Video: Local Elections and Mayoral Referendums

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BBC political correspondent Mike Sergeant told journalists at a CoJo Wednesday lunchtime session that there is potentially a big change coming to the way local government operates in England.

As ten of the country's biggest cities are voting to decide whether they want to elect their own mayor directly, he said the key point of interest is "where we are with our political culture".

"Is the party still the dominant way in which people engage with politics, or are independent figures going to start to play more of a role?"

BBC Yorkshire political editor Len Tingle said that, given the potential significance of the mayoral referendums, the surprising thing is how little effort seems to be going into the campaigns.

You would be wrong to put too much emphasis on the campaigns of individuals, according to the BBC's editor of political research and analysis, David Cowling.

There was much talk when George Galloway won a seat in the UK Parliament in an unexpected by-election victory that this ushered in a new era of independent politicians. David Cowling thinks that view is very much mistaken. 

Despite the expenses scandals, an inconclusive general election and all the talk about the established parties being 'rubbish and held in total contempt', in 2008 there were 1,500 councillors in England representing parties other than Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem. In 2011 that had fallen by 21%.

"People will give you rabbit, rabbit, rabbit for endless hours about how contemptible (the established parties) are. Blow me, who do they vote for? Those self-same parties," David Cowling said.

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