You might not have noticed it yet, but Britain goes to the polls in a few weeks time. On 5 May there will be elections to the national parliaments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, plus Council and Police & Crime Commissioner elections in England alongside Mayoral polls in many English cities, including London.
Politicians and the media are so obsessed with June’s European Referendum that May’s important elections seem somehow to have been relegated down the news agenda. However, I can’t help thinking that the electorate and the media may be showing a lack of interest due to the predictable outcome of many of these polls.
For example, the dominance of the SNP in Scotland combined with the continuing self destruction of the Labour Party north of the border, means that Nicola Sturgeon’s re-election as First Minister is an absolute given. Many of the local council elections in England are similarly predictable. On Merseyside, where I live, it is still fairly accurate to say that Labour votes are weighed rather than counted.
The 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner elections attracted a turnout of well below 20 per cent in every area. The fact that few of us have much of an idea who our PCC is or what he or she actually does means that the turnout is unlikely to be much greater this time round.
Even the London Mayoral race isn’t really generating much interest. This may be due in some part to the lack of any real personalities this year. All of the previous contests have featured one or both of the big guns, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. I think it’s fair to say that the 2016 candidates, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, simply haven’t got the ability to excite Londoners in the way that Boris and Ken did.
All of the elections which take place on the first Thursday in May are important and the outcomes will impact on all of our lives. It’s easy to blame the media for being somewhat apathetic about these polls, but perhaps the real blame lies with the politicians themselves for their inability to engage with the electorate.