The forgotten election… By Duncan Reynolds
The local elections were very disappointing for me for a number of reasons. Firstly I was disappointed by the fact that only the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens put up a candidate for my local ward in West Oxfordshire. When I first saw this I put it down to austerity and the cost until I started to dig a little deeper, “There is no financial deposit required to stand in local elections (unlike a General Election).”… With no financial commitment it seems odd that a major party such as Labour would not even wish to try and give representation on a local level to their supporters. In tough times of austerity and economic downturn, many people have many different views on what is best for society, surely more choice at an election is desirable for our democracy?
Secondly the severe lack of canvassing in my ward was very disturbing. Not one of the candidates, (yes it is name and shame time) Harriet Kopinska for the Greens, Derrick Millard for Conservatives and Geoffrey Walton for the Liberal Democrats, knocked on my door, posted me a leaflet or put up a poster on any local noticeboards. I searched the social-networking sites (Facebook, Twittter and Blogs) and again found nothing on the upcoming election or anything policy-related for any of the candidates. When I was at the Polling Station I even asked a few other people what their experience of canvassing had been and I heard the same thing “nothing at all”, “I wish there had been some” etc. I hoped that maybe my house had been invisible to the door-knockers, or my post-box somehow not seen by those who put leaflets through them but alas no, everyone in my area has had the same experience. One of the contributors to this site, Matthew S. Dent , is standing as a Labour and Co-operative candidate in Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe and I have been following his blog closely throughout the campaigning period and his updates on policy, public opinion and the weather, amongst other things, have been near daily. It’s a shame no one entered into the spirit of democracy in my ward as well.
However I will give credit where it is due. My dissatisfaction at the lack of canvassing led to me to e-mail the local offices of the parties concerned to ask for details on how I could directly contact the candidates or receive some information on what they stood for. Harriet Kopinska e-mailed me directly the same day saying how she was surprised that I had not been canvassed by a “big” party and briefly outlined local policy. However there was one area of her e-mail which caught my attention, for not wholly positive reasons, she said this election would allow me to “express your dissatisfaction with the major parties and/or concern over environmental issues/social justice when you vote”. I was surprised that the primary reasons she thought someone would vote for Greens would be as a protest vote rather than because they have ideological similarities. To me that showed the narrow ambitions of the party, if only at a council level – where in theory they should do best as people tend to be more concerned about their local environment than at a national or global level. I also e-mailed the Conservative Witney Office (I had high expectations as Witney is David Cameron’s constituency) and I was not disappointed by a reply within 15 minutes from a Miss Emma Liston with a copy of Derrick Millard’s campaign leaflet. She said that I should have received it; maybe all the people at the Polling Station at the same time as me were the ones who had not got it… I e-mailed the Liberal Democrat Central Office and Geoffrey Walton’s company email address and all I received was an automated response saying thank you for my email from Nick Clegg, so I was left wanting by Liberal Democrats.
So to conclude, this local election has been a little forgettable for me, just as it appears the candidates have appeared to forget about the electorate.