The election for a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor
There are two big local elections taking place here on 4th May, and these will now take place in the looming shadow of a General Election. I just hope it doesn’t all prove too confusing for everyone, or result in voter fatigue. In this second instalment of my three-part preview, let’s take a look at the election for a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor. This is an important new post, even if the race itself isn’t that exciting.
The current government is keen to ‘devolve’ powers to local areas, and the mayoral election is part of this. Imagine a Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone for our county, and you’ll get the idea. Many people, especially opponents of the policy, have dismissed it as ‘another layer of local government’, but it’s not really. It’s an island of new responsibilities alongside the County Council, specifically to do with transport, housing and jobs. A few people even believe the Mayor’s office may well take over the County Council. This election matters.
All of the major political parties have put forward candidates, and there’s an independent candidate too. This is despite an incredibly high barrier to entry: a deposit of £5,000 and a campaign spending limit (which everyone has to compete with) of £50,000. There were internal competitions for the nomination within most of the parties; our own MP Heidi Allen featured in the Conservative Party’s contest.
However, sitting here in Queen Edith’s, I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for this election. Here’s why.
For a start, your vote counts for very little. In the election for the County Councillor, a total of around 3,000 votes will be cast. It’s fair to say your vote could have an impact. In June’s General Election, your vote will be one in a total of about 60,000 in this constituency. But in the Mayoral election, across the whole county, it’ll be one in well over 200,000.
Put another way, in the Council election, it’s like being one spectator at a Cambridge United home match. In the Mayoral election, it’s like being one spectator in three full Wembley stadiums.
And there’s another thing: the traditional voting across much of Cambridgeshire. In Queen Edith’s, we’re used to a proper competition between two or three candidates. In other parts of Cambridgeshire, some of them twenty times the size of Queen Edith’s, one party – the Conservatives – can get as many votes as all of the other parties put together. There’s a reason why Ladbroke’s is offering odds of 2/7 on the Conservative candidate winning the election. That’s the equivalent of an 80% probability.
So, one vote in over 200,000 in an election with a runaway favourite? No thanks. The mayoral position is important, and I’ll be voting, but it’s the County Council election which interests me. More on that in the last part of this series.