Sunday, 19 June 2011

Local Elections - Now there's a good idea

The Liberal Democrats had a pretty disastrous set of local elections. It would be fair to say that the Party has suffered the biggest setback in it's history. The results from the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament were unrelentingly grim.

For a party which based a lot of it's success and appeal on it's local Government base, it may be catastrophic. There is no law in politics that says parties will recover. More often than not, parties, especially smaller one come and go. The reasons for the drubbing are fairly obvious, and without going into details - the words tuition fees, Nick Clegg and coalition spring to mind.

But, here's the problem, while some of the electorate had taken upon themselves to give the Liberal Democrats a good kicking - it very rarely had anything to do with local government, their local council or the merits of the candidates in their ward. Now fun though it is, it not very healthy for democracy. It is already pretty evident that the value placed on democracy in the UK is rather low. Now it is treated like a vote for Anne Widdecombe on strictly come dancing or for Jedward on the X-Factor.

Very few people have any real idea about how elections in the UK operate. The answer is on the whole, not terribly well. Most elections aren't really contested. Sure, two or three of the parties usually make the effort to ensure they have a candidate but few of them will even put out a leaflet and even fewer do so in the expectation that they might win ! All the parties struggle to find candidates - especiually ones that want to be elected and are reasonably competent. More often than not candidates agree to stand only after reassurance that they won't be elected

The actual mechanics of election campaigning are quite onerous - imagine if you were going to stand for election - you have to design, get printed, pay for and then deliver your own leaflet. You are likely to need between 2,000 10,000 copies. On when you have delivered it will you discover that perhaps 1 in 5 voters might have looked at it before it was binned ! That's if it is well designed and eye catching. Optimistically, some of those reading it might be interested in what you have to say and even remember it or have their vote influenced by it. Don't get to technical though, otherwise voters switch off. So what do you have in most places - people who don't want to be elected trying to appeal to people who aren't interested and who are almost deliberately ignorant of the facts.

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