Making my way to the door was a chore this morning, as I worked my way through an enormous pile of no eve of poll leaflets delivered during the twilight hours. It’s been like this throughout the campaign – my feet swamped by no leaflets from the 5 candidates for the 3 seats in the council ward in my area. Receipt of no eve of poll leaflets merely mirrored the rest of the campaign though.
I received 2 leaflets from a Conservative at the start of the year – mainly including “catalogue shots” (you know the sort – pictures of him pointing at, or looking concerned about, local buildings – but with such an air of distraction that he could be advertising ill fitting suits for a catalogue). And he made his way around one day mid “campaign” with a leaflet. I saw him from the window and rushed to the door to commune with a real live candidate to ask him what local concerns he had, but despite his seeing me unlock and open the door as he put the leaflet through my glass fronted door, by the time I had opened it he was off. I decided shouting “hey you. Get out of my garden” would probably not persuade him to return for conversation.
The Labour party delivered a leaflet too. I was at a local park with my daughter, wandered home and passed two people I thought were delivering collection bags for charity, but turned out to be brisk Labour leafleters who nodded acknowledgement (ah the joy of human contact. I have been nodded at by a council candidate). As I stood in the front garden, young child beside me, negotiating the return inside the house the candidate came to my door. He walked past me (as I stood in my drive), went to the door, and put the leaflet through. Not a word was spoken. Just that nod. Don’t they want my vote? What does it cost to ask a man standing in front of you, “hello” never mind “How is everything in the community?”
Still at least the Conservative and Labour party brought round a leaflet. The sitting SNP councillor didn’t even bother with that. Despite the claimed ever-burgeoning membership (there are times where it seems that every new member seems to get their own special mention on twitter) the SNP couldn’t even be bothered to deliver a leaflet for my council ward – never mind send someone round the door for a chat.
I am interested in politics despite feeling disillusioned with the system and maintain an interest in policy debates, in general issues, in Parliament, in local government. I googled my ward. I found out the candidates (apparently there are two SNP candidates here – not that I’d know from their high level activity).
The lack of engagement from local politicians and local parties suggests they view local government as less than serious. Little wonder, when the primary power of the council – the power to set local taxation (either increase or decrease) to enable it to determine and fund local priorities – has largely been removed from council hands with a centralising policy for years of a council tax freeze, and no new council tax bands, which has served to benefit the wealthiest disproportionately. This must leave councillors wondering what powers they have that are worth something, rather than being purely managerial.
The lack of engagement by candidates and parties is met with an apparent astonishment at low turnouts, and a lack of engagement from constituents. Some blame the media – not concentrating on the real issues. But that won’t wash. Well, if you are not given any respect as a voter – to set out a case, to say “hello” never mind to try to persuade you to vote, is it little wonder if prospective voters do not respect candidates enough to turn up to vote?
I have never missed an election since being able to vote. I have spoiled my paper once before. After attending a hustings meeting and discovering that the person representing the cause I supported was an idiot who seemed unaware of his ministerial responsibilities I wrote ”[insert name of candidate] is an incompetent fool who does not understand his area”. Today, I don’t even know if I’ll bother to turn up. I know people fought and died for the right to vote, but they also fought for the right not to vote. I have the right to choose not to vote for one of a collection of people too scared to talk to prospective voters; the right to reject every one of a collection of candidates too scared to attempt to persuade me of their cause.
To hell with the lot of them.