Thursday 6th May is an important day in the world of British Politics because, yep, you guessed it, it’s Election Day! Millions of voters across the country (that’s 48.8 million to be precise) are eligible to vote candidates into more than 5,000 positions of power. This year is different for so many reasons – and not just the fact that there is a bumper crop of elections taking place, most of which were delayed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, most of you reading this are probably too young to vote (although your parents probably ARE eligible to vote) nevertheless, it is important that you are aware of what is going on as the outcome of these votes could potentially shape our country and the United Kingdom for many years to come.
Following on from the 2019 general election, which provided Boris Johnson and his Conservatives with a whopping victory after a tumultuous few years caused by the paralysis and uncertainty of Brexit, these elections are also going to be the first real test for the Prime Minister, not to mention how voters have received his sometimes-leisurely handling of the pandemic. Furthermore, these elections will also be the first electoral test for Labour leader Keir Starmer, who took over from Jeremy Corbyn last year – and with opinion polls suggesting that the opposition are trailing quite far behind the Tories, there will no doubt be nerves in Labour HQ.
According to YouGov, the issue on the top of voters’ minds today is ‘Coronavirus,’ which is probably no surprise to many of you at all. This is followed by ‘the economy,’ ‘the NHS,’ and ‘poverty/unemployment’. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see which parties have gained (or lost) traction with voters. Unsurprisingly, Brexit is no longer the dominant force influencing voting intentions this time. Another interesting point to add is that voters are being asked to bring their own pens and pencils to the ballot box – as well as the elderly and vulnerable being urged to make use of the postal ballot where possible. I would suspect the vote counting to take a couple of days too, much like the US Presidential Election did last year because social distancing will need to be maintained and this will no doubt disadvantage previous abilities to quickly tally up the votes.
So, who is being elected?
England Local Councils: Across England, thousands of local council seats will be up for grabs in 143 council areas. The council is usually in charge of the more banal duties, such as bin collections and road safety.
London: Citizens living in the capital will elect 25 members of the London Assembly, as well as a new mayor. The incumbent Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, is widely expected to win a second term in office, according to numerous polls, which is not that much of a surprise seeing as though Londoners traditionally tend to vote Labour. The Mayor of London oversees bus and Tube fares, as well as tackling crime. Members of the Assembly in turn keep a check on the Mayor and hold them to account, much like Parliament does with the Prime Minister.
Mayor: There will also be elections to choose 12 mayors in different regions and cities across England. West Yorkshire is also going to elect a mayor for the first time, with the Labour candidate and current MP for Batley, Tracy Brabin, hotly expected to become the first person to hold that position.
Scottish Parliament: Scots will vote for members of the Scottish Parliament. Many people in Westminster are keeping a close eye on these results especially; Scottish Independence is expected to play a big part, as the SNP seeks another referendum. Parties that want Scotland to stay part of the UK will hope to reduce the SNP’s dominance, while former First Minister Alex Salmond has launched his own pro-independence party: Alba.
Welsh Parliament: The Welsh Senedd will elect 60 members to Senedd Cymru – the Welsh Parliament. It will be the sixth general election since the Senedd was established in 1999.
NOTE: The Scottish and Welsh Parliaments do not make significant decisions about how their country is run. They are more responsible for areas such as health, housing, and education. Another positive element (in my opinion) of these two elections is that 16-and-17-year-olds will be able to have their say at the election, unlike the rest of the UK where the minimum age to vote is 18.
Hartlepool: Citizens of the constituency Hartlepool will elect a new MP to the Westminster Parliament in a ‘by-election.’ A by-election is a special election that takes place outside of normal general elections because a seat or position of power has become vacant. A by-election is usually triggered when an MP resigns, is involved in a scandal, or dies. In this case, the former Labour MP for Hartlepool, Mike Hill, resigned following claims of sexual harassment. This seat is certainly a bone of contention between Labour and the Conservatives because the election of a new MP will be Sir Keir Starmer’s first parliamentary electoral test since becoming Labour leader. It could give an indication of whether voters in traditional northern Labour seats are still turning to the Conservatives, which is when the so-called ‘red wall’ was broken down and voters went in their masses to the Tories.
Police and Crime Commissioners: There will also be elections in England and Wales for police and crime commissioners. They set the budget and priorities for police in their area.
There are different ways that the votes are counted in different areas of the UK, also known as electoral systems, however that is probably for another day. I hope that made sense!