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In the News

May 2021 elections primer

Mike McCartney

21st April 2021

What is up for grabs?

Thousands of council seats are to be decided, Scottish and Welsh voters will elect new governments for Holyrood and Cardiff Bay, respectively, and 13 directly elected mayorships will be up for grabs. With regards to the latter, I didn't know until very recently that my region of West Yorkshire was to become part of the new devolution settlement in England. That West Yorkshire was to have a Metro Mayor, to join the list of the likes of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, South Yorkshire and so on was sprung on me by one of my students a couple of months ago. A bit embarrassing, you might say, for his Politics teacher not to know this. Apparently, the new role (which carries a salary of £105,000 a year - nice work if you can get it), is part of the devolution deal the government signed off last year. I wondered about the level of knowledge among potential voters in the region, so conducted a straw poll of colleagues on my floor at work. One of my teaching colleagues had no idea about it. Another found out this week after receiving a leaflet through the door, which explains the role and who the candidates are. Two of the IT guys were vaguely aware of it, principally because they read the local paper. So I don't feel too beat up about the fact that I didn't know about the new mayor until I was informed about (in an act of role reversal of the teacher-student dynamic) it by one of my Y12s. It could be worse. I could be the head of a party and not know the name of current incumbent who was campaigning for re-election even though they are from the same party (see video).

Ultimately, one wonders about the legitimacy of the new West Yorkshire role, when there is, it seems, such low levels of voter awareness, just a matter of weeks before polling day. Furthermore, given turnout in the area for local elections can fall below 20% in parts (the national average is about one third,* in years where there isn't a General Election), it is highly likely the winning candidate will end up attracting the support of something like one in ten qualified voters.

For an overview of the 2021 May poll, see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-...

And: https://www.instituteforgovern...

A final note for electoral system anoraks. The new West Yorkshire Mayor is to be elected using the Supplementary Vote (SV) system. For those who do vote in the elections it could well be the only time they vote using this preferential majoritarian system, because the government have said they are going to replace SV with first past the post for all metro mayors (so, yes, including London) in time for the election after this one.

* You can get all the data you never knew you wanted on turnout at elections in one of the publications from the source I blogged about yesterday, the House of Commons Library.

See here: http://researchbriefings.files...

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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