But last weeks County Council Elections just felt all wrong, from start to finish, I am not just talking about Castle Ward which has its own unique set of circumstances to cope with, but I mean wrong in the sense of participation and outcome. Often the wrong candidate got elected for the wrong reasons, rises in some candidates votes simply skewed the figures overall and made prediction a difficult art form.
My main concern, which I hope would be shared across the political divide is that the results were less predicted and more proclaimed. UKIP of course did incredibly well, no lets rephrase that they did remarkably well winning seats all across the Country just as the press told us they would! and therein lies the problem. UKIP's staggering success was not just predicted it was announced as a fait accomplis (They will love that European reference!) by the national and local press as long ago as November and December 2012.
Having encouraged the swing voter to support UKIP in the Rotherham By Election (Labour Hold) and the Eastleigh By Election (Lib Dem Hold) the press secured them a second place in each, allowing them to proclaim thereafter UKIP as the new force in British Politics. This was the same UKIP of course who secured just 3% of the vote in the 2010 General Election losing their deposits up and down the country including in Northamptonshire as voters failed to understand what they were there for. But the right wing press with its own anti European agenda needed UKIP as a stick to beat David Cameron with.
The announcement by Johnston Press in the Chronicle and Echo in early February was indeed echoed throughout their publications nationwide and by their rivals who all pronounced how mighty fine the King Farages new clothes were and how we the public would be pretty stupid if we didn't also jump on board the bandwagon. Voting UKIP was safe they said, almost suggesting you could be racist without being shouted at and anti gay and just a good old fashioned Brit sticking up for their country. And even when a little boy in the crowd shouted "He is as naked as the day he was born" he found that 70 % of the people couldn't even be bothered to listen to him and that thereafter the Press refused to print his comments to the 30% who might just be interested. They instead were treated to more photographs of Nigel Farage drinking more beer in more middle England pubs on his "Common Sense" tour
And so eventually an apathetic and politically uneducated British Public did what it it proving itself extremely good at it followed the trend rather than look to set it, it tugged its collective forelock in reverence to its masters and either sat on its hands at home not voting or went out voted the way it was told to vote.
Or as Ray Davies is attributed to have said:
Money and corruption are ruining the land.Crooked politicians betray the working man, Pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, And we're tired of hearing promises that we know they'll never keep.
More than one voter informed me on the doorstep during the election campaign that,
"Tony I will either be voting Green Party or UKIP"
What in Gods name does that actually mean? I haven't a political thought in my head and I am just as likely to vote for Ghandi as I am Hitler?
But the reactionary poison that flows from UKIP has found a resonance with the increasingly embittered, divided population. They reflect, as all such movements have done historically, a contradictory set of social forces. On the one hand they are a party that appeal to a middle class, driven into a frenzy as a result of the economic crisis. Their anger is focused on the work-shy, the immigrant and on the European unions super state: all of whom are holding back the hardworking, pure of blood Brit who needs the help of no one to make its way in the world.
This is then exaggerated by white flight communities who fear (actually fear) migrants will threaten their rural idyll. I thought it was just amazingly crass to see that self confessed right wing Tory Cllr Michael Clarke polled 1553 in Hackleton and Grange Park only just seeing off a challenge from a UKIP candidate even further to the right who polled 1504. 1504 who are more right wing than the Tory candidate who won! Heaven help us.
But of course with just a 20% turnout in Castle Ward I save my real despair and my disquiet for the 80% non voters, a heady of mixture of lazy, non committal, apathetic, politically ignorant and impotent shower all committed to doing there bit by er...... not doing their bit.
Harsh? not really, if they read this piece and are upset with my comments then good for them they can always come out and vote against me at future elections and my rant will have in some way served a purpose. in the defence of a few there will be in that number those who couldn't through illness get to vote, or were perhaps working away, equally there will be some who felt that none of the candidates could muster their support, and they are all excused from my wrath, but the rest? Well they are a special sort of ignoramus half wit who think that life owes them a living and a helping hand without the need for them ever having to put anything back in.
I write this on the Tuesday after last Thursdays election and already the phone calls are coming in from people in Castle Ward asking me to continue to help them with their Housing needs and to secure "better" places for their children in "better" schools.
They have absolutely no idea that I was not re-elected last Thursday, and probably have little idea that an election even took place! I remember last year talking to a guy in a pub who asked me about my MP's expenses! I politely told him I had had lost the election years ago in 2005 to Brian Binley and then he went on to say "Yes but your still the Labour MP aren't you" Apparently it seems (according to my new found drinking buddy) at every election each constituency votes for a Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MP and the one who gets the most votes goes to Parliament whilst the other two hang around the town on full salary representing our respective voters! and there was me thinking Sally Keeble had simply been on Holiday since 2010!
So apathy and the inability of people to think for themselves played a massive part in last weeks weeks defeat, but was it just that that and the UKIP factor which cost me my seat? No not really. The fact is that months ago I predicted that Labours vote would rise at the election in line with their national share with the Tory's and Lib Dems in Government. I predicted to friends that they would double their low vote of 440 in May 2009 and told a select few that I expected them to poll around 880 votes this time round. They actually got 806, I told my new colleagues in the Green Party that it was an uphill struggle for us to win and that we would need to keep as many of the 760 (Independent) and 201 (Green Party) votes that we each polled in 2009 to give us any chance of winning, we couldn't do that, and our end result of 437 (albeit on a reduced turnout) was simply not enough. Yes of course UKIP taking 273 votes without putting out a single leaflet didn't help, equally having another Independent on the Ballot Paper was not useful but none of these factors would have denied the Labour Party a deserved victory. I lost a lot of hard won support in the Semilong and St James areas when they once more moved the ward boundary and Winston Strachan it seems is strong in the area he has represented for some time, so my congratulations as they did last Thursday go out to him.
So did I make a mistake joining the Greens? Not at all, you see for all of those who can't be arsed to vote and for all of those who change their vote it seems as frequently as they change their underwear, there are those of us who are really very comfortable in our political skins, we know what we are about and we are loyal to our political convictions. I ironically have the exact same set of political values and ideals which I held 30 odd years ago when I first joined the then Labour Party, the Labour Party have coursed moved to the right, not me. And I also believe that the 437 brave soles who voted for the Green Party last Thursday in Castle Ward also include a high number of politically motivated voters who don't just look the other way, or turn up and vote how they have been told to vote, but are people of deeply held political conviction and belief and as such I was proud to have given them a choice at the ballot box.
I thank each and every one of them and urge them to email me in order that we build our data base of those wanting an alternative future
The Green Party can do better, we can work harder, in fact we will have to if we want to see success at the ballot box, but we more than doubled our vote from the same election four years ago, and we held the honour in Castle Ward of helping to ensure that the right wing medias new toy UKIP secured their only fourth place in the County having come first second or third everywhere else.
Of course I wish I had won, as I believe I was doing my bit in holding the Tories to account at a time when the only other opposition seems to come from outside of the Council.
But perhaps I can have just as much fun with having the prefix "Cllr" before my name. The press asked me if I would be taking a rest after 22 years in active local and national politics? A rest I asked? I am not 50 until September, I have only just started to get going! I just need to decide now with the support and consent of my new Green colleagues which Labour candidate I want to upset the most now by standing as an opposing Green candidate at the 2015 General Election.
Any thoughts gladly received