landslides and earthquakes and local elections.

Much- indeed too much- has been said about the “success” of UKIP in the local and European elections. The publicity this party received, both before and after the vote on Thursday has been totally out of proportion to their importance and their successes. Very few of the many interviews with Farage have actually challenged the narrative that he peddles, with the honourable exception of the James O’Brien interview on LBC.

And as the “people’s party” (now the People’s army according to UKIP) marches on, the main parties will be falling over backwards and themselves to appease this army and entice their supporters back into the fold with increasingly xenophobic policies.

What the broadcast media and politicians have not challenged, and seem unwilling to discuss, is the low turnout in  the local elections, the system that produces this low turnout and the key seats tactics that all parties use.

Andrew Rawnsley, in the Observer on 18th may 2014 got it right:

The headlines on the night will be grabbed by Ukip, a party that most of its own supporters never expect to form a government. Much the biggest proportion of voters will belong to the None of the Above party, those many millions of people who don’t think it’s even worth expressing an opinion.

It is not the UKIP voters the parties should be seeking to attract back into the fold but the supporters of the None of the Above party.

But they won’t. Low turnout suits the main parties. They can concentrate on getting their core supporters out in safe seats, ignore the seats where they have little chance of winning and concentrate on marginals. I complained on twitter that no party had door stepped our street. To be fair, someone from Labour did offer to come round but I had already voted by then. The truth is that I was doorstepped about 20 years ago, tried to debate some issues and refused to commit to voting for them and was subsequently labelled as “not worth calling on.” That’s what happens when you live in a safe Labour ward. But all parties do it which is why the low turnout issue is not being addressed.

The reasons for the low turn out in local elections are various but, in my view, apathy is the least of them. Knowing that my vote wouldn’t count in the voting system we have meant I had to make a real effort to go out. Knowing how little power the local authority has makes it difficult to be bothered. Even in policy areas which are under local authority control, central govt dictates the budget and privatises the service. Central policies such as the bedroom tax further undermine the ability of a local authority to manage its housing stock.

But none of the parties are addressing either the voting system or the democratic deficit at local level.

Turn out is lower in more deprived areas, certainly in Derby. Perhaps the working poor are sick of being labelled scroungers and just say ” a plague on all your houses.”

Perhaps, perhaps…. we don’t know. Because none of our politicians care to find out. Because the system suits them. Occasionally the system will fail, a party like ukip will garner votes, there will be much hand wringing…. and the parties will go back to getting their core vote and working the marginals. Trying to take votes off each other rather than trying to increase the vote.

Below is a table showing the % of the eligible voters it took to become an elected councillor in Derby.( The figures come from Derby City Council and the Derby Telegraph. (thanks.) The maths is from me and I take full responsibility.)

Note 1  I have not included the results for Littleover ward as they elected 2 councillors and I couldn’t work out the maths                       from the stats.

Note 2 The votes cast do not include spoilt ballots.

Ward Eligible Electorate Total Votes cast % turnout Votes cast for elected councillor % of eligible electorate voting for elected councillor Party
Abbey 10,586 2971 28.07% 1283 12.12% Lab
Allestree 11,058 4,833 43.71% 2621 23.70% Con
Alvaston 11,908 3,701 31.08% 1825 15.33% UKIP
Arboretum 11,495 4,085 35.54% 2298 19.99% Lab
Blagreaves 9,928 3,881 39.09% 1530 15.41% Lib
Boulton 10,173 3,145 30.92% 1446 14.21% Lab
Chaddesden 10,173 3,363 33.06% 1349 13.26% Lab
Chellaston 11,373 3,916 34.43% 1617 14.22% Con
Darley 11,574 3,796 32.80% 1554 13.43% Lab
Derwent 9,798 2,727 27.83% 884 9.02% UKIP
Mackworth 10,133 2,677 26.42% 1089 10.75% Lab
Mickleover 11,709 4,851 41.43% 1924 16.43% Con
Normanton 10,795 3,507 32.49% 2619 24.26% Lab
Oakwood 10,203 3,155 30.92% 1568 15.37% Con
Sinfin 10,201 2,655 26.03% 1488 14.59% Lab
Spondon 9,951 3590 36.08% 1774 17.83% Con
average turnout 33.12% average % 15.62%

Politicians: arr you not ashamed by the turnout? Don’t you cringe when you say that unions should have a 50% turn out for a strike? No, I suspect you don’t…..

The highest turnouts- Allestree and Mickleover are 2 of the most affluent areas of the city. Perhaps those trapped in low pay, zero hour contracts are fed up of being labelled as  benefit scroungers by all parties.

2 ukip councillors were elected- on 15% and  9% of eligible voters. That is not a landslide by any means and I suspect it is true of other ukip  councillors elected in Rotherham and elsewhere.  Why do they get so much publicity? We should not allow the other parties to adapt their policy to attract these voters.

Only 2 councillors even got close close to 24% of the electorate to get elected and the average was 15.6%.

These figures are not surprising given our political system and the lack of power local authorities have. But they are stark. And while all the attention goes to the ukip voters and not the Stay at Home party nothing will change. If politicians don’t tackle the issue of low turn out then we are in for more landslides and earthquakes









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2 responses to “landslides and earthquakes and local elections.”

  1. Gregory Hill O'Connor says :

    Two comments, relating to the notion of affluence and turn out. Firstly, just a quote from the facebook page of a Chef friend of mine ‘No I didn’t vote – I work 10hrs a day 7 days a week!’. For some people it is not an ideological crusade (‘people died for your vote!’) but just another thing that has to get done under difficult circumstances.

    Secondly. I think the point you make about the working poor being sick of being demonised is an interesting one. So many people have been talking about ‘apathy’ but that suggests a disinterest on their part. I think we should be talking of a disengagement – this shifts the blame from the apathetic masses to the lazy establishment…


    • overhere1 says :

      I agree with both comments. There is certainly some apathy but most are disengaged as you say. What has this got to do with me? It’s the non voters the politicians should be addressing rather than the extremist parties.

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