platform to protect the right to protest, particularly in light of pro-Palestine actions across the city. In a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, in late April, Bora said: “given what we have seen unfolding across our screens over the last six months, it is very important to protect the right to protest. I will always stand by that right. The position of PCC is very important because you hold the chief constable to account. So please use your vote to serve the interest of people and humanity, particularly Palestine.”

In his election statement, Sharpe pushed for more funding for Leicestershire Police: “Leicestershire comes at the bottom of the pile for funding for our police and councils. [I] will be a strong voice standing up to whatever government comes next to argue for our fair share of funding for our essential services.”

Askari repeatedly highlighted the need to “rebuild community relations with the police based on mutual respect and understanding” following the 2022 unrest in east Leicester.

A polling station in Leicester city centre with a poll worker stood outside with a clipboard. They are smiling at the camera and there is a big sign on the railings in front of them that reads "Polling Station".
Polling stations opened at 7am on Thursday, 2 May. Photograph: Devon Winters / Great Central Gazette.

Voter turnout was relatively second best in all PCC elections for the region since the post was created in 2012, at 21.7 per cent — 178,293 people voted compared to 821,573 registered voters across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. But it was 9.41 per cent lower than in 2021, when Leicestershire County Council elections were held at the same time. This naturally increased the number of people who went to the polls.

At first glance, it appears that the introduction of photo ID for voting had no adverse impact on voter participation. However, it is difficult to determine who was turned away from polling stations due to the lack of local data.

On whether he has a mandate with a low turnout, Matthews said: “It was very low. It's been low right across the country. But you must always realise people are making a conscious decision not to vote. The way I always look at this is they've chosen not to vote against the incumbent. And I'm the incumbent. I'm fairly well known across the city and the two counties. So as far as I'm concerned, a mandate from the public is a mandate from the public. If what I was doing was so absolutely terrible, that in hordes people wanted to pour out by the hundreds of thousands to vote against me, then they had the opportunity to do so. They did have that opportunity, and so yes, it is a mandate from the people to govern.”

This election was run under first past the post (FPTP) after the government introduced the system for all local mayoral and PCC elections in 2023. FPTP means voters cast a vote for a single candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins the election. Previously, they were run using supplementary vote (SV) — which allows voters to express two choices on the ballot paper. Under SV, if no candidate got over 50 per cent of the vote, the top two candidates would continue to a run-off and all other candidates were eliminated.

The change was highly controversial, with Prof Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, telling The Guardian in 2021 that FPTP was likely to “make it somewhat easier for the Conservatives to win” in cities across the UK “if they could come up with a really good candidate.”

In this election, there were 1,806 rejected ballots — with 505 of these voting for more than one candidate, potentially showing confusion around the change in voting system. A further 872 were void for uncertainty, 424 returned unmarked and in five cases the voter could be identified so were subsequently rejected.

Given their vote share in Leicester, both the Greens and One Leicester are likely to put Labour under pressure when the country heads to the polls for the general election later this year.

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