Vote 2012: Did Cameron’s arrogance lead to “no” votes in elected mayor referendums?

Amanda Ramsay reports on the “no” votes in elected mayor referendums in Bradford, Coventry, Manchester and Nottingham.

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On top of the Tories’ poor local elections showing, there was more trouble for the beleaguered prime minister last night with a string of referendum “no” results on elected mayors.

David Cameron waded feet first into the elected mayoral debate last month with a series of interviews and speeches in favour, campaigning hard in Bristol for a ‘yes’ vote and promising the likes of Birmingham a hallowed seat at the so-called ‘Cabinet of Mayors’, which so far would be a lonely meeting of zero.

LFF-ballot-boxOf the ten cities being enticed into this arrangement, four have so far rejected the notion with counts last night completed in Bradford, Coventry, Manchester and Nottingham.

In Coventry almost two thirds of voters rejected the plans, by 63.58% to 36.42%.

Counts in the remaining six cities to declare – Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sheffield and Wakefield – will start this afternoon; results should be known from around 5pm.

The London result should be known around 8pm, where they already have an elected city mayor. London Assembly gains are expected for Labour.

The prime minister had said he wanted a “Boris in every city” – a reference to London mayor Boris Johnson. This may have been the kiss of death in the four cities that rejected the idea of elected mayors, with many objecting to a Tory-led government trying to destabilise Labour dominance.


See also:

We need to make Mayoral politics more worthy of the name 2 May 2012

Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? 26 Apr 2012

Elected mayors: let the referendum campaigns begin 26 Jan 2012


One Labour MP told me:

“Tories recognise that mayoral elections can turn into personality-driven/anti-politics contests, it’s a desperate attempt to undermine Labour in the core cities.”

Prior to last night, senior Conservatives were believed to think Birmingham represented one of the best chances of a “yes” vote, with stronger opposition being seen in northern cities like Newcastle and Manchester.

Last night Birmingham city council leader Sir Albert Bore said a ‘yes’ vote for an elected mayor was not looking likely, but that it was “up to the people to decide on how they are governed”.

Turnout in Manchester and Nottingham was a low 24%, as it was in Bristol. The Manchester result came in the early hours today.

With a high profile mayor in the capital, some commentators wondered if elections of new mayors in Liverpool and Salford might influence the mighty Manchester, not wanting to be left out of the power stakes, but in the end votes were 53.24% to 46.76% against the proposal.

Manchester is well run and this is an endorsement of Labour policies and leader Richard Leese; by contrast, the Lib Dem Leader in Manchester lost his seat, as did Stockport’s in Greater Manchester. Lib Dems will be seething.

Leese is something of the de facto leader of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), having brought together his counterparts in the nine other Greater Manchester boroughs together.

With the might of Yorkshire and Humber regional Labour Party workers and activists dispatched to Bradford in the wake of the late-surge win for George Galloway in last month’s by-election, turnout was slightly higher at 35%. With the specter of Galloway switching from MP to elected mayoral candidate looming, in the end 55.13% of voters opposed the change. Party bosses will be relieved.

In Nottingham the margin was bigger at 57.5% against to 42.5% in favour of change.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said:

“We don’t need the Tory-led government in London telling us what’s best for our city.”

While council leader Jon Collins, who complained the referendum had been “imposed” on the city by the coalition government, commented:

“This outcome shows that local people recognise we have a system in Nottingham which is working well for them and the city.”

More results will be known throughout the afternoon; Left Foot Forward will be keeping you posted.


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