Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Post: Is there life after UEA?

The biggest interest in this election, for election nerds like us, is not if the Greens can take control or even if a bizarre ConDem pact can seize control of City Hall - but just what will the City election results be without the UEA student voting?

Don't for a moment believe this is limited to just University Ward itself - these days students impact greatly in Bowthorpe, Nelson, Town Close, Wensum and to a lesser extent in Sewell, Thorpe Hamlet and Eaton too. I know that turnout isn't great (where is at local election time) but when the student vote is so Green-Lib leaning, could their absence leave the Tories smiling and Labour frustrated?

You see, UEA automatically registers all first year student on campus - but now they've gone. So the politically motivated learners have to get postal votes or tramp back to their common rooms to vote at a time when the university isn't even open for the new term. Similarly those who have moved off site seem unlikely to have registered yet. Third years who were registered may have buggered off, never to return (let alone to vote). Basically there is a UEA student shaped hole in canvass sheets across the City.

So what of the impact then? Well, it should make Bowthorpe safe for the Tories (a cheer from OGH there?) and also University safe for Labour, where Bert Bremner's opposition tends to come from campus. It will dent the Green majorities in Wensum and Nelson but not so far as the wards could be lost (although the Green candidate in Wensum - who served one year as Mancroft Councillor then quit doesn't inspire confidence). The most interested impact may be in Town Close, where the Greens had 42% to the LibDems 24% and Tory 20% last time. Without the student vote in the Golden Triangle, that may just be closer than it seems.

So, as I said, a game for political nerds that we leave us pouring over the exact stats on 10th September, but for what its worth I don't think the lack of student votes will actually tip any wards whatsoever. It'll make some safer, some less so but I don't see any of the big student area seats changing hands ... yet.

The author is a volunteer who responded to my previous request for articles. He is not a member of any political party (at the moment) but wishes to remain, in the spirit of these posts, anonymous.


UEA Graduate said...

I enjoyed reading the post very much. I am a university graduate living in Wensum (who also wishes to remain anonymous) and have found the political competition in the ward quite disappointing to say the least.

I have receiving hardly any party literature, and have only been canvassed by 2 parties Greens & Labour (if you include party literature distributed through your door).

The only candidate I have spoken to is Steve Allman and to be honest I respected the fact he actually came to the door and spoke about Green policies. I might not agree with all they stand for - but he is the only person so far to have bothered. The Labour candidate hasn't once knocked on our door, and the Lib Dems and Tories are no where to be seen.

Its healthy for democracy to be healthy competition, as a Democrat I think it makes for better political discourse and presentation of policies (even at a City Hall leve), but in Wensum this is not the case.

It's a sad day for Democracy in Wensum.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I tire of comments like the one from UEA Graduate (above). I like in Eaton and the only parties to leaflet, let alone knock on doors, are the Tories and LibDems (and there's no difference between them these days!). No Greens or Labour (for whom I do actually vote). This is because no party has enough activists for them to knock on every door (and several times to actually catch you indoors). Many are likely to be paper candidates only in fact and doing enough to just give you the choice on the ballot paper.

Be a bit more grateful you have the democracy that you do.

Peter said...

To be honest I am afraid I agree partly with both comments on here. I agree that at the party political level there is only so much resources you can put into an area or ward (coming from someone who has campaigned for a political party).

However there is a difference between having a choice & having a 'real' choice.

My theory is this partly explains political apathy (granted there are other factors at stake including for example not knowing enough to be able to vote and so on) because people are unable to engage fully with the choices available to them.

For this reason I can understand to a point 'UEA Graduate' dilemma. In the past I have lived in Wensum and it does seem to be a one party state there, with the Greens in a very strong position locally. They can also mobilize resources there and have a good history of door to door canvassing. The previous local county councillor Harriet Panting actually said as much to me.

Comments like those of 'UEA Graduate' should be a wake up call for the Lib Dems & Tories but I can also see the point made by anonymous. Sadly reality means that there is only so much you can do.

On the last point of "be a bit more grateful you have a democracy that you do". Perhaps we need to target political apathy more and by encouraging people to take part in the democratic process.