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Are Local Elections Fair to the Voters?

May 1, 2019 6:04 PM
By Tom Morris

Tom headshot

Local elections should give voters an effective voice in how their community is run. For thousands of people that's not happening. For many there isn't even a vote.

This year over 200 parish, town and District councillors were elected unopposed - right here. Thousands are denied a choice in who makes vital decisions about their local area.

First Past the Post voting is deeply flawed. Parties can secure a majority of seats without a majority of votes, gaining a permanent majority. If this happens, how do you keep people in power accountable?

What's more, these parties are far more likely to represent a small section of society's views, than a broad, more open-minded consensus. As a result, the only way to unseat an incumbent is to rally around the strongest challenger, whether they reflect your views or not.

In Sevenoaks town for example, people can only vote Labour or Green in two of the four main District wards. Even there, Liberal Democrats are better placed to challenge Conservatives. That makes every Sevenoaks Town seat a straight choice between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.

More generally, the world of politics is off-putting for many. Too often, the system is convoluted, arcane and formal. This puts up unnecessary barriers to entry which prevent otherwise enthusiastic members of society getting involved.

However, we know the 'one party state' can be beaten. In the late 1990s, the Lib Dems led Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge & Malling councils. The time was all too brief but allowed a period of more collaborative local politics.

It would be much better for voters if every vote counted, as it does in much of Europe. Until then, it is in every voter's interest to support a genuine opposition on May 2nd.

Tom Morris