As I left the office yesterday, I was accosted by several Boris Johnson supporters eagerly asking me ‘Do you want a better London?’ Yes please. ‘Then vote for Boris’. The voting for the next Mayor of London opened today, with results to be announced tomorrow evening. Currently the Conservatives’ Boris leads in the polls with 52 per cent of the vote versus 48 per cent, as Labour’s Ken Livingstone is not far behind.
Both Boris and Ken, as well as Jenny Jones (Green), and Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat) have been debating their policies on the big issues affecting London citizens – crime rate, transport system, unemployment and housing. As always with two extrovert political figures, the race between Ken and Boris has been an amusing one – Boris’ recent swearing on live television and countless spoof videos have popped up on YouTube. And because of this humour, people find it more interesting and are perhaps more engaged with the campaign than they otherwise would be. However with the national turnout for voting in general elections still less than 2/3 of the UK population, how many people care about voting in local elections?
A colleague said to me this morning that no one has the right to complain about local authority services if they do not vote. This is true, and the TV ads aiming to encourage more voters, also echo this argument. However there are some who simply forget to register/ don’t have the time in their working day / don’t want to get out in the rain – (see Polly Curtis’ article which compares rainfall with percentage voter turnout). It has always been a problem local government faces, that many voters across the country have become disillusioned with politics and think that Westminster ultimately makes the decisions anyway. And even when voting in the general election, many voters will say that there is no clear distinction between each party’s policies either.
But there is no doubt that my colleague’s (and the man on the TV’s) argument still stands, that to have any control over local government policy, albeit a small one, is by getting your brolly out and going down to the polling station today.