BNC Text F7T

[Lecture for eighteen-year-old students on local councils and elections]. Sample containing about 7533 words speech recorded in educational context

4 speakers recorded by respondent number C33

PS1MP Ag2 m (Ken, age 30+, lecturer) unspecified
F7TPS000 X u (No name, age unknown) unspecified
F7TPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
F7TPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 078601 recorded on 1992-10-01. LocationEssex: Harlow ( Harlow College ) Activity: lecture on local councils and elections to eighteen and nineteen year old students lecture

Undivided text

Ken (PS1MP) [1] So, one final technical point ... election expenditure.
[2] ... Erm ... in local elections as again in, in parliamentary or general elections ... there's a limit as to what a candidate can spend.
[3] ... At the moment that limit's a hundred and fifty pound per ward or division.
[4] ... Plus three pence per vote
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [5] [laugh] Er which you might think that again sounds odd and finicky but by the way note I said between w er er it applies to both ward and division.
[6] We're aware of that ... distinction are we not?
[7] ... What's a ward? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [8] Well that's what somebody stands [...] be elected
Ken (PS1MP) [9] To s for what, to be elected to what?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [10] To the council.
Ken (PS1MP) [11] What council?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [12] District council. ...
Ken (PS1MP) [13] Good.
[14] ... What's a division? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [15] It must be county [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [16] Correct.
[17] ... You represent a ward at district council level ... or metropolitan council level.
[18] You represent a division at county council level.
[19] A division is a grouping together of wards.
[20] ... We have the example in Harlow ... I've forgot, how many councils are there in Harlow, thirty six, thirty eight something?
[21] ... Yeah, it's thirty six isn't it?
[22] Got to be because of the election [...] .
[23] Erm ... they all represent an individual ward.
[24] There are I think it is what, four county council [...] Harlow so wards group together to become county council divisions.
[25] Yeah?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [26] Where does that word come from, ward? ...
Ken (PS1MP) [27] No-one's ever asked!
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh] ...
Ken (PS1MP) [28] [...] it's probably Anglo-Saxon.
[29] [laugh] ... Okay erm ... further election expenditure.
[30] Election expenditure is the responsibility of ... the political agent.
[31] ... Oh agents exist in different forms really, erm I'm gonna be, we'll be mentioning the ... notion of political agents in central government later er in, in, in ce in general elections later on.
[32] Erm but there is a similarity in both er ... elections yeah.
[33] Anyone standing for election at local government level has to have an election agent.
[34] ... However you can be your own agent.
[35] ... The agent has to fill in the financial returns ... has to ... send in a report of financial expenditure.
[36] Normally of course a party will appoint a single agent.
[37] In other words, at local election, at local election time ... the Conservative Party will have ... X candidates standing.
[38] There will be a, a Conservative Party appointed agent who will act on behalf of all those candidates and simply fill in the election expenses ... [...] ... The accounts are submitted to the returning officer.
[39] It's an offence to er exceed the er ... expenditure.
[40] ... Okay, now here's something coming up that is ... not only conf it's confusing to students, it's even more confusing to er er the general public.
[41] And this is what we can ... entitle er the electoral sequence.
[42] ... Big diagram coming up.
[43] ... [...] ... Okay at the top of there, eighty four and ninety four, they're years believe it or not.
[44] ... And down here we've got the ... names of the different types of council.
[45] At the top, county council ... second ... metropolitan councils, that is all metropolitan councils ... that is of course if you remember, a metropolitan council in the area, in, in the area of the old former Mer Merseyside county council, the metropolitan councils would be Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral ... [...] , Saint Helens, Southport, now they're examples of metropolitan er councils.
[46] So metropolitan councils, and here's where the confusions begin to creep in ... metropolitan councils and some ... non-metropolitan councils, I E district councils ... so they're in a separate ca separate category with this electoral sequence.
[47] Then we have ... most ... non-metropolitan district councils.
[48] ... And finally ... London boroughs.
[49] ... Right ... before I fill in some of the details on this ... again an important point to grasp coming up.
[50] ... In general elections we, we don't normally know ... for sure until a few weeks beforehand what the date of the election is going to be.
[51] All you really know about general, about the general election is that it's gotta be held before the end of parliament's statutory life of five years.
[52] Yeah?
[53] And we had an example of that, a good example this year of course with erm ... that in that, in the spring of this year John Major erm ... had to call an election before June twentieth I think the date was because by that time then parliament would have automatically been dissolved.
[54] Yeah?
[55] And John Major chose to er erm ... call the election, dissolve, ask for the dissolution of parliament last year and the election took place in er in, in April.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [56] Why does it have to be on a Thursday?
Ken (PS1MP) [57] [laugh] It doesn't.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [58] Oh.
Ken (PS1MP) [59] The general elections?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [60] Mm.
Ken (PS1MP) [61] It doesn't.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [62] I ... I thought it did because that was the only day that wasn't a [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [63] No.
[64] However it just so happens the last time an election wasn't on a Thursday was in er I think it was nineteen thirty one when it was held on a Tuesday.
