The perfect ballot battle

In all the analysis of Ken’s downfall and Boris’s triumph, one element I hope doesn’t get ignored is the turnout. The RSA’s Matthew Taylor blogged on Friday suggesting it was the most interesting result of all, and I’m inclined to agree – although possibly for the opposite reason.
The London mayoral contest should have been the perfect electoral tussle. With all due respect to Paddick et al, it was always a two-horse race. Two instantly recognisable figures, well known by both broadsheet and tabloid readerships. A posh bloke versus a champion of the working class, neither of them ‘party men’. Plenty of real local issues to focus on. Plenty of media exposure too. A fairer electoral system, allowing you a ‘free vote’ for your first preference (with all the possibilities that offers) before casting your ‘proper’ second vote. And most importantly, an end result that was genuinely in the balance.
Yet it only stirred 45% of Londoners to bother to vote. Granted, this was up from previous years: 34% in 2000, and 37% in 2004. But it falls well, well short of the 70% we used to expect at general elections. And it means that, even taking both first and second preference votes into account, the winner only won the active support of 21.5% of the total electorate.
Of course we should be happy to see turnout rising. But it’s hard to imagine an election that could have been easier to ‘sell’ to the voters; and we only managed 45%. It’s not great, is it.
PS: Interesting to see the Tories heavily promoting their Twitter account on the homepage. We knew it was official, but I guess this makes it a formal comms channel for them… although I note the promo goes for the ‘subscribe via SMS’ approach, watering down the commitment to Twitter a bit.

One thought on “The perfect ballot battle”

  1. I commented directly to Matthew on this, Simon, but to reiterate what I’ve blogged (yes, i’m a Ken supporter and yes, i’m bitter!) that if they’d done web well, learnt from Obama in particular, then that would have given them the votes to put Ken over the top. The margin wasn’t enormous and there’s plenty of ways they could have employed web campaigning strategies to find that margin. Frankly, i’m not hopeful. The Tories have such an edge now online, because they started earlier and took risks, and I’ve seen no indication anywhere that Labour will fully engage, that it just seems hopeless. Yes another reason for Cameron to be pleased.

Comments are closed.