Local Elections: readers tell us why they voted (and why they didn’t)

The cost of living crisis was the key issue that drove Blackpool Social Club readers to the polls last week. But in a town that’s deeply affected by widening inequality, the majority of eligible voters didn’t turn out.

Some 42 council seats across Blackpool’s 21 wards were up for grabs in the local elections on Thursday 4th May, with the Labour Party retaining control of the local authority with an increase of eight seats and a majority of 28.

It was a pattern repeated across the country with Labour gaining 505 of the 1,005 seats lost by Conservatives – an apparent indictment of an increasing loss of trust in national government.

“The Conservatives locally and nationally are in chaos,” Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council told the Gazette, and the majority of Blackpool Social Club readers we spoke to agreed that national politics influenced their votes in the local elections.

“If I thought the Labour candidate was unsuitable I would spoil my ballot paper rather than vote for a Conservative candidate,” said one, who voted Labour in the Stanley ward, responding to a survey conducted by Blackpool Social Club.

“Wanton greed promotes the widening of poverty. The working class needs to be honoured correctly,” said another on why national politics influenced their decision to vote for Labour councillors in the Talbot ward.

“Politicians breaking their own rules,” was cited by another Labour voter in Warbreck for how the conduct of national government influenced their vote.

But while 75 per cent of respondents said they voted for Labour, some readers said they had no faith in either party.

I’m thoroughly uninspired by the main parties, who all seem to be concentrating on a narrow set of policies to which I’m actively opposed

“It doesn’t make a difference who I vote for, they’re all a bunch of cheating fibbers,” said one.
Others said they’d spoiled the ballot paper.

“I don’t trust that any of the parties will do anything for meaningful change,” said one.

“My ballot was spoiled because I’m thoroughly uninspired by the main parties, who all seem to be concentrating on a narrow set of policies to which I’m actively opposed, like restricting migration rights, restricting the rights of the trans community and demonising the poor,” said another. “I didn’t feel comfortable voting for any of them, sadly.”

Just 27 per cent of eligible voters turned out in Blackpool’s local election and while for some this was a political choice, others told Blackpool Social Club they didn’t understand the vote or feel connected to politics at all.

“I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision and I can’t be bothered to put the work in to find out,” said one reader. Others said that work and life commitments got in the way of them voting or that they felt unable to vote because nobody represented their views.

One reader said they hadn’t received their paper voting card through the post and another said they forgot to take a form of ID rendering them unable to cast their vote in line with new voting restrictions implemented this year. In 2019, however, local election voter turnout was only slightly higher at 29 per cent, indicating the new rules had only a marginal impact on turnout at the polls.

Those who did vote voiced their concerns on a wide range of local issues but the cost of living crisis was a common theme along with poverty, deprivation and inequality.

Safety and tackling anti-social behaviour were a concern for several respondents, with violence against women and girls and the behaviour of “rowdy tourists” cited specifically.

I want a local government that shows empathy and creates ways to support young people.

Housing, investment in local business, revitalising neighbourhoods and communities were concerns for some voters, and many cited the state of housing and the local environment as their priorities. Clean streets, clean air, well-maintained parks and open spaces, and overall wellbeing were singled out as concerns, with some expressing dissatisfaction with the current state of public spaces.

“The town centre looks like a shit hole,” said one. “It’s not safe and the police are doing nothing about the youth problem.”

Voters also told us what they were looking for in their local representatives.

“I want a local government that shows empathy and creates ways to support young people and opportunity for residents,” said one reader who voted Labour in the Talbot ward.

Another Labour voter in Talbot said: “I want approachable councillors who have a good understanding of the town and want to see everyone do well. They need to listen to the concerns of residents and businesses and be accountable and happy to explain when things don’t go to plan.”

Another Labour voter in Warbreck added: “The most important issue for me locally is having councillors who care about local problems and make Blackpool a better place to live.”

Photo: Blackpool Labour Party

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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