Suppose we had an election and no one took any notice

PUBLISHED: 11:55 24 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:55 24 April 2016

Iain Duncan Smith launches the regional Vote Leave campaign - but has the referendum sucked the life out of this year's local elections?

Iain Duncan Smith launches the regional Vote Leave campaign - but has the referendum sucked the life out of this year's local elections?

I’ve been covering elections for years, no decades, and I cannot remember a May campaign that has felt quite so flat as this one.

Temporary car park a great improvement for eyesore

When Civic Centre was pulled down in 2009, I really didn’t expect its site to be left as unused derelict land for the next seven years – but that’s exactly what has happened.

So it was with a sense of near delight last weekend that I saw the work to turn it into a “temporary” car park had been completed and it was now open to the public.

I’m not going to get too carried away by a bit of asphalt and a couple of pay and display machines – but there has been a bit of landscaping there as well. It’s a definite improvement for the site.

Now I can hardly wait for work to start on creating the “Theatre Square” in front of the New Wolsey that should become an outdoor performance area with a new cafe and bridge.

The car park might be temporary – for five years – but given the difficulties there have been in doing anything on the former Civic Centre site over the last decade, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes longer than that for a for a comprehensive development to be agreed.

And a high-quality surface car park is certainly an improvement on some of the “bomb-site” parks we’ve seen grow up on otherwise derelict land around the town centre over recent years.

And let’s face it, anything is better than using the extremely dark and forbidding underground car park!

Two weeks today almost everyone in the country can go to the polls. We are all voting for Police and Crime Commissioners and in Ipswich and Colchester there are local council elections.

Elsewhere in the country there are very important elections for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the London Mayor.

I don’t know how much public engagement there has been in those parts of the UK, but here the campaign for the elections for the PCCs and the local councils seems very flat.

Hopefully the turnout for the PCC election will be greater than it was in November 2012 – but I’m not expecting it to be much higher.

The reason, of course, is that the current election campaigns are totally overshadowed by the EU referendum which is now two months, rather than two weeks, away and seems to have sucked all the campaign energy out of all the other polls.

I don’t think you can blame the candidates or even the media for this situation – the fact is the vast majority of the population are only able to take in one election at a time and there is no doubt that the referendum is more interesting to them than the identity of the next Police and Crime Commissioner!

The EU campaign is starting to get traction with the public.

I’m not sure many minds are being changed, or even whether many “undecideds” are being persuaded into one camp or another.

But an increasing number of people are declaring themselves to be on one side or the other and are feeling happy to express their views in a way that they would not during a normal election campaign.

And there are some strange bedfellows – at last week’s “Vote Leave” launch in Kesgrave there was a real mixture of political faces from the UK Independence Party, the Tories, and even one former Labour and Liberal Democrat councillor.

Iain Duncan Smith was preaching to the converted. They lapped up all of his attacks on Europe – even those that the Remain camp would have really called into question.

But the demographics were interesting. Most (but not all) would have voted in the 1975 referendum. Most (but not all) were male. The good news for the Leave campaign is, of course, that those are just the groups that are most likely to vote in any election.

It’s difficult to judge the demographics of the Remain voters here – the Prime Minister’s two visits to Suffolk were heavily stage-managed with only invited people.

One thing that the events do have in common, though, is that they do show that the European debate has now connected with the public, which is more than can be said about next month’s PCC and council elections.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East Anglian Daily Times. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the East Anglian Daily Times