Apathy and annoyance of voters in ward with one of the lowest election turnouts

It’s pouring with rain in Parson Cross and no one is in the mood to talk politics.

By Lucy Ashton
Monday, 20 May, 2019, 12:00
Barbara Ritson

The neighbourhood is in the Southey ward, which saw one of the lowest turnouts in the local elections – just 21 per cent of people bothered to vote.

Voter numbers in Sheffield hit one of the lowest levels in at least a decade at this year’s local elections at just 31.2 per cent across the city.

Brenda Gannon and Pat Smith

There’s a mix of apathy and annoyance about both local and national politics here, with even die-hard voters feeling let down and disconnected.

Barbara Ritson, aged 86, is at a lunch club at Parson Cross Community Development Forum. She has voted her whole life.

“My mother would turn in her grave if I didn’t vote,” she says. “I’ve never not voted but I feel our vote on Brexit didn’t count for anything. We don’t have any opinion.

“I like my local councillors but I still did a protest vote and voted for a party I don’t normally vote for. It was definitely a protest because of Brexit rather than the council.

Parson Cross shops

“My grandad was a big trade union man and we were brought up talking politics around the table but families don’t have dinner together any more, we don’t live in that sort of a world.

“My two children know it’s their responsibility to vote and they always have. You can’t change anything if you are not prepared to vote.”

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Her lunch partner Joyce Wilson, 89, didn’t vote. “I’ve voted my whole life but I’m so disillusioned this time.

“They spout about us living in a democracy yet not one listens to their constituents, all politicians have the same attitude and all act the same. I’ve lost all trust in them.

“My vote is valuable to me and I treat it as a currency and they didn’t earn it this year. It did feel strange not voting but I feel I had to express my opinion and not voting was the only way to do it.

“They shoved leaflets through my door but I wanted someone to knock on my door so I could express my views and get them to understand.”

Brenda Gannon, 84, and Pat Smith, 83, both voted. Brenda says: “I always vote. My husband watches politics every day and it drives me mad but I vote every time I get a polling card through.”

Outside a mum is hurrying to nursery with her child in a pram and is unwilling to stop for too long in the torrential rain. “I’m 36 and I have never voted,” she admits. “I have no interest and if I’m honest, I just don’t get it.”

Peter Foster, 56, stops to chat under the shelter of a row of shops. “I do vote normally but I didn’t vote in these elections because I have lost all respect for the way they are handling Brexit. I feel the same about all the parties. I don’t see any difference between the national government and local council, they all pee in the same pot.”

Seventy-year-old John Craig has always voted but doesn’t know what can be done to encourage more people. “My son lives in Australia and you have to vote there by law or you get a fine. I don’t understand why people don’t vote. I do change which party I vote for but it’s your democractic right. To me, not voting is just like not bothering.”

And one woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, cast her vote in an unusual way. “I didn’t vote because I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. I’ve already cast my vote for Jehovah.”