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Do mayoral elections work? evidence from London

Curtice, J.K. and Seyd, B. and Thomson, K. (2008) Do mayoral elections work? evidence from London. Political Studies, 56 (3). pp. 653-678. ISSN 0032-3217

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Abstract

The introduction of directly elected mayors potentially represents a major reform of the operation of local government in Britain. Drawing upon survey data collected at the time of the first two London mayoral elections, this article considers whether such elections necessarily deliver the advantages claimed for them by their advocates. It addresses three questions: (1) What was the basis of public support for the new institutions; (2) who participated in the London elections, and why; and (3) what accounts for voting behaviour in the London elections? In particular we examine how far the election of a single-person executive helps provide people with a clear choice, encourages citizens to vote on the qualities of individual candidates rather than on their party affiliation, and motivates people to vote on distinctively local issues as opposed to national ones. Our results suggest that while mayoral elections deliver some of the advantages claimed for them, they may be less successful on others. The extent to which directly elected mayors enhance the local electoral process is thus doubtful.