This figure is absolutely appalling. It is even worse than the Hansard Society survey published a week ago showing just 48 per cent of people certain to vote in an election, down 10 per cent over the previous year, and interest in politics collapsing from 58 per cent to 42 per cent over the last year.
Why is this the case? Well, many people now see little point in voting as the parties 'are all the same' and 'don’t listen to ordinary people' anyway. They have a point. While most of us would prefer a Labour council to a Tory one, many people have long memories and see little to choose between Labour and the Tories, especially at the national level.
Elected mayors will be the solution…
Well, they won’t actually. Almost all the referenda in our major cities about whether to introduce an elected mayor failed – most by a significant margin. Only Bristol bucked the trend, with Doncaster voting to retain its mayoral system – glad to know the good people of Doncaster have a sense of humour….
Of course, it’s a pity Boris got back in and Ken failed in London. And it’s great that Jenny Jones performed well and came third. But again, unlike the local government pundits and the mainstream politicians, most people obviously do not think an all-powerful local mayor is the solution to their dissatisfaction with democracy. And they are right to think that. The same will be true of the new elected Police Commissioner elections this November.
What is really needed is for central government to devolve power massively down to local government and on to local citizens. Labour promised it but didn’t deliver. The Coalition promised it but the Big Society has failed – with the Hansard Society recording a collapse in volunteering over the last year from 29 per cent to 21 per cent.
There is no alternative…
Yes there is. And where it was offered, people often took it. Respect won five councillors in Bradford, following up the recent spectacular success of George Galloway in the by-election, the Greens won 8 more seats in England (but lost a few too) and 6 more in Scotland. And TUSC won two council seats (in Preston and Walsall) but lost Dave Nellist in Coventry. But these gains were very modest for the Left alternative candidates. In most places, there is still a mountain to climb before such candidates are seen as credible and electable.
The Nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland fared worse then expected. Jim Bollan was re-elected for the Scottish Socialist party in West Dunbartonshire.
At least the Far Right candidates did badly – the BNP lost in all the 136 seats they contested, and their vote in the London mayoral elections fell by around two thirds.
Davy Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)