As readers have seen, I am into psephology: I am now busy collating and analysing the May election results. My task from the Euro election is complete (see my article on it here) and I have moved onto the Council results, a much more laborious task. I have a workbook that was used to collate results on election night and the day after, but it does have quite a few errors and omissions in it, so for a full and accurate analysis I am checking the whole thing… little by little.
And this means going to Council websites and finding their election results, which are presented in all sorts of different formats, but that’s another story. As it happens, the picture below is in the “official” format the Electoral Commission requires, but only some authorities put a PDF of this format online.
Now, take a look at it carefully and what do you see? Ignore the low turnout, there are lower ones! Can you see that there are only Labour and Conservative candidates? Excellent! Never mind how many votes they each got, you have noticed the number of spoilt papers, haven’t you? Top of the class!
While this particular one is exceptional, it holds the record (144) of all those I have seen where papers have been spoilt, but what I can say is that there is a trend here. That trend is that in certain wards around an average of 60 papers are spoilt, whereas in other wards the average is down at around 10.
Have you worked it out yet? Yes, well done! When there is no UKIP candidate, a lot of people spoil their ballot papers and one can imagine what they do with them:
- Leave them blank
- Scrawl “Vote UKIP” on them
- Write rude remarks about the LibLabCon party
When a UKIP candidate stands, the number of spoilt papers is within the “normal” range, so this is no coincidence.
Now, what we do not know is how many of these voters went to the polling station blissfully unaware there would be no UKIP candidate. Did they, on seeing the ballot paper, suffer from a fit of pique? More worringly, how many of them just shrugged and voted for one of the others? We will never know.
In this election, those determined to vote UKIP still had their opportunity to vote UKIP on the European election ballot paper, but in a year when there is no Euro or Westminster election, one wonders if this effect would be greater?
The moral of this story is, I believe, that we must provide all voters in all elections with the opportunity to vote UKIP. Even in no-hoper seats we can put up “paper” candidates: don’t even bother to leaflet if the branch is strapped for resources, but those who support us can feel satisfied they have done their bit for democracy.
And, as a free bonus we get information on relative levels of support by ward to guide us in future elections.