Havering’s election on May 5th gives voters a choice of 199 candidates.1 They’ve been working hard on the issues that they think matter to the people of Havering. At the time of writing (30th April), postal voting means that about a third of the votes have been cast. How many potential voters will make the effort of voting in person?
Previous experience says ‘Abstentions’ will win on the 5th May. A significant majority of voters won’t vote.
Upminster’s Linda Hawthorn trounced the opposition in 2018 but failed to get a majority of the electorate. That ward held the largest turnout in 2018 with 45.5%, (a 54.5% Abstention rate).2 Does it matter? In her case no but it feels wrong. Conservatives have ruled Havering for 20 years with 16 years in coalition. Thus, Conservatives have been in control with a minority of seats and a minority of votes for 20 years.3
Local democracy needs reform but is highly unlikely to get it.
Addendum: Mayoral election for Manchester, 2021
In Greater Manchester Andy Burnham won an outright majority without preference votes. Abstentions amounted to 67.3% of the electorate and the remaining 34.7% was divided between nine candidates. Andy received 67.3% of 34.7% or, 23% of the total electorate.4
1 For a comprehensive list of candidates Notice of Poll and Statement of Persons Nominated (havering.gov.uk)
3 Robert Benham is a cabinet member and had a thumping majority in Brooklands ward. But! The turnout in 2018 was 32.5%. So, before opposition votes were counted he’d been passively or actively rejected by 67.5% of the electorate.
4 The UK Mayoral Elections, 2021 | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com) Also in 2021 there were two parliamentary byelections where the result was deceptive. See