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How I live blogged from the council elections

Student journalist Miles Casey reflects on live blogging from the local elections in Manchester

Live-blogging is as fast paced as it sounds. You literally cannot stop for a minute, or risk missing key events. I found this to be especially true while reporting live from Manchester Convention Centre on the results of the local elections in Manchester last week.Thunderous applauses echo throughout the hall and if you aren’t there to capture the moment, it slips right through your fingers. I had to keep my wits about me, running table-to-table trying to be there when the results were announced, trying to be the first one to get the story live.

Manchester is a safe Labour seat. Always has been, and seemingly, always will be. The results turned out the way we expected them to: Labour won all but one seat, and by comfortable margins, on average winning with 65% of the vote.

One of Labour’s more significant victories came in the Brooklands ward. In a surprisingly close victory, Labour prevailed over UKIP and the Conservatives, but only managed to secure 38.2% of the vote compared to UKIP’s 28.3%, with the Conservative’s managing a decent 26.1%.

 

Labour’s largest victories came in Cheetham and Ardwich, winning by 81.8% and 80.9% respectively. But this was to be expected. Manchester is renowned for its allegiance to the Labour Party and a victory for anyone but Labour was going to make the headlines, and I wanted to be there to capture the moment. 

This came in the Didsbury West ward, arguably the result of the day, which I managed to film.

The Liberal Democrats stormed to victory in the Didsbury West ward, with Jonathan Leech securing a solid 52.6% of the vote.

Speaking to Leech beforehand, he seemed confident of his campaign’s success. I was nervous conducting my first “live” interview with a political candidate, but he was approachable, and gave short, but great, answers to my questions.

As you can see, we were not able to upload the footage as it was filmed. This was one of the more frustrating aspects of live reporting. The videos were rotating when I uploaded them, which is not ideal as I wanted to create an illusion of “being there”. 

Another interesting trend that we found was the prevalence of what some might call “protest votes,” reflecting a general frustration with establishment politics and the two-party system.

The Greens and UKIP secured second in 16 out of the 32 wards between them, firmly claiming a decent foothold for the next General Election. The Conservatives only came second in 6 wards, suffering humiliating defeats in most. These two “under-dog” parties have been gaining momentum in the last few elections, and can take pride in what they achieved in an extremely safe Labour area. Maybe the next election cycle might turn out more profitable for them as they continue to make gains all over the country.

What was rather shocking was just how low the turnouts were for the elections. On average, only 29% of registered voters bothered to turn up to vote. This may have been due to the fact that the local elections were conducted on their own, rather than in conjunction with a General Election or a Referendum.

Does this show a general feeling of apathy towards the political process? There has been a gradual increase in voter turnout during the General Election (rising from 59.4% in the 2001 General Election, to 66.1% in the 2015), so there is an interest, just not at the local level. Maybe it is due to the perception that most people don’t know what their local councillors actually do. A further study into this would be insightful. It is doubtful, though, that the In/Out Referendum will attract such an abysmal number of voters.

Aside from the minor technical difficulties, such as not being able to upload the videos in the correct format or get the map data to upload, the day was a great success. Not only did I gain invaluable experience of live reporting and in political journalism, but I also got to see a man dressed as a pig win 80 more votes than UKIP in the Sharston ward, which is never a bad thing.

 

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