Local elections across the country have an appalling record for bringing out the apathetic in people. Nowhere in the city of Manchester in last weeks elections, for instance, approached a 50% turnout.
The chief reason for this seems a lack of faith in what local government can achieve, in otherwords it’s just not worth the bother voting. This is misplaced as substantial powers remain with local authorities. Alongside these powers the way a local authority projects itself and conducts its business intimately affects the economy, investment and thus the lives of its citizens.
Thus Manchester’s way of doing business in the last couple of decades under a Labour administration has seen a remarkable turnaround in the city’s fortunes, not all of which can be put down to national economic growth. Manchester has over-achieved in comparison with most other English cities because of the administration in place here.
It’s a curious, but a long-known, truism that the well-educated can be the most self-obsessed and careless of their rights.
So it’s depressing when voters can’t be bothered to vote, it’s depressing and self-defeating that they opt out of a say in how the city is run.
Within this, the turnout figures for the elections throw up a surprise. Guess where the biggest no show in the whole city was?
Perhaps the ward of Miles Platting and Newton Heath with its history of disadvantage, bad health and poor educational achievement? Nope. Was it in Beswick with its similar problems? Nope again.
The biggest awol ward was the city centre. How odd? The place which one would imagine filled with better-off apartment owners and flat dwellers, a place of young professionals and students, managed a meagre and gruesome 16% of the electorate on polling day.
No doubt many of those city centre residents who didn’t vote had whinged and whined about the parking proposals, about congestion charging, about noise at night, bin collection and so forth and then just couldn’t be arsed getting involved with the democratic process. It’s a curious, but a long-known, truism that the well-educated can be the most self-obsessed and careless of their rights. But this is still a shocking figure.
There’s no clear reason – we contacted the city council and others – for this low figure. The city centre population might be more transient and thus less engaged locally is one suggestion. But that’s speculation. The truth is that despite all their problems, a ward such as Miles Platting and Newton Heath has a turnout of almost double that of the clever folk in the city centre.
Confidential contacted a number of city centre residents about why they didn’t vote – only one person out of ten had bothered – and the replies were a mixture of shame faced mumbling about they’d not got round to it or bare-faced, just couldn’t be arsed mate, won’t matter anyway.
The irony in all of this of course is that Manchester historically was always at the forefront of campaigns to extend the vote. Anybody having a drink in Opus One at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel on Peter Street is sipping G&Ts where the Peterloo Massacre took place. This area was Peter’s Fields and here on a hot day in August 1819 fifteen people lost their lives whilst protesting about the lack of representation. They were desperate for the vote. Democracy was a matter of life and death for them.
Now it’s a matter of indifference to our young professionals, the apparently better educated. Voting is another thing to avoid as we bleat on about our so-called busy lives. Busy with what exactly? Turning the other cheek it would appear.
What do you think? Are people right not to care about local elections? Was it a surprise the city centre vote was so low?
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