[65] But there is nothing laid down in law whereby it has to be a Thursday.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [66] That was one of the questions on our entrance exam ... was
Ken (PS1MP) [67] What?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [68] what day's general election ... held.
Ken (PS1MP) [69] Mm well the correct answer is ... is that normally a Thursday but there is no statutory er obligation that it is Thursday.
[70] And indeed in the early part of this century and the nineteenth century elections have been held on Monday, Wednesday ... Tuesday ... never a Friday, never a Saturday, never a Sunday.
[71] ... Yeah?
[72] It's just one of these common [...] ... That's general elections we're talking about by the way.
[73] We've slightly digressed but I take your, I take your point.
[74] It doesn't have to be a Thursday.
[75] It just so happens that for the past sixty years it has been.
[76] ... No erm it's, it's more recent than that ... I think in nineteen fifty the election was on a Tuesday.
[77] I think it may, may even be more recent than that.
[78] Not that I was there in person.
[79] ... Well I could have been but I couldn't have voted.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [80] Erm ... I was two, that's why.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh] ...
Ken (PS1MP) [81] But anyway we've grasped the point that the general elections ... it's really down to the prime minister to er er ... to ask for the dissolution of parliament and the prime minister will normally a will normally ask for the dissolution of parliament when he or she thinks they've got the best chance of winning.
[82] Major's ex example was rather, was rather a good one because he was running out of time.
[83] He didn't want local elections held before the general election.
[84] He feared what the results might have been from the local elections and he's, he's an example in fact of a prime minister who went into the elections trailing in the opinion polls.
[85] It doesn't you know, it's not something you would normally do.
[86] Not when you do have a choice.
[87] ... However let us return to local elections.
[88] ... Every councillor is elected for a fixed four year term of office.
[89] ... And we can predict with certainty the date of local elections ... because local elections always take place in May.
[90] ... And they normally occur on the first Thursday in May.
[91] ... They don't if that Thursday's May the first then it's the second Thursday ... but it's normally the first Thursday in May.
[92] So we can, we can ... you know exactly when a local councillor's term of office is up because it's fixed for four years.
[93] ... However ... and this is why we've got this big diagram coming up ... however different councils are elected at different points in the electoral sequence.
[94] Each council's elected for four years, but councils aren't all elected at the same time.
[95] ... I can illustrate [...] ... County councils ... a dot blank here in eighty four ... eighty five an election year for county councils I E Essex County Council ... dot dot dot ... eighty nine an election year ... dot dot dot ... and ninety three you'll all be er happy and delirious to know is a county council election year so next May ... Thursday ... county council elections will be held.
[96] ... Metropolitan councils, the big city ones ... with the exception of London of course and some non-metropolitan councils, out of interest Harlow is amongst those some non- metropolitan councils, this is where the confusion often creeps in.
[97] ... I'm writing figure ones there ... dots blank year ... one third ... one third ... one third ... dots, blank year ... one third
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [98] [laughing] One third []
Ken (PS1MP) [99] one third ... one third ... dots ... one third.
[100] You'll be amazed to know that the system for this, for elections to metropolitan councils is called the system of election by thirds.
[101] What does it mean?
[102] It means that one third of the councillors are elected in each of three consecutive years.
[103] ... Yeah?
[104] ... And there is a blank year which coincides with county council elections.
[105] ... Harlow's an example of that.
[106] How it's done in practical terms is this ... each Harlow ward returns three councillors ... yeah?
[107] They've all been ele these three councillors have been elected at different, in different years ... okay?
[108] And so a Harlow councillor who was elected in nineteen eighty eight, yeah?
[109] Was up for re-election in May this year, nineteen ninety two.
[110] That's one third of them ... got it? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [111] Why do they do that, is it ... ?
Ken (PS1MP) [112] Well I'll come on to that in a sec.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [113] Okay.
Ken (PS1MP) [114] Yeah.
[115] It's a good, very good question.
[116] ... But do we grasp that?
[117] ... I mean some people are looking at me as though I've just revealed some dread secret
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [118] [...] the world was gonna [laughing] end tomorrow [] .
[119] ... Grasp it?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [120] Yeah.
Ken (PS1MP) [121] Like a, a good example the, the the ninety three one, the ninety two one rather this year was a good example because ... there was erm a titanic battle in Old Harlow ... where the leader of the council Richard was up for re- election.
[122] And as you may be aware ... that er in, in, in ... in the local elections this year, in May, the Conservative Party did dramatically well, much better than it did in the general election ... yeah?
[123] And so therefore ... Richard was, seemed to be ... he would be in, he was gonna be in very very grave difficulties in getting re- elected for Old Harlow.
[124] Old Harlow's a very interesting ward.
[125] Erm it's Old Harlow and Churchgate Street it's in therefore, it's in the wealthiest part of town ... but many of the denizens of Old Harlow and erm Churchgate Street are, are sort of st are, are, are I suppose, you know, bourgeois liberals, bourgeois socialists yeah?
[126] It's a bit like Hampstead, yeah?
[127] It's got two Labour councillors and one Conservative councillor, used to have three Labour councillors.
