Yesterday I walked the Erewash Canal from Sandiacre to Long Eaton. Quite different from my last walk from Sandiacre to Trowell. I took some pics and will be posting these shortly, but first some thoughts about the future of Nottingham City Council. I'm half-way through updating information about the number of voters there are per electoral ward in the city. I first did this exercise back in 2000 when I was compiling proposals for new wards in Nottingham. I recently read that Nottingham's population has risen from 282,900 in 1999 to 306,700 in 2012 and that the Census totals for 2001 and 2011 are unreliable because, according the City Council's website, 'a considerable number of pople were missed by the Census, particularly young men'.
This prompted me to look at information about the size of the electorate in Nottingham during the same period. It makes interesting reading:
1999 city election: 207,085 voters
2003 city election: 195,409 voters
2007 city election: 192,607 voters
2011 city election: 200,533 voters
2012 (28 Nov) : 207,718 voters
So. whilst the City's population has risen by 8.4%, the number of voters has risen by only 0.3% and this is before the Coalition has introduced individual voter registration instead of the present system of household registration. In other words, Labour has a poor record when it comes to voter registration in Nottingham. Clearly, 2007 was a low point and things have improved a little since then. My own ward, Dunkirk and Lenton, had 22.1% fewer voters in November 2012 than it did in May 1999. The neighbouring ward of Radford and Park, on the other hand, saw the number of registered voters increase by 16.4% during the same period.
Dunkirk and Lenton ward has a very high percentage of adults in full-time education (ie. students) and we will see how many when more detailed numbers relating to the 2011 Census are published in the near future, but by the City Council's own admission, the real total will actually be higher. However, Radford and Park ward also has a large student population, so why have more voters registered there than in Dunkirk and Lenton? I don't know the answer, but it is a question I have asked the City Council.
I have also been looking at voting trends across Nottingham's present wards during the three City Council elections they have been used for (2003, 2007 and 2011). During the first two Labour was in power nationally and in 2011 the Coalition had been in power for a year and these things are clearly a factor in how people vote in local elections. Come May 2015, it is very likely that we will have City Council elections and the General Election on the same day, which will push up voter turnout.
Over the next few weeks I plan to spend some time compiling some summaries of the electoral information I have collated. Taking on the Labour Party in Nottingham is a challenge and a half by any measure. The Party is well organised and resourced. It is by any measure, a formidable election machine and has to be admired for this fact.
For the past twenty years, the Conservatives and Liberals have been dismal and ineffective. The Liberals at their peak split into two factions within weeks and the Conservatives have never ventured far from their own 'comfort zones'. Personally, I would trust neither with power anywhere. I have never voted for them and never will.
But my own dissatisfaction with Labour means that I am seeking a radical alternative which might be able to mount a serious challenge in 2015. It can be done, but with limited resources, especially money, it will not be easy and any challenge will have to be in all twenty wards. No political group which contests only a few seats ever deserves to be taken seriously, except in exceptional circumstances (usually relating to a local issue, specific to the ward in question). Such a group needs to have a manifesto which sets it apart from other political groups. I have some ideas which I plan to elaborate over the next few months.
All these things and more were in my head yesterday and I walked along the Erewash Canal. I'll be back with the pics over the next couple of days.