At the risk of over-simplifying what has been going on, I have detected two strands to the recent campaigning, and this roughly mirrors the two simultaneous elections.
The first is on immigration and Europe, the second is on standing up for your local community. Once the ballots have been cast and counted it will be interesting to see whether voters differentiate between the two elections, and the two types of issues, when voting. I suspect that most will vote the same in both elections, which could lead to some candidates for local elections being punished for reasons beyond their control, and the same could be true for European candidates.
For instance, any stance on immigration should have little bearing when casting a vote in council elections – councillors have no say on this issue. I suspect that sending a message of dissatisfaction with national politicians will override any consideration about who is working hardest in your ward.
One could argue for a separation of elections – which would help alleviate the cross-over of issues. However, this would be expensive, and is also likely to see voter fatigued meaning whichever election came second would have trouble enervating enough to vote. As it is, I am worried about turnout.
In 2012 I was elected against a backdrop of only one in four voters in my ward actually troubling themselves enough to vote. Whilst Milton has some special circumstances that work against high turnout, it was still too low for my liking. You would think that turnout tomorrow should be an improvement on this, but I will be amazed if as many as a third actually bother. Does this matter? Well, it makes it easier for fringe and extremist candidates to prosper. What sort of mandate is it when less than one in ten registered voters have given you the thumbs up?
In the local elections the most overused word is ‘local’ itself. Of course, few actually go so far as to spell out what this means. For instance, the Milton Tory candidate describes himself as “the local choice”, yet lives the farthest from the ward of the five who are contesting this seat. You could describe this as dishonest, at the very least it is inaccurate. He also makes a number of other claims that would not stand much scrutiny. So what does he mean? He lives in the borough, but since all five candidates also do how does this make him THE local choice? It is a nonsense, designed to dupe people into thinking that he will be a better councillor than the other four.
Does it matter how local a local election candidate really is? I think not, it is more about what you stand for and what you want to do. Besides, you can have strong links to an area without actually living there. Yet, the local appellation is clearly treasured – almost all seem to strive for it. When everyone is using it, it becomes meaningless. I once had a conversation with someone who said she always voted for whoever lived closest to her. There is an impression that you have to live within the ward to really understand what is going on and to fight for your residents – yet I live about a mile from Milton, whereas the two Tory councillors live in the ward, and I have the consistently had the loudest and strongest voice for the ward.
As for immigration; it is difficult to win an argument positing the benefits of immigration at the moment. I am a fan of multiculturalism and like living in a global village, yet there is no denying that there are drawbacks. However, it is the emasculation of trade unions that have allowed employers to undermine wage structures that have caused more problems and resentment than anything else, and I fail to see how a party to the right of the Conservatives will do anything to fix this. A failure to build enough social housing in the last three decades has also brought many problems.
Europe? If being a Little Englander is more important than jobs, trade and prosperity then nothing I write will ever persuade you. You cannot turn the clock back, the Empire is gone, Britannia no longer rules the waves, and our prosperity relies on international links.