[128] But there was a really big party struggle there ... and in Old Harlow erm ... Conservatives of course very very confident.
[129] Er there was a titanic party battle ... but I think the turn out, the local election turn out was over sixty percent which is dramatically high ... for local government elections.
[130] Erm scraped home by a, by a, by a ... small number of votes ... yeah?
[131] The liberal vote there almost collapsed to nothing ... erm while the liberals obviously voted labour tactically in order to prevent the Conservatives from A grabbing the ward, and B erm removing the leader of the council which would have been, which is what they were obviously angling for.
[132] ... Erm it comes back to the point which has just been made about the er, about the erm ... why have this system of election by thirds and almost backfired on, on, on, on the leader of the council ... yeah?
[133] So that's er that's the system by thirds.
[134] One third of the councillors in each of three consecutive years are up for re-election.
[135] ... And there's a blank year in county council here.
[136] Of course it's not a blank year for the hard pressed voters of Harlow ... because they're all voting in the county council elections then for the, for the number of, for the, for the er county councillors who represent at Harlow erm at County Hall ... in Chelmsford.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [137] Have there ever been surveys done erm to see how many people actually understand
Ken (PS1MP) [138] Yes.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [139] the system?
Ken (PS1MP) [140] Yes.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [141] And how many do?
Ken (PS1MP) [142] Not many.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [143] It's not surprising.
Ken (PS1MP) [144] Mm.
[145] People get very confused by it.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [146] Mm.
Ken (PS1MP) [147] And they don't figure ... they, they get more confused when the county council elections come up in ninety three.
[148] Yeah?
[149] It's even more confusing cos some systems of ... by thirds I think they go, they go on wards ... there's some wards don't have an election ... one year, when the neighbouring one does.
[150] Do you see what I mean?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [151] Yeah. ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [152] Are there any limits to how many times you can stand ... for councillor?
Ken (PS1MP) [153] Well, apart from death
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [154] I mean my erm ... my, my uncle ... getting familiar about this, yes?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [155] My erm ... my uncle Jo yes?
[156] After whom a huge block of flats in Liverpool is named after, yeah?
[157] Morgan Heights, yeah?
[158] Not to be confused with [...]
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [...] [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [159] He er, he stood down as erm as a, as a er Labour councillor in, in Liverpool in Walton er ward ... what are we in now, nineteen ninety two ... in nineteen ... ninety ... or ninety one, yeah ninety one ... at the age of eighty ... six
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [160] and he'd been a Liverpool councillor off and on for over fifty years.
[161] ... Twice refused the offer of the parliamentary seat at Walton.
[162] ... Anyway ... most non-metro district councils ... oh by the way, sorry ... and parishes ... I always [...] .
[163] We always forget about the poor parish council don't we?
[164] ... They, like the county councils, go in for what's known as the poll council system as opposed to the system of election by thirds.
[165] That is, just as a county council in eighty five, all the councillors are up for re-election ... just as in a parliamentary general election, yeah?
[166] In eighty seven all the councillors of most district councils are up for election.
[167] So if you go up the road to Epping ... their elections take up all the councillors that are elected together.
[168] ... Eighty eight, eighty nine, ninety ... ninety one ... There's a, again a possibly interesting link here with general elections ... erm eighty three of course was a, was a er ... an election year for non-metropolitan ... er ... district councils yeah?
[169] ... It's just, it's just off our little chart there.
[170] ... Those elections take place in May right?
[171] In May eighty three and again in May eighty seven ... Margaret Thatcher chose to go to the country the month after those elections.
[172] ... June eighty three and June eighty seven.
[173] Four in, in both those occasions she was four years into her term of office.
[174] Elected first in seventy nine ... and then obviously in eighty three.
[175] And what happened in eighty three and eighty seven of course was that the local elections take place ... the Conservative party managers analyzed the results, fed them through the computers ... and you could come up with the fact that you would, looked like you were set to win a general election.
[176] And so therefore the local elections were seen as a pointer to the general elections.
[177] Why?
[178] Because it also happens, it happens to be the case that in local elections people tend to vote on national issues or perceptions.
[179] They don't vote on local issues.
[180] Local elections just tend to be national ... reflect the national concerns, issues or reflects the unpopularity of the government pa of the governing party or whatever, yeah.
[181] You don't tend to vote on purely local issues.
[182] [...] one of the reasons for introducing the community charge that and it's ironic that it was just possible, especially in nineteen erm ninety erm that the community charge was meaning wa was bringing about a change where people were voting on local issues, the prime local issue of course being what would be the level of the, of the community charge.
[183] ... And that was one of the justifications of bringing it in, that it would raise a sense of er it would raise erm the actual percentage of people voting in elections and it would make local issues er ... more pertinent at local elections.
[184] We will never know how that would develop because community charge has been abolished but anyway ... You will note of course as well that last year in nineteen ninety one, the Conservative Party managers looked at the local election result and decided not to go in June ninety one, cos they figured they would get beaten. ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [185] Surely if the erm turn out is er erm doesn't really [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [186] It's much big it's a, it's it's a, it's an incredibly ... wide sample opinion poll.
