The Raven's Blog

02.05.17

A watershed moment in British democracy

The upcoming mayoral elections represent a watershed moment in the history of British democracy, reports PSE’s Luana Salles. 

On 4 May, voters across six regions will take to the polls to decide who should captain their public services until 2020. 

As part of the elections, the DCLG has kick-started the ‘Our Mayor, Your Vote’ campaign which, paired with a dedicated website, promotes the significance of power being put into “the hands of local people”. A yellow banner runs through the website stating that voters must register by 13 April and, at the bottom, visitors are asked to download the government’s ‘toolkit’ – in typical Whitehall jargon – to help “get the word out”. 

Local growth minister Andrew Percy told PSE: “As we gear up to devolve crucial powers and funding to six of the country’s regions, our campaign is tailored to each local area to help raise awareness of the mayoral elections on 4 May. 

“Our campaign includes working closely with communications teams in each combined authority to support this historic transfer of power and encourage residents to turn out and vote.” 

In each of the regions, the combined authority returning officer (CARO) will be responsible for co-ordinating the poll and calculating the result. A supplementary voting system will also be used, which effectively means voters can pick two mayors – a first and second choice. Votes will be counted on 5 May, with results expected by early evening. 

So, aside from the DCLG, what has each region been doing to spread the word? 

Liverpool City Region (LCR) 

Across LCR, the PR strategy is split into two phases: ensuring that people register and encouraging the electorate to vote. When PSE went to press, the combined authority was in the process of building a dedicated election website. DCLG’s campaign will be “reiterated and widely promoted” to ensure consistency, the LCR told us, adding: “This campaign and messaging will be promoted via all local authority assets and communications channels available.” 

913 Liverpool c. First Name Last Name

West of England 

The combined authority is promoting the elections online via #WEvote, #ourmayor and wevote.org.uk through a PR campaign titled ‘£1bn reasons to vote for your West of England mayor’. The region’s election will be co-ordinated by Bristol City Council acting as the CARO, with responsibility for producing a booklet and ensuring a consistent approach to delivering the election across all authority areas. 

West Midlands 

West Midlands has also set up a website, wmcaelects.co.uk, which answers frequently asked questions and provides timetables and information on local election offices. On social media, the combined authority is promoting the elections via #wmmayor. 

Westmidselects.org.uk, a separate website, provides information about each candidate, including their background, policy priorities and social media links. The website also advertises a string of events across the region, such as mayoral debates and industry hustings. 

348 Victoria Square Birmingham at dusk

Greater Manchester 

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) CEO, Eamonn Boylan, told PSE that because this election is the first of its kind, there are a number of communications challenges to ensure as many people as possible participate. In preparing a strategy, for example, the region spoke to London about its mayoral communications approach. 

“We are determined to do all we can to raise awareness of these elections and ensure electors have all the information they need to vote,” Boylan said. GMCA will be providing information about the mayor’s role rather than the election itself, while the CARO will strive to maximise the number of registered voters in GM through gmelects.org.uk

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 

An Ipsos MORI poll found that 57% of residents in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough support the idea of a metro-mayor. To help amplify this message and provide further electoral information, the region has set up a website, chooseyourmayor.org. Seven candidates had already confirmed their nomination at the time of publication, and the authority was beginning to advertise the election on Twitter via #Elections2017. 

122 524 Cambridge city deal

Tees Valley 

The region’s dedicated election website, teesvalleymayor.co.uk, outlines mayoral powers and the ways through which residents can register to vote. 

But other more interesting tactics being deployed include making use of local celebrities. For example, frontman of renowned alternative rock band Maxïmo Park, Paul Smith, who was raised in Billingham and still lives in the north east, argued in a combined authority press release that “we are capable of much more as a region”, and urged people of all ages and backgrounds – youngsters in particular – to take control of the issues affecting their lives.

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