Covering the local elections – was it worth it?

By Jeremy Morton | 27th May 2014

I blogged a couple of months ago about how South Leeds Life was planning to cover the local elections this year. The campaign’s over, the votes have been counted and the results published. Now it’s time to reflect on our experience.

Our coverage started the day the Council published their list of candidates. We set up a page for each of our three wards with the candidates’ name, address and party. The same day we posted letters to each candidate – the electoral system is only getting online by stages, so email addresses are not published – inviting them to send us 200 words, a photo, a logo and a video.

Over the next week most candidates, 12 out of 17, sent in details and we published their photos and statements on the pages. There was no pattern to who took up our offer of coverage, neither left/right, nor major/minor parties. One sitting Councillor ignored us and got re-elected without difficulty.

Only one candidate submitted a video, but I think this may take off in future years. Some candidates said they didn’t have access to the technology although I suspect they all have smartphones, so I think this was more about knowledge than resources.

I’m no psephologist, but I’ve tried to analyse the voting pattern to see if we made a difference. The total numbers of people voting increased in all three wards compared to our last election in 2012.

Ward Votes 2012 Votes 2014 Increase % Turnout 2014
Beeston & Holbeck 3,848 4,264 10.8 28.7%
City & Hunslet 3,563 4,950 38.9 22.8%
Middleton Park 4,192 5,188 23.8 28.0%
Leeds total 174,538 187,544 7.5 34.3%

 

Given that there was voting for the European election and something of a UKIP effect encouraging people to vote who might not have bothered two years ago, I don’t think South Leeds Life can claim the credit for these increases. It’s also worth noting that at 22.8% City & Hunslet ward had the lowest turnout in the city.

Did anyone read our coverage? I’ve checked Google Analytics and yes they did, although not in huge numbers. Over the month they were available they ranked 17th, 18th and 20th, racking up about 300 page views each. The page views spiked when they were posted and then again on election day. Our post detailing the full results ranked 3rd with 750 views. By comparison, the biggest story over this period was a disabled student’s car being burgled with 1,300 views.

Was it worth it? I think it was definitely worth doing. We didn’t get a lot of feedback, but one very nice comment on Facebook thanked us for our efforts.

We will certainly do it again next year when the local elections will coincide with the general election. We will cover both and hopefully our readers will be expecting the coverage and pick up on it in greater numbers.

What were the election results? Our three sitting Labour candidates were all returned for another term.

Image accompanying this article is copyright SecretLondon123.

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