[187] Because we're talking millions of voters ... yeah.
[188] If you get a forty percent turn out ... in a local elect within England yeah?
[189] If you get a forty percent turn out in England and Wales, we're talking many millions of voters.
[190] And when you think that the biggest opinion poll samples are what ... five, ten thousand?
[191] So it's pretty, it's, it's a much more accurate guide than any opinion poll.
[192] ... Erm again I, I can't help but s er er getting slightly digressed [...] but it is rather interesting ... that ... John Major this year decided to go for a general election before the local elections.
[193] The advice was was not to hang on and see what the May elections er looked like.
[194] Couple of reasons, one was on a much smaller sample ... yeah?
[195] But B of course if you did badly in those elections [laughing] in May [] ... the government [...] might have done badly in May, then morale would have been rock bottom of having to go into an election, he would have had to go for an election six weeks later or they'd run out of time, yeah.
[196] But the real ... the real glorious irony I think that cheers up erm psephologists like me, political analysists, is that in those May elections ... the Conservatives did dramatically well compared to what they'd done in the general election.
[197] In the general election they'd won it, but their majority was down.
[198] In the local elections ... their share of the vote was [...] and they did very very well.
[199] Why?
[200] ... Anyone possess any theories about that?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [201] They were reflect they were reflecting national issues erm like the ...
Ken (PS1MP) [202] Well ... did it really have time to do that?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [203] just on a, [...] were just on a general high anyway after the election results.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [204] Yeah.
Ken (PS1MP) [205] There's that fact that the Conservatives were on a high of course.
[206] ... I mean these local elections only took place what, erm ... four weeks after the general election, the Conservatives were on a high and conversely therefore you could say that what? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [207] Labour voters are gonna be disillusioned [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [208] Labour Labour voters were er to say the least dis
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [209] disappointed I think is more the, is the word rather than disillusioned isn't it?
[210] Disappointed. ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [211] Gutted.
Ken (PS1MP) [212] Yes, possibly gutted is the better word, right.
[213] But there's another interesting fact that as well erm and it's borne out, I know opinion polls had a rather bad erm er er got a bad press in the general election er because they weren't very accurate and it was odd this because their, their accuracy levels had becoming er had, had, had been becoming ... frighteningly er accurate ... say in eighty seven ... you know?
[214] But ... they take opinion polls all the time, I mean shortly after the recent general election they were taking opinion polls a week later.
[215] They d they do it all, they do it throughout the year we just, we just don't ... there's just not so many of them, and we don't read about them so much as we do before big elections.
[216] ... The point is this, after a general election ... the party that's won, it's share of the vote in the most, in, in the, in the opinion poll taken most immediately after the election ... it goes up, it's higher than actually what it gets in the general election.
[217] Why?
[218] This is just purely a human ... fact.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [219] People want to be associated with a winning team don't they?
Ken (PS1MP) [220] A cigar and a coconut over there, yeah.
[221] There's a tendency to associate yourself with the winning, with the winner.
[222] ... Yeah?
[223] And people who might even have voted Labour, or Lib Dem at the general election, at the first opinion poll they'll say they vote Conservative.
[224] ... So it's strange but it's er ... [laughing] maybe it's not so strange []
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [225] Why do you think [...] get it so horribly wrong this time round in the general election?
Ken (PS1MP) [226] I beg your pardon?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [227] How did, why did the erm ... opinion polls just get it so horribly wrong this time round?
Ken (PS1MP) [228] Well they've come up with a lot of theories haven't they.
[229] Erm one the reluctance of many Conservative voters to reply to opinion polls for s some reason.
[230] Two erm erm in some areas erm people are just bloody minded ... and say they're gonna vote one way the oth the other.
[231] There's n it's an interesting fact that as well that erm opinion polls are very often, it depends what the question you're asked and ... when, when, when during elections people are asked ... are you prepared to s to have either A lower taxes or B spend more, higher taxes and spend more on the national health service, well people always say oh yeah, oh yeah fine.
[232] I want every possible penny spent on the national health service, they don't want to be thought like Attila the Hun, yeah well, something like that
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [233] So when you're asked ... do you believe that the entire gross national product should be spent on the N H S people say yes ... yes of course
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [234] cos they don't wanna be, cos it seems bad but when, when they're in the, when they're in the ballot box, when, when they're in the voting booths and then they're faced with the question then, do they want
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [235] Yeah.
Ken (PS1MP) [236] pay more [...] , when it comes to the crunch
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [237] Erm so th that's a factor.
[238] The other factor as well was the high turn out in the election.
[239] The turn out in the recent, in the, in the April election was very high.
[240] It was what, seventy eight percent over all, and in, and in a large, very large individual constituencies you were seeing turn out in the eighties.
[241] Eighty six percent in a couple, eighty four percent.
[242] And if you think about it you can't get a much bigger turn out than that.
[243] Cos if, if about eight percent of the [...] people don't have [...] to vote anyway ... some people aren't gonna vote.
[244] ... You can't really get much higher turn out than about eighty four percent, eighty five percent ... in practical terms.
