Manchester City Council

The People's Choice

I said I would say something about this year's local election results which led to a Council Chamber where all ninety six councillors were elected under the Labour Party's banner, though one now sits as an independent.

This position is by no means unique in England and Manchester is not the first place it has happened which makes it a little surprising that some people and some media outlets are wrongly representing us as a “one-party state ". North Korea is a one party state, Manchester isn't.

What characterises a one-party state is that if there are elections at all, the only people who can stand are the candidates of the one party, or candidates that have the support of that one party.  In Manchester , we have free and fair elections where anybody can stand.  Indeed this May, we had candidates from twelve different parties standing plus a couple of independents.  Labour won all thirty two seats because that is what the electorate decided, with Labour candidates taking 57% of the vote, four and a half times as many as the next best party, the Greens.

There are also those who argue that a different voting system would give a fairer result.  Again when the electorate had, as a result of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government deal, the opportunity to vote for a new system, AV, they soundly rejected it.  However, if AV had been used in Manchester in May, the odds are that Labour would still have won all the seats.  I've also applied the unpopular and unfathomable European parliament voting methodology to the votes cast in the local elections treating Wythenshawe as a five member constituency, Withington seven, etc.  That system is more proportional but of course breaks the direct link between the voters and the successful candidates, but even in that system Labour would have won twenty five seats, equivalent to seventy five of the Council's ninety six seats, with no other party in double figures.

There are others who blame low turn out.  Low turn out is an issue, and from my point of view I would love to see more people voting, because the more voters the stronger the mandate. However there is a very great chance that higher voter turnout would simply have increased the size of Labour majorities, not changed the outcome.

One thing the outcome does do is to place a very big responsibility on all elected Councillors to make sure they not only represent their areas, including those people who voted for other candidates and those who didn't vote at all, but also are seen to be representing their areas.  It can't be business as usual in the Council Chamber and the Town Hall committee rooms.  The Council does have to look outwards.  It has to show it is properly debating the big decisions that affect our citizen’s lives and ensure that our citizens are able to hold us to account.  That's the challenge over the coming year.

There are 8 responses to “The People's Choice”

  1. franky Says:

    The salient point is that the Geens came second, Tories and Lib Dems have blown their electoral success. Greeens are a growing force and will be the future!

  2. Mike Says:

    Sadly, whilst the Green Party is a growing force nationally, the Manchester Green Party spends too much time on internal arguments and has pushed out many keen activists.

    The young activists need to take over the party locally in order for the Green Party to win seats in Manchester.

  3. Anon Says:

    This is bad news for Manchester (and other Northern cities) as the Tories know they can keep cutting their budgets and know it will not harm them electorally.

    More pandas in Scotland then Tory MPs.

  4. Tom Says:

    The fact remains that 42% of the people who voted in the election have no representative on the council. If you factor in the people who didn't vote it rises to 79% of the electorate with no representative. I, now, no longer vote in local or national elections as it is a pointless waste of my time. If I felt my vote did change something I would do so. AV was an over complicated system that was never explained to the electorate properly. The only fair system is PR. The present council does not have a mandate to buy so much as a paper clip on its support of 21% of the electorate. The writer bemoans the fact that more people don't vote.Change the system to something more democratic like PR (which politicians won't support because it doesn't suit them) and people will vote. People are passionate about politics but completely disenchanted with the current system, both locally and nationally. The problem and solution lies with politicians and, as such, I have little faith that the problem will ever be solved. The present Manchester City council, with no opposition to rein it in, is an embarrassment.

  5. Ian Says:

    Give it six months and the Labour group will split along the left/right line. Without external parties to fight they will fight each other.
    I also agree that the central government will keep on cutting cause there are no votes here for them, and the MPs here have no friends in Government.

  6. Amal Says:

    I think best solution would be PR system and to foster some political astuteness among the voters. Labour machinery is so efficient and overwhelming that other parties are overshadowed by it. The voting in the North has lost its excitement, hence so little turnout. Even we are deprived of multi-press facilities. Manchester has one newspaper, and it is in the Labour orbit !

  7. Interested Manc Says:

    @ Amal.
    A left wing newspaper bias? Odd idea given the overwhelming weight of right wing, and often deeply offensive, national press.

    Perhaps there might be more of a clear right wing local press presence if the newspaper owners thought there was anyone out there willing to buy it.

  8. Peter Davidson Says:

    The term "One Party State" is a dramatic euphemism used specifically to attract attention - "One Party Council" is perhaps more appropriate but the crisis in representation is none the less palpable. It is instructive that the Council Leader signally avoids any mention of Single Transferable Vote (STV) as a potential alternative to the incumbent Single Member Plurality (or First Past the Post in common parlance) method now delivering such warped results and actively disenfranchising the voters of Manchester. STV not only introduces proportionality into the electoral mix whilst retaining the direct link between the electorate and elected representatives – as a bonus introducing STV would immediately save considerable sums from the council’s democracy budget – to maintain the farce of First Past the Post, elections are held in thirds with one fallow year in every four. Why not just move to STV and hold one election every four years, electing three councillors per ward, simultaneously? Such an outcome would deliver real and effective plurality across the council chamber, introduce greater accountability, actively engage the electorate in scrutiny of the political record of both incumbents and challengers and encourage much improved levels of voter participation. So win-win-win all round, except of course for the dominant party – is the Council Leader big enough to consider this infinitely improved democratic landscape for Manchester’s voters or will he continue to duck his wider civic responsibilities in favour of narrow party self interest?



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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