Tuesday 29 March 2011

Stoke's lessons to AV...

I was told by an MP from Stoke on Trent this morning that he was absolutely sure the AV referendum would be won by the ‘Yes’ camp. When I asked why, he gave me a handy insight from his patch.

A bit of background first – Stoke on Trent used to have a mayor and, to cut a long story short, it was a total disaster.

A city which already had major social problems suffered from stagnation, potential corruption and the far right strengthened a foothold in local government there.

The city was starved of investment as leaders became incapable of levering cash into the city and deprivation spiralled.

It got so bad that a group wanting to scrap the mayoral system won the chance to hold a referendum asking people whether the city should get rid of it.

There was an excruciating 19% turnout – just 35,800 voters out of 186,700 putting their mark on a ballot paper.

Despite this being a question that was crucial to the city’s future in a very real way, people just weren’t interested.

But the side that won, the ‘scrap-the-mayor’ camp, was the side that had pushed for the referendum in the first place and, therefore, were more passionate and able to turn out more individuals.

Everyone else, including many people that might have actually backed the mayor, just didn’t see it as a big issue and didn’t bother to show up.

At a briefing yesterday the NO2AV campaign claimed the Yes camp was trying to avoid debate about the referendum – if Stoke’s story is anything to go by why wouldn’t they.