Party politics has no place in local government
I have a problem with the recent local elections. I’m probably a little embittered because I missed an entire night’s sleep as I waited for the North Norfolk District Council results to be declared.
But that is not the chief reason for my problem with this local demonstration of democracy.
In essence, I am heartily sick of candidates at town and district council level being affiliated to political parties.
I cannot see the point of it.
As a journalist, I accept that it makes for more stories, as results at local level can be used to indicate shifts in the wind direction nationally.
But as an elector, it is an insult to my intelligence to present me with a collection of candidates who do not have the courage to stand on their own convictions, but prefer to hide behind a political party.
What I want to know is how a candidate is going to tackle the ultra-local issues that affect my community. I want to know their record of making a positive difference.
But what I got was a pile of junk mail masquerading as election leaflets. It told me much more about what the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems had achieved nationally than what the candidate would do locally.
One of the candidates in my ward is someone who I know works tirelessly to serve my community. But she, like almost every other candidate, chose to affiliate herself with a party that I cannot support.
So she did not get my vote.
Across North Norfolk, the curse of party politics triggered a remarkable swing from a big Lib Dem majority on the district council to a big Tory majority.
Having run the council pretty well for eight years, the Lib Dems were punished at the polls for the sins of their national leaders, whose part in the coalition government has not gone down well with voters.
In the process, some very good councillors with their communities at heart were tossed aside. Their experience will be missed.
If they were independent candidates, they would not have been at the mercy of such a shift of public opinion. And the district would have stood to benefit from their service for more years.
Unfortunately, of the 48 councillors elected for North Norfolk, only one is an independent.
It seems that the candidates have forgotten the fantastic contribution made over many years by independents like Tom Moore, Cyril Durrant and Vera Woodcock.
Their consciences were never compromised by having to adhere to the party whip. They could simply make decisions on the basis of what they believed to be the best for their communities.
On top of this, at the North Norfolk count, party affiliation created cliques of people who clustered together on the basis of the colours of their rosettes.
Without the rosettes and the party partiality, they would have been able to mix more naturally and share the love.
Meanwhile, on the social networking site Twitter, candidates seemed to be more interested in gloating over the failings of rival parties than making any sensible comments about what was happening.
If affiliation to parties was removed, "yah, boo, sucks" politics would be kicked out of our town halls and left as the preserve of Parliament.
posted on 11 May 2011 10:45 bySteve Downes