[245] Lot of people aren't there and they haven't bothered to get a postal vote cos they're on holiday or whatever you know.
[246] ... So the high turn out was a factor I think in, in, in [...] the opinion polls.
[247] It galvanized lots, lots of Conservative voters quite simply thought they were gonna lose ... so they went out and voted.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [248] Mm.
Ken (PS1MP) [249] Well I, I mean now that doesn't sound, that's not such a ... an Irish statement as it sounds, actually.
[250] In eighty three, when it was obvious that the Conservatives were gonna win ... because then if you, if, this is history now, but the Labour Party was led by Michael Foot then, it was ... it was in no shape to win the election in erm ... the Conservatives were, were led by Thatcher, she was on a high after the Falklands War, the Conservatives ... romped home.
[251] In fact er they should have done a lot better, but a lot of Conservative voters didn't bother going out to vote cos it was a foregone conclusion.
[252] ... Yeah.
[253] ... Sounds remarkable but it's erm ... it's true.
[254] Okay and finally erm are London boroughs erm ... yeah ... blank blank, eighty six election ... and the next London borough elections will be in nineteen ninety four so they've been in nineteen eighty six, nineteen ninety ... and nineteen, they will next be in nineteen ninety four.
[255] ... So ... it's argued of course that this ... electoral sequence, especially ... election by thirds ... is a reason for public confusion about local government.
[256] ... It's also a reason for the public confusion about who does what.
[257] ... Again especially in conjunction with our system of election by thirds.
[258] The people in [...] in, in districts like that, they seem to be perennially voting, forever voting ... and in the blank year they're voting for county council elections.
[259] ... Or they're voting in county council elections.
[260] ... Now the question was raised earlier ... what is the justification of this system of election by thirds?
[261] By the way erm ... for non-metro districts they can choose ... whether they can have election by thirds or not, and you do occasionally get r you do occasionally you can get, get very occasional examples of a, of a dis of a district council opting to switch from one to the other.
[262] Again I've forgotten the entire erm ... it's not easy, er th the rather complicated rigmarole about this erm er ... the great man comes to my rescue as usual ... Burn.
[263] ... He says [reading] a local authority can apply to change the electoral system at any time [] I E a district council [reading] but not more than once every ten years.
[264] And there must be a sixty percent majority vote at the council meeting in support of the proposal [] .
[265] So you can vote to change, Harlow could vote to switch to a whole council system.
[266] ... But it would need a sixty percent vote on the council, and once they'd do made the switch, they couldn't switch back to a system by thirds for ten years.
[267] ... Yeah?
[268] ... As I say I, a couple of years ago an authority did do that, it swapped.
[269] It does, does occasionally happen.
[270] ... So ... what is the justification of the system?
[271] ... Well its supporters say that it's ... it's justified on the grounds of democracy.
[272] ... What they mean by that is ... is that the council is in close touch with public opinion.
[273] ... They also argue in favour of it on grounds of continuity ... s so the two arguments here are one, democracy ... and one ... continuity.
[274] ... On the continuity point their argument is that under the system of election by thirds, you don't see a dramatic ... switch in the party control of the council.
[275] Or a dramatic switch in councillors themselves as you sometimes get in whole council elections.
[276] ... In a whole council election ... er if ... if the ruling party is massively behind in the opinion polls, then large numbers of them will be swept out of office and the opposition will get in, and the argument is that then you see a a ... you see a suddenly see then a reversal of policies.
[277] Whereas a system by thirds means that it's unlikely that the council ... or at least a lot of councils, will suddenly have a quick switch around and you'll get a greater continuity of policy.
[278] I think it's a rather confused argument but perhaps [...]
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [279] If you, if you have elections every year and it's a quite tight one you could get a different party in power each year, you could change it each year couldn't you?
Ken (PS1MP) [280] You, yeah ... er er yes I'd er ... you're quite right, at the moment I'm just in a sense presenting the the pr you know the arguments of those in favour, we, we'll, we'll, we'll make this point in a second, yeah.
[281] This, these are the arguments they present, I mean I ... I'm not inclined to, I'm, I'm inclined to think they're somewhat bogus these arguments ... but the argument of continuity is there.
[282] On this er er further to this point about continuity they make the point as well that a system of election by thirds makes it more difficult for the officers of the authority to dominate the councillors.
[283] ... Because you're not gonna get such an influx of new ... councillors, yeah?
[284] People who haven't been on a council before.
[285] ... This is the argument that suggests that senior officers are rather like Sir Humphrey figures in Yes Minister, who take the view that there's nothing wrong with the government except for all these elected clowns that clutter the place up
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [286] and get in the way ... and if only the Civil Service could run the place then it would be a lot better.
[287] And you get a similar view of that very often by senior officers in authorities.
[288] ... One, one suspects [...] with some authorities they, they've got more justification for referring to these elected clowns that get in the way. ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [289] What proportion of councils opt for a third system?
Ken (PS1MP) [290] Thank you, good question, I forgot to mention it didn't I?
[291] Yeah.
[292] Erm the figure is ... there are, as we all know ... how many district councils are there?
