If you are reading this blog, there is a very good chance that you are fed up with politics and with politicians.
There is an even bigger chance that the last thing you really want is a candidate for the Local Elections in May, knocking on your door and then pretending that they are different to other politicians and that they will get many different things done locally, that could never have been achieved at any time before.
In the absence of any real alternative to the same kind of politicians as we have right now, there has never been a time when it has been as important to be asking questions of those who want to represent us as Politicians, as now.
We need to understand their motives, why we should trust them, what they really want to achieve, what they understand about their responsibilities and everything else that we can, so that we can get the best idea of who they really are, and what we can expect from them, if they are trusted to work on our behalf.
With this in mind, some things to consider and some suggested questions follow below. Please feel free to use them – if you want to – if you have Local Elections underway in the Ward and Community where you live, running from now until early May.
Firstly, there are some myths that need to be cleared up. This way, you hopefully already have your bullshit detector fully primed, when the next rosette-wearing, single-handed world-changer rocks up your front path:
- Local Elections ARE NOT about National Issues. Local Elections make NO difference to decisions that are made by MPs in Parliament. Local Councillors only ‘control’ LOCAL issues.
- Local Councils are run by Politicians that might be members of the Political Parties that you recognise, but that’s as far as the similarity between them goes. So a vote for a Labour Candidate is not a vote for Kier Starmer, a vote for a Conservative Candidate is not a vote for Rishi Sunak and a vote for a Reform Candidate is not a vote for Nigel Farage or Richard Tice etc.
- Local Councils have responsibility for very specific things like refuse and recycling, local roads and parking, planning matters, alcohol and taxi licensing, environmental health, public transport, local education, social services and so on. But the responsibility they have is to INTERPRET rules and regulations that are set and often funded by Central Government in London.
- Just like our Parliament, Local Councils (District Level, County & Unitary) will usually be controlled by the Political Party with the largest number of Councillors elected to that Authority and belong to that Group. If that Group has a clear majority after the results of the election are in, there will be very little that Councillors belonging to other Political Parties or Groups can do. Likewise, your Candidate might well get elected and be part of the biggest Party or Group, but cannot deliver on specific promises that they have made to you, because its not what the other members of that Party or Group want to do.
So, to some of the questions you could consider asking when your doorbell rings…
Before anything else, if you don’t know already, you should first ask your Candidate if they are seeking re-election (because they have already been your Councillor or have been a Councillor somewhere else for at least 4 years before), or if they are seeking election for the first time.
If your candidate has been elected and already held the role of being a Councillor before, you could ask them: (In no particular order)
- What have you done for me or for the ward you represented already?
- How did you go about influencing and getting those things done?
- How did you make sure that all the needs of this community were being considered?
- How did you communicate and keep in touch with all of the people in this community and/or ward?
- What Committees were you on?
- How much did you receive in allowances and how much additional expenditure did you claim?
- Why do you want to be elected again?
If your Candidate is seeking election to be a Councillor for the first time, you could ask them: (In no particular order)
- Why do you want to be a Councillor?
- If you are elected, how will you ensure that the issues that are important to this Community and ward will be prioritised first?
- What could the Council have done better over the past 4 years and why?
- How much influence do you expect to have on Council decisions?
- How will you keep me up to date with news that is important to me and to the people across this community and/or ward?
- How long to you expect to be a Councillor?
- Do you have any political ambitions beyond being my Councillor?
And for ALL candidates, you could also ask them: (In no particular order)
- Why have you chosen to be a member of this Political Party / Why did you choose to be an Independent Candidate?
- Are Political Parties necessary and if so, why?
- What makes you any different to all the other Candidates who want my vote?
- Why do you want to represent this community and this ward in particular?
- What experience do you have that qualifies you to represent this Ward and/or Community?
- What are the most serious issues facing this Ward and/or community?
- What is your opinion of the other Political Parties and/or Candidates?
- What are the most serious issues that the Council is facing in the 4 years ahead?
- Would you leave your Political Party and/or any alliances that you make, if the others refuse to prioritise the needs and best interests of the people you will represent first?
A couple of other things to consider:
- You are under no obligation to talk to or open the door to anyone, at any time.
- Nobody and no political party has the right to win an election or to represent you or anyone else.
- Political Parties have political agendas, which by their very nature mean that they do not and will not represent the best interests of everyone, all of the time.
- If you aren’t satisfied with any of the answers you are given, ask supplementary questions until you are.
- If a Candidate is rude to you in reply to a reasonable question you have asked, their response tells you pretty much all you need to know about their ability to represent you.
- You are under no obligation to tell anyone at your door, how you intend to vote.
- You should not hand postal voting forms, ballot papers or any of the paperwork you have received from the Council to any Candidate, Political Party or Representative. If you are asked for any of these, you should make a note of who made this request, what they said and when, and then contact the Monitoring Officer at the relevant Council.
If you’ve already had leaflets through the door, these should tell you who your candidates are, who their election agent is (if they have one), who their political party is, the name of the Local Authority they are seeking election to, and how you can contact them.
If you visit the Local Authority website, you will be able to see what public services the Candidate(s) seeking your Vote may be able to have an influence upon.
The Candidate(s) who wish to be elected and become members of that Authority should be able to provide answers to questions about what has been happening where those services are concerned, and how they will go about influencing whatever happens next.
IF CANDIDATES TALK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE – IT HAS NO RELEVANCE TO THIS SPECIFIC ELECTION!
REMEMBER: It doesn’t matter who your Candidate might be or which Party they might represent. If they are elected, they should be representing your interests and the BEST interests of EVERYONE across the ward and community you live in no matter whether you voted for them or not!
As such, you should feel free to ask any questions which are relevant to the areas of responsibility and service provision that the relevant Council provides and equally to ask a candidate why they are talking about matters that will not concern them or the influence they would have on your behalf, if they are attempting to bring other issues in besides.
There is a code of conduct governing the behaviour of Candidates for Local Elections. So if you have any concerns, you should contact the Monitoring Officer and/or Democratic Services at the Council running the Election and seek their advice.