LettersYouletusknowyourthoughtsonelectoral rules, the system of elected mayors and party ideology
Letter of themonth wins aTotalPoliticsGuide tothe2010GeneralElection
Ideology exists Further to your article on ‘party beliefs’ (TP, Jan), I believe that a strong ideology wasat the heart ofmydecision to both join the party nearly 13 years ago and then stand as aprospective MP.
‘party beliefs’ (TP, Jan), I believe
I donot believe the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are disappearing, but that their definitions aremore fluid. For example, I have always considered myself to be economically right wing, and socially libertarian. Andyet, until recently, supporting gaymarriage and strong civil liberties was (incorrectly) considered to be the preserve of the centre left. I consider them to be right-wing, because of the importance put on the freedom of the individual.
Sadly, calling someone ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’ brings up the imagery of the political extremes, which is in myminddangerousandmisguided. Themoreparties moveawayfrom an ideology, themore the public will distrust them, as to be toomalleable suggests insincerity andopportunism.
TobeaConservativeistohave strong commonbeliefs–small government,socialmobility, opportunitynotreliance onthe state andnationhoodtonameafew guidingprinciples. Howthatisapplied pragmaticallywithin the complex detail of governmentisperhaps wherethewatersaremoremuddied.
Without apolitical philosophy to guide us, all election campaigns would simply be “we’ll dowhat they’re doing, but better”, which would clearly be anonsense. Deborah Thomas Conservative PPC for Twickenham
Know the rules Many of your readers may be thinking of getting involved in this year’s general election, whether by standing for election themselves, acting as
Know the rules Many of your readers may be thinking of getting involved in this year’s general election, whether by standing for election themselves, acting as an agent for a local candidate or even setting up a new political party. Or they may be involved with a group or organisation that is planning to campaign on behalf of a party or candidate.
Democracy succeeds because people get involved like this; and wewant everyone who gets involved to know the rules they need to follow. Some of these rules have changed recently and I’d encourage your readers to visit our website www.electoralcommission. org.uk to make sure they know what their responsibilities are. Peter Wardle Chief executive, The Electoral Commission
Democracy4Stoke In relation to your article on elected mayors (TP, Jan), Stoke-on-Trent adopted the elected mayor and council manager system in 2002. With an electoral turnout of just over 24 per cent, wewere promised things would get better under the system. After seven years of the system , turmoil has been caused in the political arena and councillors were left in a political wilderness by the mayor and council manager after the event.
During the two elected mayors’ reign, one Independent and one Labour, the residents’ frustrations were being conveyed to their local councillors about the quality of frontline services. Some of the ideas that were suggested by the
4 | Total Politics | February 2010
For insights into daily political life, opinion and exclusive articles, visit our blog at www.totalpolitics. com/blogs mayor and council manager were not practical even to the point of a suggestion to change the name of the city of Stoke-on-Trent.
Out of this turmoil an organisation called Democracy4Stoke was formed which consisted of councillors and residents from all political and non-political backgrounds. This led to a campaign for a referendum on the mayoral system and in 2008 the residents of this city voted by amajority to revert to a leader and cabinet system.
This new system is not perfect but councillors have a better opportunity to raise and be involved in issues through the overview and scrutiny commissions. It is taking time for this system to come to the fore mainly due to the officer core adopting the new system and the fact that there are eight different political groups on the council with none having an overall majority. Elected members need to seize
To celebrate the DVD release of
To celebrate the DVD release of the Charles Darwin biopic Creationon the 18 January, TotalPolitics is offering one reader a chance to win a copy of the DVD, thanks to Icon Home Entertainment. Entries will be judged on their humour and originality by the TotalPolitics team and the winner will be announced along with their winning caption in the next issue.
How to Enter Simply email your caption to email@example.com with your name and address before 08/02/2010. Entries submitted after the closing date will not count.
Last month’s winner “David, can you please stop farting, we have to look respectable” Caitlin Kobrak
Two tickets to the National Theatre’s ThePowerofYes are on the way to you. this opportunity that has been given to them by the residents of Stoke-on-Trent to take this city forward. The decision to revert was taken by the residents of this city, the people who elect us, and it is for them that we should be doing everything in our power to give them a better service and quality of life. Cllr Mick Salih Non-aligned group spokesperson Stoke-on-Trent city council
Accountable leaders The introduction of the single transferable voting system for local government in Scotland has weakened the link between the citizen and the local council leadership. Aplethora of council coalitions nowmeans that council leaders emerge from behind closed door post-election bargaining.
Councils governed by coalitions find it difficult to provide a coherent vision for their area, with differing priorities within the coalition resulting in mixed messages and diffused accountability.
Introducing directly elected leaders would have the essential advantage of creating a direct line of accountability between the citizen and the leader, allowing the electorate to give due consideration to the leadership qualities of candidates during the election campaign, and at the end of a four-year term, to be in a position to judge whether promises have been delivered.
And at a time when televised leadership debates are being introduced in this year’s Westminster election campaign, surely the leadership qualities of those seeking to give direction to local communities – and £1bn budgets – should also be scrutinised?
In short, local democracy can only be improved if local leaders are directly elected by the voters, not by a coalition cabal. Keith Geddes Former president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and policy director, Pagoda PR
What’s the reward for
What’s the reward for coming third? Ben Duckworth on why Nick Clegg comes across as a man itching to go places on why Nick Clegg comes
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Welcome to the first issue of Total Politics published in 2010. Sitting with Nick Clegg for this month’s cover feature, I sensed overwhelming frustration. Not just onWestminster politics, which he is happy to discuss in strong terms. I could have filled my entire time with him on that point alone. Although he is by nomeans awkward in his own skin, the impression of frustrated hyperactivity you see at his paltry two questions at PMQs is amplified close up. Clegg wants to go places.
While in numbers alone the Lib Demsmight not make huge progress in the election, their importance in our political system will rise. The expenses issue will see an increase in the anti-politics vote and a close result could lead to the Lib Dems holding the balance of power. In this context, nomatter how cheeky, Clegg’s positioning of the Lib Dems as different to the two “establishment” parties makes sense. As a leader, he needs to ditch the Cameron-lite tag, which he loathes, and show he has arrived as a figure of substance.
Check out Andrew Hawkins’ column on p8 on core votes. Whenphrases like that are banded about, it’s always helpful to understand whether they really matter or are just lazy assumptions. Hawkins answers that issue.
Further into the magazine, our political correspondent Amber Elliott talks to Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, on p24. I want to include people like Thompson who are enormously influential in British politics but are not elected themselves. That does not stop him being the consummate political actor as Amber discovered.
Finally, do read the contribution from Andy Serkis, the great actor who has gone from playing Gollum, King Kong and Ian Dury to imagining he is prime minister on p74. Weget well-known figures to do this to introduce somemayhem to what is a pretty serious place. Serkis succeeds gloriously.
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