For the second time, a city council has held a referendum to select its next mayor. For the second time, voters were given the choice of two Labour candidates. For the second time voters were given the choice of two white men.
And for the second time not enough people bothered to turn out to vote, making the referendum non-binding.
Now ministers and MPs say the whole idea of a referendum for mayors is a waste of time and money and should be scrapped. Of course it should. Did they really think that giving voters the choice of two almost identical people from the same party was really going to lead to a dynamic campaign and massive turnout?
Anyone can apply for the job of mayor but the shortlist of candidates is drawn up by the city council. The mayor is effectively its chairman and the chief of the local police force – so of course councillors have a vested interest in the outcome. Therefore anyone who dares to be different or has a bit of character – the sort of people who would make an election campaign come alive – is not exactly likely to make the shortlist.
Mayors in the Netherlands are technically queen appointees. The open application system, shortlist and referendum simply serve to give the process a veneer of democracy. So far, the public has not been fooled.
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