A few different things on my mind today, none of which are worthy really of a full post.
Firstly, in serious local political news, the city council’s minority Labour administration has collapsed, to be replaced with a minority Lib Dem administration. Whether the change in cabinet will lead to any changes to or abandonment of the destructive and wasteful guided busway scheme, much blogged about here in the past few months, we will have to wait and see. For that matter, there may well be changes to the rather rushed scheme to pedestrianise half of Prince St Bridge, which some people think was part of the guided busway plans; but which I think was more likely to be some sort of council sop to transport charity SusTrans, whose main office overlooks the bridge.
Talking of things round the Harbourside, regular readers might remember me talking about Folk Tales, the monthly music-and-storytelling event at the Scout Hut on Phoenix Wharf. February’s Folk Tales was last night; however, me and K didn’t remember this until about half-seven last night, at which point we didn’t really feel like going out. Oh well: roll on the next one. I remembered, when noticing that people have been searching the internet for information about it (and finding me).
Aside from that: we had plenty of pancakes on Tuesday night, as is only right and proper; and enjoyed them so much, we had more yesterday. Which is probably slightly going against the point of Shrove Tuesday, but never mind. More pancakes has to be a good thing.
As I said yesterday, I’ve been pondering the rather rubbish choice we have in the forthcoming local elections. Checking the candidate list in the local paper, I discovered that in our ward there is a grand total of two candidates for the available seat: one Labour and one Tory. Oh, what a choice I have.
At least, if I don’t vote, I don’t have to worry about letting in any of the Nasty Parties in this ward. The reason we only have a choice of two candidates is that we currently have a hung council governed by a Tory-Liberal coalition. To try to ensure at least some slice of the pie, the local Tories and Lib Dems have agreed that neither can beat Labour on their own.* They’ve also agreed not to compete against each other; each seat has a Labour candidate, and a Tory-Liberal Coalition candidate, although of course they’re careful not to say that out loud.
Now, I know that local politics is important, and should be all about local issues, nothing to do with national politics. The current Tory-Liberal council was elected on local issues – largely, the enormous deficit run up by the previous Labour administration. Nevertheless, on Friday morning, all of the party leaders will be trumpeting their results as being a vote of suppose for their national policies. I can’t bring myself to vote for a party that wants to bring in an expensive and repressive identity-tracking database; and neither can I bring myself to vote for a party run by Norman Lamont’s old sidekick. Right. That’s my vote out of the window, then.
People always complain about voter apathy, but I’m not being apathetic here. I’m making a deliberate choice to abstain, because my choices range from bad to worse. The problem is: I want the parties to realise that I’m not apathetic. So, the plan** is: write to the candidates and tell them why I’m not voting for them. Write to the local Lib Dem leadership and ask them if they really think that their effective merger with the Tories is really a good thing for local democracy. Write a sarcastic letter to Lib Dem head office applauding their “let’s not stand against the Tories” attitude, and asking if they plan to continue it at the next general election. Above all, make sure they all realise that just because I’m not voting, it doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I’m not interested in local politics. Let’s see if I get any replies.
* The local council follows the standard county-wide voting pattern: red on the council estates and in the Victorian terraces; blue as soon as you get anywhere near fields or big gardens; odd patches of yellow in suburban villages.
** Assuming I am not too lazy
The new Tory leader has jumped right in to the job, and is trying to persuade Liberal Democrats to cross the floor and join his party. Presumably he thinks that the Tory party itself has no hope of attracting new blood – or that politics itself is always a zero-sum game – so is trying to mind-meld. Maybe it’s working. Although there’s sometimes national-level talk of Labour and the Lib Dems working on a similar wavelength, out in the country they are usually fighting like rabid wolves, and Lib Dem-Tory alliances are far more common. In fact, my own local council – the worst local council in the country – is one.
Not only does Cameron’s plan imply he’s given up on attracting new people into politics; but it also makes it look as if he’s already given up on winning the next election outright. His current “I’m more liberal than the Liberals” positioning is paving the way for a hung parliament in 2009 or 2010. In case that happens, he wants to be first in line in the Lib Dems’ doorway. He seems to be hoping that modern politics is all about words, not deeds.* If Cameron says: “I’m a liberal!” he hopes that the voters will all believe him, even though there is little evidence for it in his present and past policies.Mind you, there’s little evidence there for any sort of true conviction at all.
* to be fair, this is after all what governments have been getting away with for the past 25 years.