Former University of York student and YUSU Council Chair, David Levene, has successfully garnered the student vote to win the ward of Heslington, containing the main campus of the University.
However, the turnout was only 37.8 per cent even though the polling station was on campus in Vanbrugh Dining Hall.
This result was a turn-around on the previous election where the Liberal Democrat candidate was elected in Heslington and they had control of the York Council.
Levene, who ran as the Labour Party candidate will now take a seat on the borough Council alongside 25 other Labour Councillors, who now have a majority in the 47-seat council.
Levene commented that he was “very proud, and very excited about the task ahead.” While the result was unexpected, it has taken Labour from third place in the 2009 local elections to a first place win of 670 out of 1,477.
The Lib-Dem candidate Christopher Wiggin garnered only 358 votes, beaten by the Green Party’s Caleb Wooding who received 449 votes.
Like Levene, Wooding and Wiggin are a current and former student at the University, demonstrating all three parties’ desire to garner the vote of students who make up the majority of the ward’s population.
Despite this, only 37.8 per cent of potential voters turned up to the ballot. In York borough as a whole 44.7 per cent of people voted -which is up three per cent on 2007. In the Conservative stronghold of the Derwent ward 60 per cent voted and 58.5 per cent in the safe Lib Dem seat of Heworth Without.
Since the majority of Heslington’s voting population are students and the ballot was in the centre of the university, this suggests a remarkable amount of apathy on behalf of the student population.
Questions over whether the low turnout was due to a lacklustre campaign on behalf of all candidates or general disinterest in local – or indeed national – politics remain.
“I had no idea who the candidates were or what they were trying to do locally”
Many students who neglected to vote said that with the overwhelming focus on the referendum on the Alternative Vote system, the local elections failed to register as an important issue.
Hannah Macdonald, a first-year History student admitted why she didn’t vote: “I just wasn’t convinced they mattered at all.”
Others say they took a conscious decision not to vote, believing that these elections should be about local issues – which they felt uninformed on.
“I had no idea who the candidates were or what they were trying to do locally” said another first-year student.
After the results Levene was keen to emphasise how his win, which alongside other Labour victories around York have given them control over the Council, is indicative of the direction in which the country is going.
Levene’s win was reflected across England where Labour gained 800 seats, well above their official predictions.