John's Jottings for October 2004

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

It's In the Air...

Yes, there's definitely a sense of "election fever" in the opposition political parties, as their behaviour changes markedly. For some reason this doesn't seem to have affected my group more than very slightly, at least so far, and the two independent members have no direct reason to become directly embroiled in what is brewing.

What I and others have noticed very clearly—even more so this time than in previous election warm-ups during my time on Medway Council—has been an even greater vindictiveness toward us than ever, even from a few Labour members who are normally better mannered and behaved.

I suppose that is a timely reminder to us all that the true nature of a Labour member tends generally to be a most unpleasant beast in a sheep's clothing. One or two in particular (and they are easy enough to spot) are not only clearly of that ilk, but their personal ambitions give them away even more than their colleagues to those who are sharp enough to realise what is going on.

This is, of course, a good time for all members of the Medway public to hone their senses, as presumably all the local political parties shift more and more into pre-election mode. It is never easy for the voting public to get a real handle on what is being offered and what is likely to be achieved if (a) their own local MP should be whichever of the candidates is standing, and/or (b) the next government should be of a particular political colour.

I have no glib answer to this, and hope that everyone will come into the next election with as open a mind as they can reasonably expect to have, and not to be swayed by unrealistic promises—especially from those who are very unlikely to end up in power so know they won't have to deliver on those promises.

Probably the most difficult part of a voter's judgement is in knowing what really is possible and what is less probable. One of the reasons I stood in the May 2000 Medway local election was to get on the inside and find out for myself. This is why when I stand up in the Council Chamber and say something that people in the public gallery don't like, this is only because they do not have all the facts that are at my disposal.

I do urge people to conduct their own research if they don't accept what I say (easy enough nowadays with all the resources that are available on-line) but sadly the evidence is that very few bother. This is really galling when those people are being fed drivel by Labour members in particular, and are not even directing their attention toward the real cause of an issue (so it will never be resolved and those residents therefore lose out).

I realise how convenient it is to simply attack my group as the council's administration—indeed, I don't mind folk having a pop at us if it makes them feel better, but if we are bound by imposed rules, targets and quotas (as local councils increasingly are) as there is nothing that can be gained by leaving it at that. To be useful, a lobbying group needs to take the battle to the cause of their unwelcome situation and attempt to have those impositions relaxed or removed.

Failing that, this General Election will at least give those disgruntled residents a second chance to change things for the better, in that they can vote out any sitting MP or candidate who supports in any way the present régime of impositions from central government upon local authorities.

Then, with (hopefully!) a change of government and a Britain in which local elected members will again be masters in their own house, the buck for purely local issues really will stop here!

Next time: The Paperless Councillor