All I want for Christmas is you(r vote)

The Weekly Newgate Engage Planning Blog

By Douglas Johnson

Monday morning is, frankly, getting quite tough. Peeling back the curtains to find that it’s still dark, just two weeks after setting our clocks back, is enough to demoralise anyone. It’s easy to see why there’s a widely held belief that a December General Election will affect voter turnout. But is it actually true?

In reality, there’s very little available data on the matter. There have only been 26 General Elections in the last century, and most of these have been held between April and September. There’s only been one other December election in the same period – 1923.

Much has changed since then – women didn’t have the vote on the same terms as men, the Liberals had been a dominant force in politics for the past two decades, and a man called Edwin Scrymgeour won Dundee for the Scottish Prohibitionist Party. It’s arguably difficult to draw too many conclusions about today’s electorate on this evidence.

Happily, there is another source of evidence on voter turnout in the winter. As Professor Philip Cowley has observed, hundreds of council by-elections take place throughout the year – including in December. Studies of these elections suggests that, prior to the year 2000, turnout did indeed tend to be lower in the Winter. However, the difference in turnout due to weather or season has fallen significantly since the advent of widespread postal voting.

This points to a broader truth – that elections, and campaigning, are no longer simply a matter of turning up on the doorstep and asking for votes. Campaigning now also takes place by phone, on TV, and increasingly online – all in formats which are far less affected by the weather than traditional doorknocking.

Looking at the local dimension to politics can help us understand what’s happening on the national stage. For more information on how our specialist local engagement team can help you navigate our changing politics, please get in touch.

This week in planning

  • The Government has released £374 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) to five councils. The money has been awarded to deliver infrastructure to support around 32,000 new homes.
  • Government announcements including the Accelerated Planning White Paper, the housing delivery test results for 2019 and the final report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission have been parked pending the General Election.
  • The Court of Appeal has thrown out a challenge to Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan by campaigners objecting to its accommodation of unmet need from a neighbouring authority.
  • Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has refused proposals for 500 homes on Green Belt land near Ilkley against the Inspector’s recommendations – suggesting the Government will continue to take a strong line on similar cases.

Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

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