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I have reported previously that Rallings and Thrasher project net Labour gains of around 500 seats in the local elections today. That is their extrapolation from council by-election results. By historic standards such gains for a main opposition party a year before a General Election would be pretty modest. But they would be enough to allow Labour to recite a list of councils they had gained.

What if Labour fall short even of the 500 mark? If the interviewers say “but you’ve only gained 300 on 2010.” “Ah,” the Shadow Cabinet Minister will reply. “But the 2010 council elections had a high turnout as it was the same day as the General Election. A high turnout helps Labour.”

There may be something in that. Perhaps Council Taxpayers will be more motivated to vote than those on welfare who (sometimes) have their Council Tax paid for them. Perhaps older voters (who tend to be more likely to vote Conservative) are more inclined to vote as they tend to be settled in the community – rather than youths with transient flat sharing arrangements. (“I’m not going to vote as I’m moving anyway,” is a reply I have heard a few times.) Home owners are more likely to be Conservative. They are also more likely to vote in local elections given that extra commitment to their area.

On the other hand, the turnout argument could be used the other way. It would be expected at this stage in a parliament that supporters of the Government might be less enthusiastic, and thus more inclined to abstain, than opponents of the Government. Then a Minister says: “We realise that there are some things people are unhappy about and that they are sending us a message – but when faced with the hard choice at a General Election we think they will vote for us.”

Over at Labour List, Mark Ferguson has stressed the importance on the turnout. He notes that polls show UKIP supporters are more likely than Labour ones to say they are “certain” to vote in the Euro Elections.

In many ways the Get Out The Vote operation makes more difference in council and Euro Elections than a General Election. In a General Election the idea of ringing people or knocking on their doors to “remind” them it is election day and that it is important might seem rather superfluous. Surely they must know that a General Election is important and they must be aware of one taking place? Today’s elections mean that pleas to go and vote are more relevant.

It doesn’t seem to me that a low turnout would be much of alibi for a poor Labour showing. But let’s do what we can avoid to boost the turnout. I hope that Conservative Home readers will vote Conservative, encourage their friends (both real friends and Facebook friends) to do the same and also volunteer to help with the knocking up.

7 comments for: It’s all about turnout

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