[293] ... Non-metropolitan district councils ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [294] Hundreds.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [295] Yes, there are hundreds, about how many hundred? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [296] Several hundred [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [297] Several, mm.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [298] Three hundred and thirty [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [299] Three hundred and thirty three
(F7TPS000) [300] Oh of course.
Ken (PS1MP) [301] yes.
[302] ... So there are three hundred and thirty three non- metropolitan district councils.
[303] Erm of them ... two o five ... opt for the whole council system.
[304] And therefore by a mighty feat of arithmetic we come up with the figure of what, one hundred and twenty eight ... go for the system by thirds. ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [305] It is a third.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [306] Yeah, [laughing] it's a third [] .
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh] ...
Ken (PS1MP) [307] The argument against the system of election by thirds of course the arguments against are roughly these ... one, an obvious argument, is that it is conf it, it's confusing to the public ... the system of election by thirds is confusing.
[308] ... It's also argued as well, rather counter to the ... proponents of election by thirds ... that it's undemocratic.
[309] ... Good example in ninety two ... if Harlow council had been a whole er whole council election in nineteen ninety two ... it's highly likely the Conservatives would have taken control.
[310] ... But they couldn't do that because only one third of the councillors were up for election.
[311] ... Do you see what I mean?
[312] So it's argued that it's frustrating to the er ... to the electant ... It's also argued as well that the frequency of elections tends to produce lower turn outs.
[313] ... Yes I, I, I'm inclined to go along with that to some extent, I remember once er I think it was eighty four, because in eighty four ... or was it eighty four?
[314] ... When were the last European elections? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [315] Eighty eight.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [316] Eighty seven
Ken (PS1MP) [317] No.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [318] eighty nine.
Ken (PS1MP) [319] Eighty nine.
[320] It was eighty nine wasn't it?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [321] Yeah.
[322] Eighty four yeah.
[323] I remember in eighty four erm there'd been a general election in eighty three erm ... there'd been one third elections in Harlow in, in, in erm ... i i i in eighty three, there was er a gen the general election and another system of election by thirds in eighty four and then the European election ... being told by one el elderly lady that there were too many bleeding elections and [laughing] therefore she wasn't gonna vote [...] [] .
[324] But there is that [...] again a confusion ... So a target that perhaps election by thirds reduces public interest, possibly reduces turn out.
[325] It's, it's not, perhaps it's no accident ... er maybe those or other factors that you do tend the lowest turn outs in metropolitan ... districts ... the big city districts.
[326] ... And there's a not inconsiderable point as well that exp it's expensive.
[327] ... Because these elections have to be organized ... three years running.
[328] ... And who pays for it?
[329] The community charge pays.
[330] ... There's a tendency erm ... as well to suspect that one reason why many non-metro districts have election by thirds is that they are generally more urban ones ... and the reason why they go for it is to keep the party machine in a permanent state of electioneering readiness.
[331] ... So we could, one c er the argument there is is that the party political argument in favour of election by thirds.
[332] ... By the way er we may er be gratified to know that erm ... thankfully Labour lost the ninety eighty seven election but in, in it's manifesto in nineteen eighty seven Labour proposed annual elections in local government.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [333] Hm.
Ken (PS1MP) [334] I don't ... recall, well in fact I'm being sarcastic because I know for a, we know that it wasn't in the [laughing] manifesto [] for nineteen ninety two.
[335] ... What the impact of annual elections for local government would be on turn out is difficult to say.
[336] I suspect disastrous.
[337] ... But I might be wrong, perhaps I'm being too cynical.
[338] ... Two very brief points here, voting turn out ... and voting patterns.
[339] We can make a very simple point here, voting turn out in local elections is lower than in general elections, yeah?
[340] ... Turn out in local elections is approximately forty percent, [...] ... that figure is covering all local elections.
[341] ... And it's a U K average figure as well, but we're talking about forty percent.
[342] You've got variations.
[343] You get higher turn out in non- metropolitan districts than you do in county council or in metropolitan district elections.
[344] ... You get low, you get low turn out in, in, in ... in inner city areas where the metropolitan districts tend to er tend to be.
[345] ... So the average vote in local elections is round about forty percent.
[346] Turn out in general elections ... mid to high seventies.
[347] As we've said the most recent election turn out was what, seventy eight percent ... highest for twenty years.
[348] ... Erm ... voting patterns, not much to say really on this erm if you want to read up on this there's a little sect rather interesting section in Burn on this ... in his chapter on local government elections.
[349] Who is most likely to vote in local elections?
[350] Well the people who are most likely to vote in local elections tend to be the people who in greater numbers, if you see what I mean, are more likely to vote in, in general elections.
[351] Or, to put it another way, the people most likely to vote full stop.
[352] ... The person most likely to vote is a white, middle class, middle aged male home owner.
[353] ... I suppose conversely from that you might construe then that the person least likely to vote ... would be a black ... female ... working class ... tenant.
[354] ... There's some truth in that.
[355] ... Owner occupation seems to be a factor in more greater readiness to vote.
