Text of the The Way I See It in the Somerset County Gazette this week.
Last week’s Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections threw up some interesting results. While Labour and the Conservatives took their fair share of the Police jobs, the Liberal Democrats took not one. They also lost their deposit in the Corby by-election. By contrast, Independent candidates took more than a quarter of the PCC jobs including Avon& Somerset and Dorset, together with the newly-created Mayoralty in Bristol. What does this tell us about the state of party politics at this halfway stage of the Coalition Government? Quite a bit, I believe.
At play in the PCC elections was a strong feeling reported by many, that the Police should be above party politics and this will go some way to explain why the Independents did so well. But the results also speak of a disenchantment with the political parties, following a widespread belief that Labour created the economic crisis and then the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats didn’t do enough to put things right. Unusually, we have two parties in Government and the Liberal Democrats’ normal role as a repository of the protest vote has now vanished as a result of their role in Government. Instead, it looks as though Independent candidates picked up much of that protest.
Have we reached a watershed? Quite possibly. It may be that the failure of the Government to reignite the UK economy, and distrust of Labour together with the continuing shenanigans on MP’s expenses have combined to turn off droves of voters from the political parties. Personally, I’ve never seen the benefit of political parties in local government. What do they add other than another interface for division and confrontation? And time and again, we see party-backed councillors line up dutifully to hand over their votes to their parties, regardless of the impact of those decisions on their voters. Far better in my view to have local representatives that stand up for their communities and not their parties. Those Councillors can only be Independent.