Friday, November 16, 2012

I am part of a rather small minority... and why I'm proud of the Liberal Democrats

Yes, I wandered out into the fog yesterday evening, down the very dark lane (the street light has been out for more than nine months now) towards a distant glow.

On arrival, I entered the Church Room, for that was the inviting point of light, and said hello to the presiding officer and his assistant, the same pair who had been on duty last year. It would seem that my campaigning in 2011 was rather more effective than that of the PCC candidates, as turnout was down from over 50% to a rather depressing 11.2%. That means that 24 good citizens out of 214 had decided to participate, plus those who had used their postal ballot.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceI presented my postal ballot, completed and sealed in the correct order, asked the presiding officer about the fiendishly complex looking game they were playing, and left.

So, how did I vote, and why?

I didn't give the UKIP candidate a preference. Having not heard or seen anything from him, and drawing on years of experience of his party's view of the world, I really couldn't see how the European Union is at fault for policing levels in Creeting St Peter - I assume that he believes this to be the case. I also note his claim that he isn't whipped by his party in his role as a county councillor - interesting because I imagine it would be difficult to whip a group of one!

I didn't cast a preference for Tim Passmore, the Conservative candidate, either. Frankly, Tim represents the very worst sort of 'entitlement queen', appointed to various remunerated posts by his mates on the County Council without any significant demonstration of merit or ability. Is he qualified to run our police force, or merely to bank public money?

And, after the usual appalling, hand wringing, performance at Wednesday by our District Councillor, I find the incompetence of our local Conservatives to be matched only by the treachery and incompetence of the Conservatives at Westminster.

That left me with the Labour candidate, Jane Basham, and the independent, David Cocks. Labour were campaigning across the county, I was told. Not in Creeting St Peter, they weren't. I just don't believe that Labour have any interest in the rural parts of the county, and thoroughly expect what policing resources we have to be withdrawn in favour of Ipswich and Lowestoft. Combined with the typical Labour hypocrisy of claiming support for policies that they have always attacked when proposed by us, I just couldn't bring myself to vote for her.

Think of it as payback for Labour's disgraceful campaign in East Dulwich in 2006 (I hope that you're pleased, Jeremy Fraser...).

And so, with a heavy heart, I voted for the independent. He doesn't wildly convince me, but he doesn't have an obvious link to a political party that has lied to me recently, he comes without much baggage, and he does at least give the impression that he cares.

So, was it worth it? Only time will tell, although I'd be keen to see the Liberal Democrats commit to abolishing the post in our manifesto for the next General Election. Not because of the turnout, but because it encourages candidates to run under false pretences, giving electors unrealistic expectations, and provides a sinecure to the mostly undeserving.

The Conservatives were fearfully keen on the idea of 'electing your local sheriff'. And then, having got what they wanted, they then ingloriously sabotaged it by failing to grant candidates a freepost, including hurdles too high for most independents to clear, and totally failing to understand how democracy really works.

It brings me back to my charge of incompetence I level at the Conservatives. Every good, or at least respectable, idea they have is holed beneath the waterline by their inability to understand how the real world works - benefit reform, Europe, constitutional reform, public services have all suffered from their inadequacy.

Meanwhile, the supposedly 'head in the clouds' Liberal Democrats continue to quietly make big changes that affect real people. The pupil premium has redistributed precious resources towards those that really need them, the enhanced personal tax allowance has put money back into the pockets of the poorest working people to make up for the inevitable squeeze that welfare reform and the deficit has wrought, the Post Office has been saved.

Compare and contrast, my friends, compare and contrast...

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