Tuesday, May 08, 2007

No surprises!

The local and regional elections offered few substantive surprises. Blair got a drubbing but said it could have been worse; Cameron says he is on the threshold of an election victory; the Liberal Democrats wonder if a change of leader was a good idea; Labour consistently agree that a change of leader is necessary and immediate. But what about those local contests?

Stockport's slogan seemed to work, well on paper anyway, they actually witnessed a minor increase in turnout, the same cannot be said for the Council Tax Band in Wealden, turnout was down 1% overall despite their busking for votes.

However Wealden's 38.5% turnout can only be dreamed of in other areas. The blogging Conservatives of Forest Heath all retained their seats. Lisa Chambers was unopposed however and turnout in All Saints was 25.1%: it seems that a general lack of a contest depressed interest and may be the underlying reason for the lack of engagement online as well as a lack of a pull factor.

Elsewhere candidates who may have presented an alternative style of selling point seem to have been less than successful. Wan Saiful Wan Jan was not one of the successful Conservatives in Limbury, Luton. Neither was the perhaps unique Sarah Jane Newbury who gained only 344 votes, a whole two hundred short of the number required for election.

So were there any surprises? Well the Scottish count was a disaster, someone may have been trying to repeat the successes and failures of the Birmingham vote riggers on a less sophisticated scale in Peterborough; all this seems a little surprising in the nation that claims to have invented democracy. Also it seems that celebrity cannot overcome politics, former Blur drummer Dave Rowntree came third for Labour in Marylebone despite his star status and the media attention he received.
Finally, Sarko did it in France, the big surprise and contrast with all the above; turnout was over 85% - was choice the big motivating factor, or that a vote meant something. In my humble opinion UK election turnout is a factor of the contests as commented already on posts and comments, unless we solve that problem why should the other 68-75% bother? The gimmicks had little impression it seems, but choice seems to!


Heather Yaxley said...

Nigel - Salisbury was interesting as we had a local issue over plans to spend £15m on new council offices. This was promoted mainly by people standing on local roundabouts and footbridges with banners stating "Say no to £15m council offices". The problem for anyone opposing the conservatives behind the plan is that there were few other candidates in many of the wards. However, it was likely to be a factor in returning a hung council. Your thoughts?

Darren G. Lilleker said...

Hi Heather, who is Nigel?

I think there are two types of election focus in this country. The first are dominated by national issues, the latter by local. Cutting across these is the context of the contest, is a vote perceived to make a difference, or not? If voters (apart from those that vote regardless out of duty and or loyalty) have a clear choice between policy platforms or party teams and feel they can have an impact on the result then they will vote; without one or the other factor being present they will not. If there was a higher turnout in the contested wards, and in particular that the turnout increased for the supporters of the no campaign independent of variation in the Conservative votes (difficult to assess unless the same people vote in each election) then perhaps there is a link.

Theoretically this should have an impact, it is argued to and often anecdotal evidence or statistical tests infer a link, my research is exploring this further but I didn't get anything off the ground for the locals. It is interesting ground for research though and I'm sure there is something going on at the local level that needs more focus.