Thursday, 26 March 2015

Not The Same This Time

I have had to give the odd kick or three to specific local political party associations (encompassing just two parties so far) who have been giving the outward appearance of not treating the forthcoming elections with the significance they hold, and thus the treatment they warrant. This applies to both national and (here in Medway, Kent) local council elections.

We have never, in our history, had elections like these – particularly (and directly) at the national level. Coalition governments have been rare, especially in peacetime and away from wars on our soil. Combine that with the considerable changes that multiple television channels (including news sources) in recent years, and even more the impact of on-line access and the resultant instant dissemination of information including photographs and video, and it is easy to see that we have never been in anything all that closely resembling what exists here in Britain today.

Other changes include widespread postal voting – so Polling Day itself is less crucial than it once was – and a broader choice of mainstream political parties, with the Greens and UKIP faring a lot better now than either did at the last General Election just five years ago.

Thus it has become vitally important for all serious parties not to let any of the other steal a march and leave them behind in any way that the voting public could perceive as being less competent or with 'something to hide', rather than the haughty opinion of those within the party bubble. No doubt their opposition could seize upon these seeming deficiencies and make more out of them than might rationally be thought appropriate – but that is part of the nature of politics, and on this occasion it carries more 'political mass' than it might seem on paper. All parties need to be sharp on this!

One seemingly trivial (at least to some) point is the public announcement of selected candidates, particularly in the Medway Council elections which involve 55 elected positions in 22 wards. Only the Labour party has publicly declared all 55 of its candidates, and those have been out on the streets, getting themselves known and their party's views entrenched, for a little while now, and with the authority of being able to state that they are 'the Labour candidate[s]'.

I am aware of the limitations of spending amounts allowed per candidate, but there are ways to handle that while still putting themselves about as the ones who could act for the people if elected, or similar wording.

This is (according to some of my 'eyes and ears' around the borough) tipping the balance in places, and it is of concern to me – and rightly so – that this disservice to the selected candidates of other parties means that they are being disadvantaged on the doorstep in particular. Anyone who has been a serious candidate and has trodden the campaign trail will know what impact such things can make, even if not by all that much ordinarily – but, as I said, this is no ordinary election, especially with the 'locals' (council).

As I cannot perceive any reason for withholding this information – indeed, one of the Conservative Associations has declared its 22 candidates whereas the other two Associations have not disclosed theirs – this does seem strange, and is perhaps indicative of a malaise I have perceived within a couple of the local parties, which is a tendency to think in a somewhat introverted, 'we know best' way.

Even with the occasional (welcome) innovation, they still seem to be stuck in the ways of the past, and don't react positively when another party does something they ought to know that they too should have done. The example I have touched on here is merely an indication of the attitude problem that I suspect is more broadly thought to be one of several major issues for each of those parties of whom I am thinking here.

The excuse will be that there are other, bigger issues each party has to face. Yes; but how much effort would it have been for someone in a constituency office to make a minor one-off effort to send the list of selected candidates to their media mailing list via email?

For myself, this particular example doesn't really matter (which is why I am using it: no personal vested interest) as I have long known the broad outcome of the council elections here, and as always will firm-up my predictions only once the official Statements of Persons Nominated have been published, a few weeks from now.

I am hesitant to make those predictions public on this critical occasion, by the way, for fear of causing unintentional harm by letting the opposition know too much – but there are a select few individuals to whom I have already told something of my 'broad sweep' predictions, so they know...

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