Your Council Needs You

I voted today and for the first time in many years, I felt odd about it. Unconnected from the process. Previously, walks to, and from, the polling station would have been filled with debate, and the odd argument, on the different candidates, their policies, and what it would mean. This evening it was just me and my thoughts, composing this post as I walked along. This is the first time in years I have not been actively engaged in the very policies that affect me.

I couldn’t pick my candidates out of a line up if you paid me.
I have no idea which party is best for my area.

So I was left voting for the party which has held my allegiance for years now. So I invariably voted for that party in the past as well, but then I at least felt that I was making an informed decision.

What is different about this year? It’s simple – this year I am not working for the local government. Between 2006 and 2008, my life was inextricably linked to the policies and the people that made them. My job was, to a certain extent, dependent on the whim of the councillors I voted for each year. They weren’t just faces on an election leaflet to me, or names on a ballot – they were people who I might talk to on the phone, or hold a meeting with. I wrote briefing papers to sway their opinion one way or the other. You couldn’t help but know the ins and outs of how the local government was made up, and it certainly made you appreciate being able to vote for new bosses each year!

Since moving to Oxford, I have moved in different circles. I have felt completely separated from local politics and I have missed the knowledge I used to have about what was happening in my community. I never thought I was privileged before, but I realise I was actually very lucky.

I could have kept myself up to date, read the leaflets, watched the news, but somehow I just couldn’t engage myself to do that. And if I, an educated, intelligent woman, couldn’t engage, are we really to be surprised when turnout is so low?

Either way, if you haven’t already, there is still time till the polls close this evening. Your vote really does matter. Feel your Council Tax is too high? (This, for the curious, is what has led me to have to depart from Palace Meadows). Want to grumble with me about the state of parking in the city, or how stupid the recycling system is? If you didn’t vote, I will refuse to talk to you about it.

Take it from me, your local councillors really DO have a lot of impact on how you live your daily lives. It’s up to you to make sure your opinion is listened to. As a nation we are incredibly fortunate to have regular and democratic elections. Make the most of it.

8 thoughts on “Your Council Needs You

  1. I’ve asked three people so far today if they voted yesterday, and none of them did. There’s always some excuse. I’ve heard: “I’m not registered in this area”, “what’s the point, they’re all the same” and “I had some other stuff to do”. A real shame. I hope that this tiny unscientific sample isn’t indicative of a much wider attitude (although, somehow I fear it is, even this time).

    You said “Want to grumble with me about the state of parking in the city, or how stupid the recycling system is? If you didn’t vote, I will refuse to talk to you about it.” – Absolutely!



  2. I noticed the same thing – people I spoke to at work were really not bothered. But at the same time, there were queues at the polling station, mainly students. At least one lad in front of me didn’t get to vote though, because they couldn’t find him on the list. He did have a voting card “somewhere at home”, but didn’t have it on him so couldn’t prove it.

    A girl at work said she had the oddest experience on Friday at lunch – she was there with a group of friends, and the conversation turned to uk politics and the current reshuffle and shenanigans. She and two of her friends, none of them english, were more engaged and arguing over the issues than the two british people at the table!

  3. We didn’t have local elections in my area (a unitary authority) this year, but I did vote in the European elections. Only 3 parties out of the 15 on the ballot paper here tried to communicate with voters in the area – 2 with leaflets and the other with ridiculous posters claiming Churchill would have voted for them, which I found offensive as a historian. No-one could possibly know how Churchill would have felt about today’s EU and it’s an insult to him and everything he did for this country to suggest they do.

    Sorry, got sidetracked there. My point was, I can understand how easy it is to disengage from the process when the political parties don’t even attempt to engage you. I had to look on the BBC website just to found out each party’s basic position on Europe! (which as it turns out is varying degres of “run away! run away!”)

  4. Funny thing is, Churchill was very pro European, to the extent of believing in a confederaton of all European states. After two world wars generated by inter European rivlry, wouldn’t anyone have thought the same?

  5. That’s what I thought! I got very confused by UKIP’s anti-Europe posters featuring him. Or maybe they’re just very confused.

  6. I know what you mean – I used to work for an MEP and this is the first time I’ve voted in a European election and not felt any great connection. Being an “ordinary voter” is weird. And depressing when you look at the result.

    By the way, on UKIP – I completely agree that it’s disingenuous to cite Churchill as a eurosceptic since he went on the record saying that Europe should be a federation of states. Problem is, he also said that the UK should stay out of it…

  7. (I should say that CCM apologizes profusely for the awful, awful UKIP pun in his last comment).

    Toby, I’ll leave you to have the debate on Churchill with Moose and CCM, both who are much more qualified to talk about it than me! But welcome to Bright Meadow and the comments.

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