Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Will the non-voters come top again. I will tell you next week if I can get some answers

This image has appeared all over the media and it is the favourite image so far in our house of the election campaign to date (I wish I could find the name of the photographer/camera-person responsible, so that I can add it). Says it all really about the most important general election since 1945. My only excuse I have for blogging about the elections is that I have been writing about the Broxtowe Borough Council Elections.

I gave up on Newsnight a couple of hours ago and won't watch any more TV until Friday morning. Tomorrow (election day) will find Susan and me taking numbers all day for the Labour Party at a polling station near our house, from 7am until a least 9.30pm, if not 10pm. We spent the 2010 general election out The Lenton Centre polling station, from 7am–10pm in the company of Matthew Butcher, the Green Party candidate, who had few helpers (the student vote never materialised and he came bottom, behind the BNP, a result he did not deserve as he was, after Lilian Greenwood, the best candidate by a mile). Just before we left Lenton last November I did some final posts to my old Parkview blog, including a pinboard of favourite photographs and 'No.1' is of Matthew.

Right now I have a bee in my bonnet about the way Broxtowe Borough Council chooses to publish ward election results. Let me explain:

Below is a webpage from the Broxtowe Borough Council website showing the way they presented the local election results in 2011 and for the subsequent by-elections.

As is so often the case with information it is what it doesn't tell you which is important — it doesn't tell you the number of ballot papers issued, even though it is this number they use to calculated the '% Turnout', which they have rounded to a whole percent.

Without the number of ballot papers issued you do not know for sure how many  of the 4,379 electorate in Beeston North ward in 2011 did not vote, yet if you have any concern or belief in democracy, this is probably the most important figure.

Why? Because we should all be very concerned about why individuals choose not to vote. It is easy enough to find out who they are if you are a political party. After the election you simply ask for a copy of the 'marked' registers. The trouble is that this 'intelligence' is more likely to be used by political parties to see if those who promised their vote actually voted.

Beeston North (4)

Beeston North election results 2011
Electorate: 4,379 | Seats: 02 | Total Votes Cast: 4052 | % Turnout: 50%
E represents elected member
CandidatePartyVotes CastElected
Steve CarrLiberal Democrats1027E
Phillip John Carter HopkinsonConservative352
Andrea Jane OatesLabour766E
David Thomas PatrickLabour701
Sylvia Anne RuleGreen222
Chris SalterLiberal Democrats717
Jeremy TreeceConservative256
Spoilt votes: 11

I am sure 'Spoilt votes' actually means spoilt ballot papers.

I tell you this so that you might understand why I asked for this information to be included in the published declarations this coming Friday (the local ward elections will be counted on Friday). My request has been refused. To quote:

'As you will appreciate this is an extraordinary intense and busy time and producing additional information that we do not ordinarily produce is just not possible.  Our results layout on the website will be similar to previous years and we intend to publish as soon as possible after the results are announced.  We publish what is listed on the official sheet which is signed by the Deputy Returning Officer and this information is taken directly from that sheet to ensure accuracy and consistency'.

Unless my memory fails me after attending countless counts as an agent, candidate and teller, the Returning Officer has to record the number of ballot papers issued so that when they open each ballot box containing votes for a polling district, the number of ballot papers in the box has to tally with the marked register used in the polling station, so the information I have requested has to be there and should be in the public domain. Without it, how can I, as a voter and member of the public, check the veracity of an election count I am excluded from. Such is the poor state of English local democracy, you have to 'accredited' (ie. approved by the system) if you want to know what goes on. How long will it be before you have to be 'accredited' to attend a council meeting?

Right now I want to leave you with a table I have compiled based on the information which Broxtowe Borough Council says is acceptable. As you can see you can only estimate the number of ballot papers issued and the number who did not vote. By no measure of the imagination can that be 'democratic' r acceptable!

I had intended to write about what to watch out for in the ward results, especially in the wards where the Liberals are not standing. Based on the last Toton & Chilwell Meadow by-election (My second ever post last December referred to the Toton & Chilwell Meadows by-election result, which you can find on the Broxtowe Borough Council website at, I suspect the Liberal vote in Broxtowe is more centre-right than centre-left, which should be to the advantage of the Conservatives. Then there is the UKIP factor and, somewhere on the edge, the Greens. I want Nick Palmer to win, but I suspect that I will wake up on Friday morning to a number of surprise results.

Then there is Stapleford. The town may well decide who runs Broxtowe for the next four years, given the Stapleford Alliance is contesting Stapleford North and Stapleford South East. The ward elections are going to be a real test of their community credentials. We shall know soon enough.


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