The runners and riders in our local elections.
Since the Iraq War I have been a semi-floating voter. Up to then I had been Labour by default (unless tactics demanded -- as they sometimes did in Shropshire -- that one put one's cross by what was back then still the Liberal Party). Since then I've looked afresh at each election for someone, somewhere on the left, the less Blairite the better.
This time at the up-coming County Council elections, my mind was made up for me rather early on. The excellent Belinda Brooks-Gordon, the sitting Lib-Dem councillor for Castle Ward, turned up on the doorstep asking if I would sign her nomination papers. She's, actually, done a great job on the Council and shows every sign of going on in the same style -- so I was happy to put my name to her form.
Now I suppose there is nothing to stop you nominating one candidate and voting for another, but would seem a bit perverse -- so with my vote now pledged to Belinda, I looked at the other candidates with more academic detachment, and also hoping that I wouldn't discover that I had made a grave error.
There are 5 candidates. We've had nothing through the door from the Tory so far, which I guess means they dont think he has an earthly chance of taking the seat. And when I tracked down his online manifesto I wasnt much the wiser.
A leaflet has come from the Labour candidate, Ed Carlsson-Browne -- but not persuasive enough to make one regret the way one's vote has been promised. "These elections matter a great deal to people living in Castle" was his bland headline quote -- fair enough,I guess, but what difference was young Ed going to make, we wondered. "As your councillor Edward would be an active voice for Castle. He'd work to cut congestion on major transport arteries like Huntingdon Road and Histon Road and to make these routes safer for pedestrians, cyclist and motorists alike". "Great" said the husband, "but HOW exactly?" (Or to put it another way, where's the candidate pledging to make the Huntingdon Road more dangerous?)
Rather more appealing has been the campaign of John Hipkin, a local stalwart who fell out with the Lib Dems a few years back and is now standing as an independent. But he's already on the city council and -- while I know that city and county have different remits -- it seems to me that one council should be enough for anyone.
That just leaves UKIP, with the prize for the most unmissable -- yellow and purple -- through-the-door leaflet. "Massive threat to our local services" is its predictable banner headline, with the spectre not only of Romanians and Bulgarians rushing to leafy Castle ward, but Cypriots, Greeks, Spaniards, Portugese and Italians threaten to become "immigrants" too. On the other side of the leaflet, things get rather more optimistic: we are told not to worry about climate change as "there has been no global warming in the last ten years".
More puzzling though was pledge about local government: "The three main parties not only choose their candidates, they tell them how to vote too. UKIP Councillords are independent . . . their votes are not directed by local political leaders". "Sounds like you'd be voting for a franchise" observed the husband.
I haven't yet been able to discover much on the web about the UKIP candidate, Nicholas Wilson -- but he's another one who, when he's not stirring up anxieties or offering false reassurance, trades in unconvertible platitudes: he "has a keen interest in ensuring that Cambridge is not ruined by misguided overdevelopment".
I may be counter-suggestible, but if I wasnt voting for Belinda, this stuff makes me want to go and vote for anyone who was backing misguided over-development (and/or more fatalities on the Huntingdon Road).