Skip to content

British local elections – an earthquake in my little town

May 5, 2018

On Thursday, an earthquake shook British politics. Well that’s what Donald Trump might have said if he lived in my little town. Not that any but a small number of people in my immediate vicinity would notice it as such, so I guess on the national Richter Scale it probably measures less than zero.

Let me explain. For those who are not familiar with our system of local government, don’t worry. Nor am I. But last time I looked, Borough Councils, for which elections took place yesterday, took care of stuff like libraries, schools, drains, refuse collection, parks and so forth. Given that they are being progressively starved of funds by central government, it’s reasonable to assume that in the near future there will be no libraries, that the parks will be turned into apartment blocks and the refuse will be collected once a year.

But no matter. There still need to be councillors, if for no other reason that we need someone to moan at about the steady erosion of public amenities.

My little town is a political backwater. It’s full of Russian oligarchs, footballer’s wives riding around in Range Rovers that look as though a giant boot has squashed them, bankers recently arrived after selling their monstrously inflated residences in London, plus a few boringly ordinary people like me. It’s the former home of Cliff Richard, John Lennon and Max Clifford. The late Max Clifford, I should add, a rogue of a kiss-and-tell publicist who, before he expired in prison, liked to park his roller outside a café just off the High Street and hold court over a cappuccino at a pavement table.

In other words, it’s prosperous. And as such, it’s about as edgy as a blancmange. It’s the kind of place where, in 1997, my announcement at a neighbour’s general election party that I’d voted Labour led the hostess to declare that I’d betrayed my country. The parliamentary constituency has returned a Conservative candidate since the Stone Age, and inevitably by a massive majority.

You can understand, therefore, why, as a person who has never voted for a Conservative in my life and probably never will, I feel that my vote is pretty irrelevant, at least in national elections. But for some reason the set-up in the local council is not as clear-cut. No party has a majority, largely because of the presence of a number of independent councillors. Which is good, because they’re probably in their seats because of who they are rather than what party they belong to.

But the traditional parties are still represented in force. Most of them are, as you would expect, Conservative. This time round, I decided to vote for a party candidate.

But who? In truth, on local issues there wasn’t much between them. They all supported repairing the potholes that are causing cars and cyclists to disappear down holes, never to be seen again. They are pro-library, and they want to replace the walk-in health centre that was burned down a couple of years ago.

Even though the candidates were campaigning on local issues, I couldn’t forget their political allegiance. The Conservatives fielded a Mr Muddyman, whose name more or less summed up the state of his party. No thank you.

Then there was the Labour candidate. Sorry Ms Franklin, no vote for you as long as your party keeps trotting out meaningless slogans like “for the many, not the few”. The fact is that if you attack the few in my town, they’ll bugger off to somewhere else where they’re better appreciated, with a dramatic effect on local employment: hundreds of cleaners, butlers, nannies, gardeners, restaurant waiters, building contractors and purveyors of luxury kitchens would be scrambling around for alternative employment. And besides, I have a far higher regard for Mo Salah than Momentum. He may be one of the few, but at least he’s bringing plenty of joy to a lot of people.

The UKIP candidate, a Mr Pope, was also a no-no.  I’d rather vote for Satan than UKIP, even if its representative does share his name with the Supreme Pontiff. Besides, electorally he was a dead man walking, so much so that after his party was virtually wiped out, a senior official compared them to the Black Death, on the grounds that they would rise again to plague us if the need arose.

The sole independent in my ward was a chap called Craig McKenzie, whose very snappy slogan was “Don’t be Vague, Vote for Craig”. Very droll, but over the heads of the oligarchs, I fear. He is the brother of Kelvin, a former editor of The Sun, a national tabloid. For good reason, I suspect he’s been in his sibling’s shadow for most of his life.

There was no Green candidate, presumably because we’re something of a lost cause, riding around in our diesels, running our clothes driers 24/7 and consuming Waitrose’s entire output of plastic bags to scoop up dog poo.

Which left one candidate – the Liberal Democrat. She was my choice, not because I’m particularly enamoured of the Lib Dems’ political platform, nor even because she seemed like a very worthy person. All of them were perfectly upstanding individuals, judging from their election literature. But I voted for Ms Macleod because her party is the only one sensible enough to realise that Brexit is a disaster in the making, and the only one promising a second referendum on our exit from the European Union.

Not that local politicians have much to do with national issues, but some ascend to the national stage, so you have to take them seriously.

Anyway, more in a sprit of protest than in the expectation that Vicky Macleod would carry the day – she was, after all fighting against the Conservative incumbent, Mr Muddyman – I gave her my vote.

The following morning, I learned that she had won by a handful of votes.

I pay little attention to the post-result squabbling between the parties – and within, in the case of Labour – about what the outcome means. These elections were as much about libraries, walk-in centres and potholes as they were about national politics, for goodness sake. The voters know that and so do the candidates and their parties.

Having said that, my vote was political, pure and simple. And the little earthquake to which I contributed made me feel that for once in my life that vote had actually counted.

It’s a strange and exhilarating feeling.

From → Politics, Social, UK

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: