I'm not convinced by poll predicting defeat for Birmingham's mayor referendum

By Jonathan Walker on Apr 26, 12 03:13 PM in Politics

An interesting article in today's Guardian says that two thirds of voters don't want elected mayors. It states: "The prime minister started the week by urging Britain's big cities to 'join the race' by creating a mayoralty through referendums set for 3 May, but a new Guardian/ICM poll suggests that David Cameron could fall at the starting line in these local ballots."

The reference to the Prime Minister follows a speech he delivered in Bristol on Monday, when he said: "I passionately want those cities - from right here in Bristol to Birmingham . . . to give a resounding, emphatic 'yes' next week." The Prime Minister added: "If you want your local champion speaking to the heart of government, banging their fist on the table for Birmingham, or Bristol or Leeds - get out and vote yes."

But I'd take the ICM poll with a small pinch of salt. Looking at the details (see table 10), it appears that a grand total of 308 people in the Midlands - east and west - were asked their opinion about a mayor. It's true that 64 per cent said they didn't want one, but how many of those came from Shrewsbury, Leicester or Stourbridge, and how many came from Birmingham or Coventry - two cities where referendums are taking place - is unclear.

Having said that, Birmingham MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston), a strong supporter of mayors and potential Labour candidate, delivered a downbeat assessment of the chances of Birmingham voting for a mayor in next week's referendum, when she spoke in a Commons debate this week.

Warning that the referendum question might lead people to vote against a mayor, she said: "I have been talking to people on the phone: when I first saw the question I thought it was extremely favourable - but then there is the question of how it appears cold, on the ballot paper, without any real debate.

"The majority of people know that there is a lord mayor; when the ballot uses the term "mayor" they think, "Is this a different mayor?" and cannot work out what the difference is.

"We talk about civic mayors, and Ken, and they say, "What is it, then?" We may not get as good an outcome as hoped."

The question to be asked will be:

"How would you like Birmingham to be run?

"By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.

"Or by a mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from how the council is run now."

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RusticBench said:

Polls should always be taken with a pinch of salt. But here are a few reasons why I disagree with your opinion:

1. If the increasingly toxic Cameron says he wants something it would not surprise me if the default reaction is to vote for precisely the opposite.

2. Elected mayors pander to the politics of personality and are basically a sideshow that appears designed to fool the electorate into thinking that they have a functional democracy. Actually democracy at the national level is in deep trouble from my perspective and I do not think we need to encourage distractions in the shape of elected mayors. It is basically XFactor with ex-MPs, something I was saying before The Guardian published the article from Seamus Milne on 25th April.

3. Look at the embarassment that is London. Supposedly the greatest city in the world and it boils down to a choice between Boris and Ken with some token bystanders making up the numbers. Pitiful.

FWIW I sincerely hope that Birmingham does not get dragged into that particular mire and will be voting against.

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