So, what will be the outcome of the elections for Oxford City Council? We are one hour away from the results as I start writing.
Local elections are supposed to be just that – you should vote for the individual who, with or without his party, will serve your Ward best. In practice, a preference for an individual usually has to be over-ridden by a party choice since an individual without a majority is of little practical value.
Sometimes, and this is one of those times, national considerations come into play. Since national Government effectively hamstrings local councillors, however good, one has to have regard to the wider picture. Gordon Brown’s Labour is a corrosive force at every level from electoral corruption to personal interference. Brown himself has no personal mandate and is trading on the popularity of the predecessor he knifed. Like it or not, these elections are an opportunity for ordinary people – not politicians, not the media, not the ridiculously small samples used for so-called opinion polls, but people en masse – to send a message.
I am watching the BBC map as I type. Each refresh so far has brought more blue shading at the expense mainly of Labour as to councillors and, as to councils, in places which previously had no overall control. No bloodbath yet
We won’t go blue here in Oxford. I have seen more rats out in the streets in broad daylight than avowedly Conservative politicians. Indeed, rats are the reason why we have a Conservative councillor standing here at all this time. Dr Frances Kennett is standing in North Ward as an extension of her feud with the Lib Dems’ Jean Fooks over the change to fortnightly rubbish collections. Kennett attributes the presence of rats in and around her home in Jericho to this policy, which was in fact agreed by all parties (see Fish-heads for Fooks not fair ) and would have been executed in much the same form by whichever party gained control at the last election.
It is good to see a Conservative candidate. Was it tempting to vote for her? It would perhaps give the Conservatives some incentive to push harder next time if Kennett got a reasonable share of the vote this year and it would add a jot to the pressure on Gordon Brown if the Conservative were seen to make progress – even if that fell short of winning a seat – in a city which presently has no Conservative councillors at all.
On balance, I decided against making such a gesture. I do not wholly trust people who turn to politics to right a private wrong. Kennett has no track record as a Conservative and has the whiff of the single-issue fanatic about her. In addition, the possible national benefits are not worth the downside local risk. If too many put their votes Kennett’s way, it might split the vote enough to let the Greens in to North Ward.
Ah yes, the Green Party. They are, of course, easily mocked, but I don’t think we would be laughing if they actually got power. If you find the present rubbish collection system overbearingly dirigiste, just wait till the Greens find themselves in a position to tell you what to do. There are already council officers (in another city) who have taken it upon themselves to tell citizens that they should avoid eating fish until just before the next rubbish collection as the way to reduce the smell. Centrist, controlling intrusive New Labour will look positively non-interventionist by comparison with a Green authority.
Besides, their manifesto includes a pledge to pedestrianise half of St Giles, the main thoroughfare northwards from the city centre. They don’t say which half – north or south – nor do they say where the traffic is to go. Perhaps it will just disappear. There are lots of other things which strike a nice balance between being impracticable, unaffordable and irrelevant.
It was never going to be the Labour candidate, partly for national reasons and partly because Sue Ledwith suffers from Balls-Cooper syndrome, defined in my post Hit or miss the Labour candidate as a strong desire to help the disadvantaged at the expense of others whilst avoiding the burden for oneself.
So that left only the Lib Dems. The party locally includes one who appears a sandwich short of a picnic, one who looks as if he has reached the blanket-over-the-knees-and-Werthers-Originals stage, two who are plain rude and I few others I have never seen, but also has a few who seem capable of rational thought. They stand the best chance of gaining overall power and will not, I feel, exercise it entirely for the bad.
The map still shows nothing too dramatic, with most of the movement being from and to No Overall Control. The Conservative did well last time, which limits the scope for big gains this time. Still waiting.