Thursday, 26 April 2012

Give Us Back Our Local Elections!

Local candidates are going door to door canvassing, and their supporters are delivering a small forest's worth of leaflets, all to get a few hundred people to turn out and put an X against their name on May 3rd.  Some of them are discussing local issues, while some seem to be avoiding them.

I haven't heard from Labour or the Lib Dems yet, but the UKIP and Conservative candidates in Hedge End have been willing to engage on local issues in the pages of this blog.

The leaders of Eastleigh's Lib Dems and Conservatives are locking their electoral horns in the local press over local issues: the wisdom of buying the Ageas (Rose) Bowl, and the business case for demolishing the civic offices and moving to new accommodation in the centre of Eastleigh.

Yet all three major Westminster party machines seem intent on turning our local elections into a massive opinion poll on their national policies.

Labour's party election broadcast (presented, admittedly, by the reliable and knowledgeable Professor Robert Winston) is all about the NHS (the clue is in the 'N' - it's a national, not a local issue).  If you missed it on TV, it's available on i-player here.

The Lib Dems still think it's a good idea to have Nick Clegg in their broadcast, despite opinion polls showing that three quarters of us think he is doing a bad job.  Only last year he claimed "Localism is in our DNA", but here he is concentrating almost entirely on national issues of tax cuts and pensions.

David Cameron, described this week by one of his own MPs as an "arrogant posh boy with no passion to understand the lives of others", does at least start and end his broadcast with the claim that Tory Councils give "value for money services" (I guess no-one has told him that Tory Hampshire has been creating new cabinet posts while cutting youth services).  But the meat in his sound-bite sandwich is all about the national economy, interest rates, taxes and apprenticeships.

This hi-jacking of the local elections presents voters with a dilemma.   National politicians will be interviewed on national television on election light claiming any slight increase in vote, or number of councillors, as an endorsement of what they are doing nationally.  And if you think that the Coalition's flogging off of the NHS to Richard Branson is the single most unforgivable breaking of several election promises, it must be tempting to vote Labour to stick up for Robert Winston.  On the other hand if you vote for one of the coalition parties you can be sure they will take any good news on May 3rd as an endorsement for their national policies.

Local elections should be about electing local candidates to represent local people.  If the national parties are going to insist on using them as expensive, publicly funded opinion polls on national issues, perhaps the answer is to take the parties out of local politics and if you have a good, local, independent candidate, to give them your vote.

Relevant links:
Conservative candidate Hedge End St John's ward
Conservative candidate Hedge End St Helen's ward
UKIP candidate Hedge End
Labour party election broadcast
Lib Dem party election broadcast
Conservative party election broadcast


  1. Eh? What independent candidate do you have standing in Hedge End?

    We have an Independent standing in Eastleigh Central but nothing through the door yet - only party to leaflet or canvass Newtown have been the Lib Dems.

    In fact today we had the usual 'Labour can't win here, they always come last' leaflet although of course last year they came second with 24% not the 10% claimed by the Lib Dems...Keith Trenchard is also described as 'a long serving councillor'!!!

  2. It's all about demand generation, Stephen! There are lots of independents, some ex Lib Dem ones standing for Botley Parish Council.

  3. This has been a problem for decades Keith, driven as much by the media I feel as the political parties.

    I've not seen anything yet from Labour or UKIP, here in St Johns, but I recall that UKIP revealed that their candidate in the Shamblehurst election was a "paper candidate". Presumably they are doing the same thing again...?

    I agree. Wherever there's a good independent, vote for them.

    In the absence of an independent, vote tactically...!

  4. By Tactically (Code word) Ray means Paul Redding

    1. Well, if the objective is to reduce the Lib Dem majorities in Eastleigh and Hedge End so they don't continue to have it all their own way, a good tactic for this years Borough elections would be to vote Conservative.

      Shock/Horror. I agree with the Lib Dems when they suggest that provided the Conservatives aren't allowed a majority, certainly not a large majority like Emperor Ken has at Hampshire County Council, the Tories can't do much harm locally. Yes folks, I'm as fed-up with the Tory majority at HCC as I am the Lib Dem majority in Eastleigh. I like hung-Parliaments and hung Council's as it forces politicians to work together. Or to try to...!

      But I also recognise that the Tories can potentially do a lot of good in Eastleigh and Hedge End, by working with all the other opposition Councillors (incl the independents!), to keep those pesky Lib Dems and the Holy Houseian Empire in check...!

      I know the idea of voting Tory is anathema to many people, me too if I'm honest, but we are talking about a tactical vote at the moment, to counter the Lib Dems excesses.

      As Eric Pickles nicely summed it up a couple of years ago, the idea is to "Vote Tory not be Tory"...

      I'm comfortable with that idea.
      But who am I actually going to vote for this year....?

      It is quite difficult for me, as I had intended to stand against these candidates and campaign against them, but now I have to vote for one of them....!

      All will be revealed in due course.
      Keep watching my blog...