Tweedledum or Tweedledee?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED APRIL 22, 2013

The social media reverberate to calls for people to turn out on Thursday week and punish those Cornwall Councillors who have failed abysmally to stand up for Cornwall and its people in their four year term of office. We must, we are told, send an unequivocal message to those who continue to mortgage our future, unable to perceive the consequences of their policy follies or the pitiful collusion with those forces poised to destroy our land.

I have considerable sympathy with these calls but the only problem is – how! Who do we vote for? We’re positively spoilt for choice for councillors we can vote against. There are those who supported a major privatisation of council services, those who failed dismally to oppose the cuts, those who want to go on breathing life into the tired and failed old project of housing and population-led growth, those who cynically saved people a massive 40p a week in council tax by cutting another 300 public sector jobs. With just over three quarters of sitting councillors standing for re-election that’s a large target, make no mistake about it.

On the one hand, an average of almost four candidates per seat would seem to provide sufficient choice, but on the other hand the choice for a lot of us is extremely restricted. As many as 15% of voters are offered a choice only between varieties of right wing parties (Tories, Lib Dems or Ukip). Another 19% can only choose between at least two of these parties or assorted Independents. Some of the latter may be worth voting for; a lot plainly aren’t. Indeed, we have less than two weeks left to find out what the assorted Independents actually stand for – any information on the positions being adopted, if any, by this gaggle would be very welcome.

Put it another way. In 23% of seats the choice is narrowly confined to candidates who support the neo-liberal consensus on austerity and policies designed to protect the rich (the parties above plus Labour). In another 39% of seats we only have austerity candidates plus assorted Independents. So up to half of the electorate are being offered no alternative to the dead-end politics of cuts. They can effectively vote for a lot of cuts or slightly fewer cuts, business as usual or even more business than usual.

In only a third of seats are we offered the chance to vote for alternative, progressive party candidates (MK and the Greens). A handful or two of the Independents might boost this a bit if only we could identify them. In some places the choice is particularly dire. Hayle, Liskeard, Newquay, Padstow, Redruth, Saltash and Torpoint offer opportunities to punish incumbents but their replacements look likely to turn out to be equally, if not a lot more, disappointing.

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