Sunday, July 11, 2004

To look forward let us first look back...

Yesterday I had sore feet, today I have sore hands! I have written a letter to all of the people registered for a postal vote enclosing leaflet two on the basis that they could well return their votes before the second leaflet run next weekend. I also wrote letters to the addresses that we couldn't get access to enclosing both leaflets. I also did a couple of streets that were overlooked yesterday.

I left a few people off the write-to list where I recognised their names from local politics. If they feel the need to vote against their instincts then I'll just rely on the door leaflet to sway them rather than wasting a stamp!

I thought about standing for the Town Council last year but my Wife talked me out of it- I was busy enough already and perhaps I should wait until I became an embarassment to my son in his teen years. What has changed this year? Well, retirement from Round Table has released some free time and having met a number of local politicians through her job, Mrs. Grey realises that they are not all bad!

I wrote a letter to the local press in April 2003 which I reprint here.

Dear Sir,

I see that the race is on for the Town Council elections and Labour are first off the blocks with their announcement that they are contesting all 24 seats across the six Wards.

Whilst I have never considered myself political, I went along to observe the full Council in action after the Heritage days last year and would encourage others to do the same- I found it fascinating and surprisingly compelling- I've been to every one since.

I'm not a native Morliean, I'm not even a Tyke, I've only lived here 10 years but since becoming a Parent I now regard Morley as my home rather than where my house is.

I think the Town Council is a good thing- it is not perfect but it has started to achieve results. Whilst it is admirable that the local Labour Party would like to win all 24 seats a brief glance towards Westminster shows all too clearly the detrimental effect of ineffective opposition- laws rushed through without enough careful consideration and the scourge of spin- style above substance.

I would like Morley Town Council to make decisions based on collaboration rather than the mixture of confrontation and submission that Party Politics demands of its participants. It should also be a "Critical Friend" of Leeds, pointing out the raw deal Morley often gets but then working with Local Government to improve it. That doesn't need big increases in our local Precept to achieve on a "we know best-tax & spend" basis. It should be Parochial rather than Partisan.

The Town Council will never reach the heights of Local Government as it was before 1974- the Town and Parish models are closer in powers to the Vicar of Dibley than Millennium Square!

How can we all help? By looking at all of the leaflets that come through our letterboxes, reading the papers and trying to reach informed decisions about the prospective candidates & their motives for standing. Do they live or work here? Are they approachable? Do they like the sound of their own voice? Do they have inflated opinions of their own self-importance? Do they have a passion for our town? Having met and talked to many of them I realise they should not all be tarred with the same brush as we disparage our professional politicians- they are ordinary people who want to put something back.

The May 1st elections will be an interesting challenge for National Government. Many of us may decide to vote based on what is going on in Iraq, or how much our April pay packet has gone down after the latest tax grab by Prudence. Some will vote for the BNP candidate, misled by the hysterical media coverage about Asylum Seekers swamping our Ports of entry. Some will vote the same as their parents did, looking for the little symbol that they are comfortable with, whether Rose or Beacon.

Lots of us will be totally indifferent and not bother voting at all- a sure sign that Party Politics is morally bankrupt.

As to myself? I'll be brandishing the pencil on May 1st then watching the count on May 2nd. I can't second-guess the outcome but whatever happens it will be fascinating to be there. I wouldn't miss it for the world- our own real-life soap opera!

Having re-read the letter, it still rings true and I stand by my words. Not a lot has changed in the big scheme of things, although locally the "Morley Borough Independents" gave Labour a big shock last month and Leeds City Council is now in "NO OVERALL CONTROL".

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