Keep proper journalism alive. It's time to Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Who’s Tim Bowles anyway? Metro mayor voter turnout disparities

City

Turn out for the metro mayor elections varied from 46.6% in Bishopston, to just 15% in Hartcliffe and Withywood.

Data analysis and visualisation: Lucas Batt
Words: Lorna Stephenson

“The election of these ‘metro mayors’ is a chance to strengthen voters’ relationship with government,” went a Financial Times op-ed in April, just prior to the elections taking place. It looks like someone forgot to tell Hartcliffe.

The overall turnout for the metro mayor of the West of England, which incorporates Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, was 29%. But breaking down the turnout by ward reveals dramatic disparities in Bristol.

According to our estimates using official verification data, while over 36% of people were enthused enough to get themselves to the polling stations in the likes of Bishopston and Ashley Down and Redland, at the bottom of the turnout table was Hartcliffe and Withywood with a democracy-defying low of 7%. Counting in estimated postal vote figures, total turnout was about 46.6% for Bishopston and Ashley Down and 15% in Hartcliffe and Withywood (you can read the methodology below).

Many things could account for the poor show: Voter fatigue after a run of elections and referendums, and with the snap general election just around the corner? Failed communication about what metro mayors would actually do? Mayor overload in the face of a city mayor, a lord mayor and now a regional mayor too?

Lack of a ‘regional’ identity is also probably a factor. The questions of major regional economic developments, investment and infrastructure – which form the basis of the newly created mayorships – have never felt particularly accountable to the public. It may take time for these issues to begin to feel subject to democratic accountability.

In the Morrisons car park that serves as a Hartcliffe centrepoint, striking up conversations about the metro mayor elections was met with apathy in most cases. “Why should we bother voting if nothing changes?” asked the man of a middle aged couple out shopping.

“There’s too many of them,” one woman commented, reflected the view that rather than an exercise in democracy, the whole show seemed angled at introducing yet more bureaucracy.

“I’m surprised anyone bothered [voting] to be honest,” said a thirty-ish man named Simon, who was out running errands with his dog. “In the mayoral elections and the normal elections, they’re doing too much for buses and transport and stuff like that and not enough for poor families that actually need it. There’re people in council homes that are on the lowest of all benefits and they’re struggling to make it.”

“Until a politician says, ‘OK, we’re going to sort the housing out’ or the local stuff, like homeless on the city streets, then I’m not going to bother voting,” he said.

Tim Bowles, new West of England metro mayor, will have to work hard to convince the people that he’s relevant and to create a meaningful and relate-able position for himself as a politician, before the next elections roll around.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?

Comments

Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

West of England Mayor directed business that tried to profit from logging on rainforest island

The company had a shareholding in an offshore company with plans for logging in West Papua, but Norris says he wasn’t involved.

The News in Brief: Cuts, and consultations about cuts

The News in Brief section of this edition's paper was dedicated almost entirely to the upcoming cuts to council services, which are out to consultation. The latest round looks to shave a few million pounds from support services to people with physical or mental health issues, the public toilets a...

Notes from City Hall: Metro Mayor marches onwards

Council Correspondent Sid Ryan, gives his opinion on proposals for a new Metro Mayor – due to be voted on by the Council this evening.

Notes from City Hall: Power to the people?

Our council correspondent, Sid Ryan, has been digging into the billion pound ‘devolution deal’ on its way to Bristol in the coming weeks.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning