Local politics

If you abhor politics in all its forms look away now. This is an edited repost from 2012 – written at a time when the illusion my vote could change things, lots of things, had been bent out of shape. It might help your decision to click (or not) if you know I live in the UK. An interesting footnote (in a post without footnotes) the deceased, well-respected local personality and ex-MP referred to towards the end became a tad less well-respected after this post appeared. It's entirely-unrelated to this rambling post, you'll be pleased to hear.

Sit down, I hurt my back on Thursday so I've time to write whilst I'm recovering. I'm in a foul mood too.

I've voted Liberal Democrat all of my life. Technically speaking I've voted for the Liberal Party too. I am, depending how you slice life, currently in my mid-forties and thus old enough to remember the merger with the SDP. I once voted Green, when everyone else was talking about doing so and then subsequently did. I've missed voting maybe twice, apathy is an extremely powerful force. I am, ultimately, uniquely qualified to talk about my voting past in a way no-one else can.

To prove a point, this:

Why have I voted Liberal Democrat (LibDem) all of my life?

I actually believe in the party's central principle of fairness, equality, of not pandering to vested interest. Before you ask, I've read up on their principles, their national, regional and local manifestos. I reckon I'm a social Liberal Democrat with occasional leanings towards the Orange Book creed (or whatever you call it.) That explanation might be enough for you, most folk, however here goes…

I first voted for the party because my mum and dad did. Upbringing has a major effect on character and aside from my many character flaws (see my wife, children, cats, friends, colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances, etc. for the big list) I think I'm a fair advert for the way my parents lived their lives. When I stopped voting LibDem because mum and dad did I started voting thus because I made a decision to.

Two party politics fails to address the essential problem with a system centred around, er … two party politics. Extremes. We bounce from once set of divisive policies to another, always ultimately at the expense of the very people adding their 'X' to the ballot paper. People believe change is good, so vote for the opposite party to the one they believe is causing their woes. There's never been a middle, sane, ground.

My LibDem votes, while not exactly wasted, didn't seem to me to make much of a difference to my day-to-day life, but I lived in hope.

And then, before the seemingly-interminable preamble to the last General Elections hit the mainstream media, there was sanity. An alternative that was germinating in the minds of the public. The Liberal Democrats. My chance to make a difference had arrived! Voting was no longer enough, I wanted to join the party and, in a small way, help out locally. So I did. Join. Helping out? We weren't given the opportunity…

Now, the local party when I was a member was and, in my opinion still is, extraordinarily badly run. They've missed pretty much every opportunity to  engage with voters when opportunity's there staring them in the face,  knocking on their door and (insert other metaphors for the bleedin' obvious  here.)

Social media and the web, these days, can play a massive part in helping the general public shape their views on politics. A few clicks and, if interested parties have done their jobs, opinions can be formed.

Knowledge, as they say, is power. The links to Heywood & Middleton's LibDem party site, for instance, lead to its host's holding page. Pisspoor.

So … The recent local election candidate had no leaflets published, and had, along with every other candidate/councillor/human being zero presence on even the local party's web site. I asked her for her 'manifesto' for local politics and, receiving none (though she welcomed questions,) suggested she complete a pitch on an independent local news site.

At the time of asking only 5 of the 19 LibDem candidates had 'pitches' (brief bios, manifestos) published. Not even the party leader's husband, I believe an ex-councillor and once-aspiring MP had one! Pitiful. Last time I looked there were 7, including our local candidate. Yay, she listened! Here's her 'pitch.' It's actually worth a read and converted me from being 'not bothered' about voting to, well, I voted for her. What else could I do but place my mark in the 'right' place?

This ward had 175 LibDem votes, down from last year's 511.  Not a single LibDem candidate got elected. There's 5 left in the town. Obviously related to the backlash against the national party, but testament to the  obscurity of the candidate and the running of the campaigns. It's a shame, but obvious even to me that things would go this way. Last year's candidate, by the way, is now in London, apparently pursuing a career that, I suspect, would have taken him away even if elected as a local councillor here.

Here's the thing … Why should I, as a concerned amateur, have to point out the obvious … that publicity has a direct influence on the electability of every candidate. Knowing nothing about someone doesn't exactly endear one to them.

So, I did my best, I got involved. Where did it get me?

My integrity and party loyalty was, on Twitter, called into question by the local Liberal Democrat party leader. She called me a liar for alluding to the local party's previous inadequacies, accused me of using an email she sent me (detailing the candidate's political CV) against the party. I'd already thanked her for it and used nothing from it. Nothing.

She accused me of not being a true Liberal Democrat, of using abusive language … and mentioned to Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Party President, that I'm a disenchanted ex-member of the party. That last bit is indeed true. Very true.

Tim Farron, by the way, is very, very effective in his use of the media, is approachable as @timfarron on Twitter and comes across as being deeply committed to his party's success. He appears to understand the modern world. To my chagrin I voted for his opponent, Susan Kramer: a candidate unencumbered by the demands of also being an MP, and endorsed by more LibDem people that I respected than Tim. If I then believed she'd do a better job than Tim is doing now she'd have been utterly awesome! (Yes, I'm struggling to seamlessly inject an unjustified Kung Fu Panda reference here.) But, and apologies for the convoluted nature of this paragraph, that's that digression over…

My disenchantment is pretty much all the local party's fault but, of course, the national party's failure to pull the plug on this unholy alliance with the Conservatives has played a big part. I placed a bet that they'd see sense and provoke a General Election due before the end of 2011. But no, I lost my stake. Despite that I still vote Liberal Democrat.

Now an attack on my political record is a bit rich coming from someone who initially stood as a candidate for the Conservatives and changed parties after her election. It wouldn't have stopped me voting for her though, even as an aspiring MP… People change their views though, it's what reasonable people do, adapting to changing circumstances. Most people though, essentially the great unwashed multitudes of sheep, stick with something all their lives because of some misguided notion that, eventually, 'their' party will generate a utopian ideal specifically tailored to them.

So, back to where I started. I'm proud to have voted Liberal/Liberal Democrat all my life. I voted for (Sir) Cyril Smith and, when Liz Lynne was parachuted into Rochdale from 'the south' despite my obvious 'safe seat' reservations I voted for her too. 'Big' Cyril gave his recommendation.

I've voted for LibDem party candidates at every single opportunity, in my past and here too … wherever eligible to, I have. So, should I vote Liberal Democrat at the next Council elections? I believe it's the local party leader's turn for re-election.

My gut feeling is no, I won't vote for her, not in a month of Thursdays! Why the hell should I?! Maybe, if she did me a favour and changed parties, it'd make things so much easier.

Whatever, we've got a year for her to change my mind.

Ok, enough of this politics crap, I really don't like its nasty taste. I do though reserve the right to blog/post about local/national/international politics at any point in the future.

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