Written to reflect on local election campaigning in Winstanley, Wigan
Who bothers to vote these days? Probably not many when it comes to voting for councillors. One leaflet through the letterbox in the two weeks before the vote. Labour. Wigan is a Labour stronghold, and although for a few years we had ‘Community Action Party’ members standing for election in Winstanley and getting council seats, they now seem to have disappeared. So now we need to know who we can vote for, and what they stand for.
How many people look online to check out their options in the upcoming local elections? I did; in the ward where I live, we have three people standing for councillor. Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives and Unionists (What? Unionists in Wigan?).Of these three, two have put a short statement online, one has provided a picture. Conservatives with Unionists don’t make it clear to the people of Winstanley what they stand for or what they intend to change. Similar lack of enthusiasm was noted in the local paper, where prospective councillors were named but nothing explained about their aspirations. As the paper put it, the upcoming elections do not seem an exciting prospect.
The one leaflet that we have
Labour seems to tell us that the soaring bills are due to over a decade of Conservative government. The first part is true, the second is partly true.
BUT what can a local council do about that? Not much, as they don’t have a say in national politics. They could try to help lower income households by not increasing or even reducing council tax, but alas a 3 percent rise has been implemented.
That doesn’t help the people of Winstanley or Wigan. But they don’t mention that in the leaflet. So the strategy is to oppose a national policy that they can’t influence, without offering a change in local politics to help people. And if someone falls for it and votes for Labour on this basis, they may well feel disillusioned in two years’ time when it comes to national elections, and decide Labour was the wrong choice! Clever policy Labour!
But at least Labour had something to say. The Lib Dem-hopeful doesn’t have much to offer and the Conservative-hopeful nothing at all it seems.
Who goes to vote?
Voting forms are sent out a month in advance. An A5 size bit of hard paper, very easy to displace or even throw out with old paper when the blue bin gets emptied. There have been no advertisements on radio or television that I have seen or heard, no billboards, no canvassing door-to-door or in the local shopping precinct (by comparison, before the Brexit referendum vote we even had UKIP stopping people in the street by the local shops).
So one little piece of paper and no other reminders. Many people have busy lives and are not going to remember the date (I myself went voting a week early once). There used to be some election stories in a local paper that came through the door free every week, the Wigan Reporter, but that paper has not been seen in Winstanley for years.
If you manage to remember there is an election on, you could be forgiven for feeling it is not important. After all, if the local press and media don’t feel it is worth mentioning, the prospective councillors don’t feel it is worth canvassing and letting people get to know them and what they stand for, it feels like not a big deal and you may as well just get on with your busy life.
A low turnout is expected (local elections tend to have around 30 percent turnout the best of times), many people don’t have a clue what the different voting options are or what a vote may achieve.
If someone goes to vote, it will either be a vote of “well I always pick that party” or “let’s try something else and hope they stand for what I want”. Neither of these are pro-active options, but local politicians don’t help us be proactive!
So why even bother voting?
Because our ancestors fought for the right to vote? Well yes, there is that.
But more so to let the present government know how you feel.
Do you approve of a covid death rate higher than most developed countries, caused by the fact borders were closed late, quarantine implemented too late for travellers coming into the country, nursing homes not being protected, mask mandates being dropped when covid is still present?
Do you approve of the decimation of Britain’s human rights and the government’s powers increasing (the police, crime and sentencing bill, the nationality and borders bill, the elections bill, the online safety bill)? No decent cap on energy prices, food banks becoming a way of life, billions of covid mismanagement money being written off, the NHS being seriously underfunded and short of staff?
Our elected government broke their own laws and claimed they didn’t know them, while we had to stay away from dying loved ones and were not able to hold their hands at the final moment?
Our country’s national debt has more than doubled since the Conservatives came to power in spite of their ‘austerity’ measures, and this was before the pandemic began.
Do you want Channel 4 being sold off after they criticised the government, the Church of England being chastised for speaking out on human rights and ‘meddling in politics’, even though the archbishop is a member of the House of Lords and therefore has to have a political opinion?
If you want this country’s values to be reinstated, and want Britain to become the great country with a proud track record for human rights and healthcare that it once was, you NEED to let the government know how you feel.
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