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Sean Fear’s local election slot

April 28th, 2006

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    WHY DO LOCAL ELECTIONS MATTER TO NATIONAL PARTIES?

Local councils have had their independence curtailed under successive government. Three quarters of local government income comes from Government grants, while local councils themselves are required to jump through endless hoops set up for them by central Government.

In some European countries, politicians become well known as the mayors of major cities, before embarking on national political careers. That would be almost unthinkable in this country.

Although many members of Parliament have been local councillors, one has the impression that it is done more as something they can show on their CV to a Constituency Association, rather than because of the intrinsic importance of the job.

Local councils lack independence, and cannot be regarded as a real training ground for future national politicians.

    However, local council elections matter in one very important respect. All parties are crucially dependent on local councillors to maintain their base in any particular constituency. They are the people who canvass, deliver leaflets, write letters to the papers, and keep their party before the local electorate

.If a party’s local councillor base is destroyed in a particular area, then sooner or later, its support at Parliamentary level will evaporate too. It happened to the Conservatives in Glasgow, and several Northern cities, and it is happening now to Labour in parts of the South of England.

By contrast, a strong local government base will not guarantee success at Parliamentary level, but is almost always a prerequisite for it. No amount of direct mailing, advertising, and paid telephone canvassing by political parties at national level, will produce the same impact as a well organised local party organisation.

Last night’s by-elections produced, perhaps surprisingly, one gain for Labour.

East Hampshire DC – Clanfield and Finchdean
: Lib Dem 733, C 550. Lib Dem hold.

East Lindsey DC – Mablethorpe East
: Lab 213, C 123, Lib Dem 114, UKIP 46. Lab gain from Lib Dem.
North Cornwall DC- Bodmin St Petroc’s: Lib Dem 821, C 463. Lib Dem hold.

This is the last round of by-elections before next week’s local elections. It only remains to wish good luck to all those who are standing.

Sean Fear
Sean is a London Tory activist and was almost the first member of his party to post on the site. He writes a weekly commentary on local elections.

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