One of the long-standing opinions is that in a General Election independent voices are squeezed out of the picture, a voice in the wilderness so to speak. Almost everyone will go to their local polling station on Thursday 7th May with one thought uppermost in their mind. Voters will be choosing their Member of Parliament, and by extension stating which Government they would prefer.
This is a generalisation, but I think it will be true in the overwhelming number of cases. Local elections are being held on the same day, and it certainly used to be true that votes cast in a council election would invariably be for the same party as was chosen for the Parliamentary election.
Add in the increased turnout, likely double or more of what is normally cast in local elections, and it becomes obvious that any independent, who also has to contend with a backdrop of blanket coverage for the national parties, is going to struggle to make an impact.
Cllr Paul Van Looy should be facing a fight to the death in his St Luke’s ward. Whilst Labour are giving it a go, both the Conservative and UKIP candidates seem to be asleep. Neither the Greens, nor the Liberal Democrats, have selected (or announced anyway); this is going to be a late show for them.
The Tories made a big show of announcing their slate in the East last year, and by selecting a Rochford Parish Councillor (James Cottis) they were making a statement. Judging by the amount of campaign time Cllr Cottis has put in since selection I do not think it was of the “you really matter to us” variety. Either James is a poor campaigner, or the Conservatives really have given up on St Luke’s.
Roger Weaver’s fanfare was about as far as it got for UKIP in St Luke’s too. He has perhaps been hampered by having a local party more willing to fight amongst themselves than to take it to the opposition; Paul must be enjoying that spectacle.
I fear that it might be an over-used phrase in the coming weeks, but the campaign in St Luke’s is (for the present at least) a two-horse race. It is Phillips versus Van Looy; big party candidate or independent.
In any other year Paul Van Looy would be the favourite. Elected with a handsome majority, an incumbent who is a member of the new, and popular, administration. However.
Jes Phillips, a young mum, has the benefit of a national campaign running aside her own personal one. Usually reluctant residents will come out, and whilst little thought will be given to her campaign, she will be the beneficiary of a vote to banish Cameron from Number Ten.
It promises to be an intriguing contest ….