[356] That may be significant because of course owner occupation has increased quite significantly in recent years ... to the great regret of many [laugh] many of the home o of the occupiers I mean.
[357] ... And whichever way we look at the figures though, there is an unpreparedness to vote in local government elections.
[358] There are exceptions to this ... I would suggest that ... very high turn outs ... in the er local election, local elections in Harlow ... almost certainly because there was a lot of interest in it ... press interest ... [...] because of the great battle in Old Harlow and that appears to have had a spin off effect on turn out in the other wards as well.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [359] What exactly do you mean by unpreparedness?
Ken (PS1MP) [360] By?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [361] Unpreparedness.
Ken (PS1MP) [362] Well, the fact that ... in a general election situation, people will go out and vote.
[363] In local elections they won't.
[364] If, er if I was ... to further refine that I would argue quite strongly that a lot of people see it as their duty to vote in general elections ... mm?
[365] Erm ... they don't take that attitude to local government elections.
[366] ... By the way it's not just local government elections ... European elections as well.
[367] ... I mean turn out in the er in, in ... in er er European elections was er ... in nineteen eighty four it was thirty two percent ... and in nineteen er eighty nine, thirty seven percent.
[368] So less people vote in Euro elections than vote in local elections.
[369] ... The question is of course why?
[370] You get much higher turn out in local government elections in western Europe,we western European states than you do in Britain.
[371] ... Why are people less prepared to vote in local government elections than they are in general elections?
[372] ... Let's throw it open. ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [373] Well people don't understand the system ... and they don't think that things will affect them.
Ken (PS1MP) [374] Yeah.
[375] ... Yeah I think that ... yeah.
[376] They're both good points, especially the latter one that people don't particularly think that, that a change in local government will affect them.
[377] ... Could we go further and suggest why they think that?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [378] [...] got enough power.
Ken (PS1MP) [379] Yes ... I think there's a tendency to take the view that basically local authorities simply administer ... and does it really matter who's in power at the town hall.
[380] ... Now erm ... well let, let me start again ... people think okay, if ... the Conservatives win, win control alright it might be another fifty pence on night class at the er at the, the college you know, something ... something like that ... erm it might mean ... erm a few redundancies in the town hall and a greater level of privatization ... but s but people tend to think well so what ... so long as the bins are getting emptied.
[381] Mm?
[382] And after all, much of what local authorities do is what?
[383] ... Well perhaps I've phrased it wrong, much of what local authorities actually undertake ... is what?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [384] What government wants.
Ken (PS1MP) [385] Or even more ... you're on the right track, yeah.
[386] But it's more than what government wants
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [387] Dictates.
Ken (PS1MP) [388] it's more than, it's what the government dictates.
[389] Most of what local authorities do is in a sense not really party politically controversial because they've got ... because most of the things they do they've got to do, they're mandated to do.
[390] ... In other words, you couldn't stand for office in Harlow and say for instance erm if ... erm if we er win the election we're gonna stop the sale of council houses.
[391] ... Yeah?
[392] This is say Labour speaking.
[393] Or we're gonna ... we're gonna spend on house building all our capital receipts, cos they can't do it.
[394] ... Yeah?
[395] Essex County Council, the Conservatives couldn't run for office there and say if we're elected we intend to er privatize the entire education system and stop financing it.
[396] Because they can't.
[397] At the moment the law makes the, the law obliges them to do A B C and prevents them from doing X Y Z.
[398] ... So the spin off on the electorate is perhaps well, does it really matter?
[399] ... Now community charge may have made a difference ... but ... what, what did government do about that to s in a sense ironically to go against one of their ... one of the, one of the most basic principles of bringing it in?
[400] ... I mean community charge was a factor in the nineteen ninety London borough elections, but in nineteen ninety the Conservative Party was doing very badly in opinion polls.
[401] This is just a few months before the overthrow of Margaret Thatcher.
[402] But in nineteen ninety in London not only did they hold on, they won dramatic victories in a number of London boroughs.
[403] ... Wandsworth where they only had a majority of one, they they ... they they destroyed the Labour Party.
[404] ... Cos there they had a stark choice then ... of voting for erm a very low ... community charge and potentially voting for a very high community charge.
[405] And most people chose a low one.
[406] ... But what did, but the government in a sense ... even ... even ended that as a viable choice by doing what? ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [407] Erm rate capping [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [408] Charge capping, yeah, yeah.
[409] One, charge capping which prevents authorities from putting their community charge to over a certain level and two, Lamont's famous budget.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [...]
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [410] Well he, he took it down by a certain amount by putting onto VAT.
Ken (PS1MP) [411] He put it on VAT.
[412] So in a sense community charge was being watered down as a factor ... by the state [...] taking over [...] payment in a sense.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [413] I don't, I don't I mean I don't quite agree with what you're saying cos you seem to be saying whatever party's in power in local government it's gonna be exactly the same
Ken (PS1MP) [414] No I'm not saying
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [415] same sort of direction [...] continue to do the same sort of things.
Ken (PS1MP) [416] Yeah I I I'm acting as devil's advocate in a sense.
