Havering’s Vibrant Democracy

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

Notes

1 For a comprehensive list of candidates Notice of Poll and Statement of Persons Nominated (havering.gov.uk)

2 Local elections | Election results | The London Borough Of Havering

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

When Does an Election Become an Undemocratic Lottery? | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)

 

Damian White’s Political Arithmetic

Damian is a politician, which is a precarious job. In 2018, he finessed a brilliant coup.1 Building on his Romford heartlands he’s maintained a minority administration ever since. Now it’s unravelling.

Michael Deon Burton (South Hornchurch) 48 hours after being elected a Residents’ Association (RA) councillor he joined Damian’s Conservatives, seizing his baubles. His chances in 2022 are nil.

Sally Miller (Elm Park) An RA convert to Damian’s Conservatism. Her Elm Park seat will be RA again after she abandons it.

John Mylod (St Andrew’s) Left his RA group immediately before the 2018 election after a row. He retained it on a personal vote. This seat will probably revert to the RAs.

The Harold Wood Three They discovered the joys of Damian’s baubles but stayed in the RAs. I think they’ll lose in 2022. It’s problematic who’ll win with multiple candidates.

Damian’s arithmetic = minus six?

Damian might win six seats. Rainham is unlikely but South Hornchurch is a lottery with poor RA councillors leaving a poisoned legacy. Beam Park is an unknown and it’s only two seats. New wards in Romford are competitive and Damian can’t take them for granted. He might lose. RA heartlands are as safe as Romford and so the bizarre world of Havering politics jogs on.2

The Conservatives need a terrific 2022 Election. If the RAs unite, Damian is looking at an enormous pay-cut.

Notes

1 Havering Council: Damian White gets power, May 2018 – Politics in Havering

2 The Bizarre World of Hornchurch and Upminster Politics – Politics in Havering

Havering Council: Damian White gets power, May 2018

Because Havering doesn’t have Proportional Representation, Romford Conservatives rule the roost. Out of 207,311 votes cast, the Conservatives had 37% of the vote (75,008) giving them 25 seats. Damian White, Leader of the Council, found himself without a majority. Tinkering with the allowance budget solved this problem.1

Resident Association (RA) councillors love over-hanging branches, cracked pavements, broken street lights and untidy bin collections and they’re politically naive. Damian understood this and knew the RAs were his route to a majority.

John Mylod (St Andrews) fell out with fellow RAs. He joined the Conservatives to Damian’s delight and split the RA vote, keeping his seat.

John Mylod: Chair of Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee – Responsibility Allowance £14,418 (All members get a councillors allowance of £10,208 p.a. in addition to a responsibility payment)

Michael Deon-Burton (S. Hornchurch) was elected as an Independent and two days later became a Conservative. Michael then took the offer of a glittering prize.

Michael Deon-Burton: Deputy Mayor – Responsibility Allowance £4,000

But John and Michael weren’t enough. Damian needed more. Three Harold Wood RAs were a juicy prize. The three RAs support the Conservatives so Havering can have a strong and stable administration.

Brian Eagling: Chair of Highways Advisory Committee – Responsibility Allowance £7,650

Martin Goode: Chair of Audit Committee – Responsibility Allowance £7,650

Darren Wise: Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee – Responsibility Allowance £14,418

Damian’s political cunning strengthened his position in the Romford Conservative party. He’s now being tested by the Melvin Wallace affair. Which RA is next in line for his seductive ploys if Melvin goes maverick? An elderly RA bed-blocker who fancies a supplement to their pension? I’ll bet Damian knows.

1 See http://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/s30715/Report%20-%20Special%20Responsibility%20Allowances.pdf for the full details.