Are this year’s most significant UK election on Nov 15?
The usual highlight of the electoral year in the UK takes place on the first Thursday in May, which is when the local council elections and devolved parliamentary elections are scheduled, and when general elections have been planned for in recent years. This year, itâ€™s a smaller bunch of English councils than in 2011, a full slate of Scottish and Welsh councils, and of course the London mayorality and Assembly (plus a smaller-scale mayoral election in Salford).
Even so, this year may be different as there are more elections slated for November 15, when the elections for Police Commissioners across the 41 Forces in England and Wales outside London take place, and on the same day there may be up to eleven mayoralities up for grabs in the large English cities.
Alongside the council elections in May, referendums will take place in the council areas of Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield on whether to introduce elected mayors to those cities. Those that are approved will vote in their first mayors in November.
Independents and Minor Party candidates have a very poor record in parliamentary elections, and even in council elections other than where thereâ€™s an established culture of Independents and hence the main parties often work within that constraint. By contrast, thereâ€™ve been many examples from Robocop to the Hartlepool Monkey to Peter Davies in Doncaster of candidates from outside the mainstream taking on and beating the big boys. Above all, there was Ken Livingstone proving in 2000 it was possible in what is the biggest mayoral election in Europe.
Thatâ€™s why the November elections may be of more significance than those in May: being less predictable, theyâ€™re more likely to upset the political narrative. Whether the Police Commissioner posts follow the same dynamic remains to be seen but the elections are similarly candidate-centric so they may well.
If so, that means that more people will be asked to vote than in May (and in a lot of cases, vote twice), in elections whose outcomes may only have a passing relationship with the general election voting intentions. What will be crucial is candidate selection. Getting the right person can, and in some cases will, win elections that the polls and May results would have are impossible or lose elections that should be in the bag. Itâ€™s therefore surprising thing is how slow the parties have been selecting for the Commissioner jobs.
One other consideration to think about. November is a prime season for Westminster plotting about leadership changes, after the Conference season and with the new session of parliament beginning.