Today was my first time voting in the United Kingdom for the local county council elections (Hampshire, Chandler’s Ford). I’m the kind of person who thinks that voting is my democratic duty. Of course, I did have to come to terms with the different UK election system. The main difference is that in a county is divided in districts and those are divided in wards. I live in the ward of Chandler’s Ford. In a ward you choose one candidate and ‘winners takes all’. This has some striking effects for the dynamics of local politics. In the Netherlands there is fierce billboard competition before the local elections. Here, there is almost nothing. In the UK I primarily received folders and flyers. As only the winners takes all political parties who probably can’t win in a ward don’t even bother to send some information. This, for example, was the case for the Green Party and Labour in my ward. I find that quite disappointing, especially for such a big political party as Labour. The other three, UKIP, Conservatives and LibDems did bring pamphlets. They all have a chance of winning here, I suspect that those parties wouldn’t do this in local wards where they’re behind. Personally I think it is a political party’s moral obligation to inform the public, even with a district/ward system. Furthermore, how are you ever going to grow if you don’t go for it. Mind you, from own personal experience in the Netherlands, where I served in the local council for the SP, I do understand that a ‘full-on’ campaign takes a lot of people. People a party perhaps doesn’t have.
Now for the thoughts about the parties:
The Conservatives sent quite a lot of pamphlets. I did not like their focus on taxes and money. They remind me too much of the Dutch VVD: no vote for them. The Liberal Democrats had a slightly better narrative. They remind me of the Dutch liberal democrats of D66. Also in their national desire to help fairly right-to-the-center politics to a majority. The final reason why I did not vote for them is two-fold: one is that I don’t like their ‘negative’ campaign slogan “vote for us to keep the conservatives away, and Labour can’t win anyway”. The second was their comment that they didn’t like the politisation of local politics and then went on to defend the coalition government (LibDems+Conservatives), but attack the county (Conservatives). I don’t like such opportunistic politics (although I acknowledge that politics always will have some of that). No vote for the LibDems. Then the UKIP. I’ve always thought that on a national level Farage had very good point with regard to the EU. Actually, a lot of these points coincide with the SP which I supported in the Netherlands. However, on a local level I think the good points have become lost a bit. No UKIP. Labour resembles the Dutch PvdA. And that immediately is my main objection. Apart from the lack of information, which I find unacceptable from such a large political party, I’m not sure Labour would really make a difference from right-to-the-center policies. Some of the retoric, both local and national (Milliband) sounds OK, but as I’ve seen so often in the Netherlands: if social-democrats come to power ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. Hmm, well, I’ve crossed out everyone then? Almost. I didn’t hear much from the Green Party (a definite negative), so I had to venture out for myself on websites, and Twitter. My main conern was the one I had with the Dutch GroenLinks: good ecological standpoints but a liberal socio-economic agenda. A Green Party candidate in Fareham informed me:
I’m still not totally convinced. Like the Dutch SP I think socio-economic issues should have more emphasis. My party would probably be a combination of TUSC and the Green Party (no, Mr. Gove, not a Marxist party :-P). However, as I was not going to do ‘strategic’ voting, the final choice was fairly straightforward. I voted Joe Cox of the Green Party. Don’t know much about him, though. Google doesn’t bring much either. Maybe next time he should at least have some sort of blog or facebook account?