12 December 2008

On the Manchester Congestion Charge Referendum

Residents of Greater Manchester were recently called to vote on a proposal, which would have seen the introduction of a London-style "congestion charge" in exchange for improvements in public transport.

The results were announced today, and the plans were rejected by 79% of the voters. Turnout was about 53%, which is closer to recent General Elections turnout (about 60%) than Local Elections (about 35%).

I'd say this was a clear result. Consider this: the plans were strongly supported by all Labour-dominated councils, and opposed only by the few LiberalDemocrats- and Conservative-controlled councils (Trafford and Stockport). It's only because of LibDem and Tory opposition that the referendum was called, and even them were more or less persuaded to support the proposal (after obtaining the referendum).

When 80% of your own electorate votes against your proposals, it's clear that something doesn't work. The Greater Manchester area is a solid Labour stronghold, and it's been for generations. If the totality of local Labour councillors support a scheme which their own electorate so overwhelmingly despises, then there's something broken in the relationship between public opinion and elected representatives.

I used to live in a city with a similar situation; it used to be called "The Red Bologna", a city where communists and socialists dominated the political debate for more than 50 years. And then, "all of a sudden", a conservative mayor was voted in, to the shock of political elites only. They were now separated, arrogant, completely unable to understand their own voters and persuaded that they knew better than anyone else. It clearly was a long process, in a city so ideologically rooted in socialist ideology, but they didn't see it coming until too late.

I hope the local Labour councillors will get the message. Their progressive electorate will not tolerate new, wide-ranging regressive taxes which would only benefit a few private bus companies.

Please don't force us to vote you out; we'd rather not do it, if only you listened to us a bit more.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

uhh, trafford is very definitely conservatively controlled not lib dem

GiacomoL said...

Corrected, thanks.