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|
|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