How local are party candidates for the Lambeth council elections?

Getting annoyed by timewasters

During the Brixton Hill by-election campaign a few years ago I attended a hustings organised by Brixton blog. I got pretty annoyed by how candidates from some parties used the event (and the campaign) to parrot their parties’ national and international policies.

The Socialist Party called for full communism as the solution to pretty much every local issue. For most issues UKIP demanded we leave the EU. When the UKIP candidate did address local issues her positions (such as promoting private car use) seemed very strange for a Brixton local. It turned out she lived in Clapham. I wrote a blog post about it at the time where I plotted the candidates addresses on a map relative to the ward and council boundaries.

Ranking parties on how local their candidates are

This time around the whole borough has council elections and I was wondering if a similar trend exists. Visualising each ward doesn’t seem as useful as there are 289 candidates standing so instead I ranked the parties using a simple scheme: The percentage of candidates who live in the same ward they are standing in.

Parties ranked by % of candidates who live in the ward in which they are standing
Rank Party % of Candidates who live in ward Local Candidates Total Candidates
1 The Pirate Party 100% 1 1
2 The Green Party 67% 42 62
3 Independent 50% 2 4
4 Liberal Democrats 49% 31 63
5 Labour Party 47% 30 63
6 Conservative Party 46% 29 63
7 UK Independence Party (UKIP) 35% 6 17
8 Trade Unionists and Socialists Coalition 30% 4 13
9 The Socialist Party (GB) 0% 0 3

The Pirate Party only having a single candidate obviously helps them come first. I suspect the Green Party’s high ranking reflects their decentralized local nature (Disclaimer: I’m going to vote for them). On the bottom of the list are the The Socialist Party (GB). None of the Socialist Party’s candidates live locally (in fact none of them live in Lambeth at all – they hail from Kingston, Bromley and Richmond).

UKIP and the Trade Unionists and Socialists Coalition are predictably on the bottom end of the table. The big three traditional parties sit in the middle, possibly reflecting their tendency to ‘parachute’ in candidates to wards.

The gory technical details

There should be open data on who is standing in elections right? Well if there is I couldn’t find it. Instead I downloaded the PDFs that listed candidates from Lambeth website. I used the the command line version of Tabula to extract the data. I then geocoded the data using MySociety’s fantastic MapIt API. All the data and code is on github.

Does it matter?

Obviously this isn’t a perfect way to rank parties. Although candidates stand in a particular ward they are elected to serve on the council for the entire borough. Many will live in neighbouring wards of the borough, have a reasonable idea of what local issues and be capable of doing a decent job. The results do does reflect my experience at hustings though – candidates who don’t live locally are often just parroting party policy and don’t address local concerns.

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Brixton Hill’s not so local by-election candidates

Candidates are currently campaigning for the by-election to Lambeth council in the Brixton Hill ward where I live. Previously, council elections have just passed me by, but this one has caught my attention a lot (perhaps because its January and not much else is going on).

I have been following some of the candidates on twitter and UKIP candidate Elizabeth Eirwen Jones especially stood out. Her policies in support of cars seemed totally out of touch with the area I live in. It was like she was from another planet. After checking Lambeth’s council website which lists the addresses of each candidate it turns out she does live on another planet – planet Clapham.

Not so local candidates

Where Brixton Hill council candidates live (The brixton hill ward is in blue)

Where Brixton Hill council candidates live (The Brixton Hill ward is in blue)

In fact out of the 7 candidates only the two front runners Andrew James Child (Green party) and Martin Tiedemann (Labour) live in the ward. Three of the others live in Clapham and one lives in Vauxhall. But at least they live in Lambeth – one candidate Daniel Lambert (The Socialist Party) lives many miles away in Chislehurst.

One candidate lives in Chislehurst (bottom right)

One candidate lives in Chislehurst (bottom right)

Visualising the data

I built a little website to visualise the candidate addresses using the leaflet.js javascript library that runs on top of OpenStreetMap. I got borough and ward overlays from MySociety’s MapIt project. The code is on github.