Newham voters urged to improve London mayoral election turnout

The London elections are little more than a week away but the big challenge in Newham is to get voters interested and out to the ballot boxes.

The last election in 2008 saw an 36 per cent turnout in the borough, the lowest in London.

Around one quarter of registered voters bothered to show in Custom House. Turnout in six wards was less than 30 per cent, while the highest turnout, in East Ham North, registered at just 39.4 per cent.

The two frontrunners, Labour veteran Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, of the Conservative Party, have fought a increasingly bitter battle over their tax returns as well as policy.

Attention grabbing as it is, the issue threatens to overshadow the campaigns of Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate, and Jenny Jones, of the Green Party.

The other candidates are Laurence Webb of the UK Independence Party, Carlos Cortiglia, from the British National Party and Siobhan Benita, who is standing as an Independent.

Mr Livingstone has made a number of visits to Newham, aware that it was a happy hunting ground for his campaign in 2008.

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Despite losing the mayoralty to Mr Johnson, he received more than double the number of votes enjoyed by his Tory rival in the borough. He even recruited the comedian Eddie Izzard to mobilise young potential voters at Newham College.

There are a number of theories behind Newham’s poor turnout.

John Bennett, Greater London returning officer, said: “There are lots of things that affect turnout, from the age of voters, the levels of deprivation in an area or even weather on the day.

“Some of the most affluent wards in London only managed a turnout of 35%, while some of the poorest wards were beating the London average.

“And it’s a myth that low turnout is just an inner East London problem too. Turnout in wards across London varied from 26 per cent to 72 per cent in 2008. The reasons for that aren’t always obvious.”

Voters will be given three ballot papers - and they are not just choosing who they want to be mayor.

They are also casting one vote for a constituency assembly member for City and East and voting for one London-wide assembly member or party.