[417] I mean these are factors which are given ... which are trotted out as reasons.
[418] It's, look we've got a problem haven't we, the problem is there's low, there's persistently low turn out in local government elections.
[419] You've got a couple of, you get blips ... you got a blip in nineteen ninety ... on the community charge when you got a high turn out in London boroughs especially, yeah?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [420] Mm.
Ken (PS1MP) [421] In other areas where community charge is not such a factor you don't get it.
[422] But we're still, we're still stuck with the problem, if it is a problem, of persistently low turn out for local government elections.
[423] And what I've said is I, I am in a sense acting as devil's advocate.
[424] It's it's it's ... in giving reasons for that.
[425] And you're quite right, I mean it might be argued that there are big issues in local government still.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [426] Yeah.
Ken (PS1MP) [427] Whether they build ... a new recreation centre ... whether old people have free passes.
[428] It might mean, it prob er I suppose in a sense that doesn't matter very much to me ... but I suppose it might matter if you're [laughing] sixty [...] yeah [] ... yeah.
[429] But nevertheless, agreeing with you to some extent, there are issues in local government, there are issues ... but s even so people don't vote.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [430] Well it's, it's probably in ... tory newspapers not to marginalize local authorities.
Ken (PS1MP) [431] [laughing] But it's always been the case [] .
[432] ... You know I mean we, we look, I mean it's inter one of the reasons for the nineteen seventy two reform you know ... one of, one of the er ... factors in it was to attempt to raise levels of participation in local government ... by making it more understandable.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [433] Hm.
[434] I mean what are the essential differences between European local erm county systems and and [...]
Ken (PS1MP) [435] Well ... yeah and there's a couple of factors, one is a good [...] they may er er some of them have got more power, yeah?
[436] Some of them are on a bigger level.
[437] There's another interesting factor as well, there's a greater participation of national things ... in local government in, in, in ... a number of European states.
[438] Erm for instance er Jacques Chirac leader of the erm,o of the erm U D F in France ... what is he also?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [439] Mayor of Paris.
Ken (PS1MP) [440] Yeah, yeah.
[441] And you'll find even Mitterand is actually the ... the mayor of some little arrondissement somewhere you know, some little [...] of housing.
[442] Yeah.
[443] ... There's a more, there's a greater link ... between national figures and local government.
[444] Ditto in the United States of course.
[445] ... You know, I mean a, a springboard for running for er president is being ... being governor.
[446] Ronny Reagan was governor in California, Bill Clinton is governor of Arkensaw.
[447] These are in a sense, [laughing] although they're pretty big [] , they're in a sense local government type ... positions.
[448] ... So you know I mean ... erm ... you've got evidence from the Widdicombe er survey which produced the Widdicombe report.
[449] These are just examples of er of of ... of question of answers to questions ... Burn asks the question which I've just asked, why then does low turn out persist, cos he's just made the point above ... that there are big issues in local government.
[450] There are issues of spending, there are issues of building ... there are issues of direction of the pa of, of the, of the authority ... yeah?
[451] Erm Widdicombe quotes some people ... they're all the same so what's the point?
[452] ... Erm ... sixty six percent of people believe that the people you vote for say they'll do things for you but once they're in they forget what they've said.
[453] Others blame the complexity of the system.
[454] ... Confusion caused by the voting system.
[455] ... Of course, to wrap this up, I suppose there's one other fact that perhaps ... the low votes in local government could be seen as w either two things depending on whether you're an optimist or a pessimist I suppose it's, it's a bit of the argument like if you've got a half gla and is your glass half empty or [laughing] is your glass half full [] you know?
[456] Erm one argument is is that people are making a deliberate and adverse comment on local government by not voting.
[457] ... They're in a sense voting with their feet, or not voting with their feet you know they're not, they're not voting, yeah.
[458] Erm ... course on the other hand ... the optimists could say well the reason why people don't bother voting is cos they're all pretty happy with local government.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [459] Wonderful art politics isn't it?
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [460] Mm.
Ken (PS1MP) [461] These are these wonderful arguments where you pays your money and you takes your choice.
[462] ... Mm.
[463] Both could be true.
[464] ... Both could be true.
[465] But ... it would be ala I think people would be alarmed if turn out for central government dropped to forty percent.
[466] ... Turn out in general elections.
[467] ... I mean the lowest turn out in any of the constituencies in, in the general election was much higher than the turn out in local government, I think the lowest turn out in any individual constituency was about fifty four percent in the general election.
[468] ... And that's significantly higher than the local government turn out.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [469] If we become like, like more part of Europe, if Europe gets more power than er then parliament would have less power well the same thing could happen in the erm central government elections as well couldn't it?
Ken (PS1MP) [470] Could well be yeah, yeah.
[471] If yeah that's an interesting point.
[472] If say for instance one moved headlong down the road to European political union and Westminster ended up with something like the powers of ... Puddlewick District Council
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [473] then ... possibly turn out in general elections would be low.
[474] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [laugh]
Ken (PS1MP) [475] We'll wait and see.
[476] ... Okay [...] ...
Unknown speaker (F7TPSUNK) [...]