Just a short note to jog people’s memories today. Today is the day of the local council elections, in which those of us in Walsall (and many other places) get to vote for our local councils. Here in Walsall, it looks very much like the Conservatives, who’ve had control of the council for the last twelve years, may lose to the Labour group.
I’m not about to tell anyone who they should vote for – I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a hairy old left-winger. I just implore you to take part in the democratic process and exercise your right to select who represents you. If you don’t take part in this, you can’t, in all honesty, whinge about the result. Polling stations are open until 10pm, and you don’t need your polling card to vote.
Staying home is also a victory for the extremists and nutters, whose supporters always turn out. As The Mushroom pointed out in a great post earlier today, not voting isn’t just a non vote. It’s far more grave than that.
I can’t pretend to be optimistic about the future of Walsall’s Council. I loathe the current incumbents with a passion, and we desperately need a change, although with budgets already set and a government neutering local authorities, there is, in reality, very little a new administration can do to change course quickly.
I welcomed the publication of the Labour manifesto for Walsall, the only party to do so, but I’m concerned about the woolliness of much of it and am curious to see how it may be delivered in the current climate. I also remain concerned that the tribalism and self interest that is the hallmark of all Walsall politics – Conservative, Liberal and Labour – does not make itself evident again. The last Labour bout of this rendered them unelectable and led to the destruction and shambling neglect of the last twelve years.
Labour in Walsall also seem to have a PR problem, don’t ‘get’ the internet (except for one or two isolated examples) and are hostile to questioning. Since one of their first intentions is to attack thee press office, expect and administration that won’t be big on communication.
On the other hand, the Conservatives have been vague, laissez-faire and seem little bothered about their prospective defeat. The arrogance which has marked their rule – the despised ring road, successive blunders and failed deals, the destruction of social care – seems to be something that they don’t particularly care about.
The important thing is to take part in the process and hold our elected members to what they say. Call them on their promises. Make their lives difficult. Demand progress checks on issues that matter. Make these representatives understand that they work for you, not the other way around. That guy whose face you only see at election time? Make him face his responsibilities and earn his allowance.
Rest assured that I – and I’m sure other commentators in Walsall – won’t rest up. I’ll be watching what happens very carefully, and will not hesitate to speak out, no matter how rattled it makes the incumbents.
Today, you have a choice. Go and make it, take part, and think about it carefully. I thoroughly expect the usual howls of derision from those who assert that the process is pointless and makes no difference. It isn’t, and it does.
This is your chance to select who represents you. Take it.