Persistent hounder of many a bounder, TV journalist Michael Crick once described the General Election as ‘our World Cup’, with the ‘our’ being the small coterie of correspondents and commentators whose careers are devoted to documenting developments in the British political arena. If that’s true for the major event held on average every four/five years, local elections must then equate with some minor tournament staged during the summer, the kind of poor relation that is exclusively available on some obscure subscription-only satellite channel nobody has ever actually seen.
Most of us could probably name our MP (at a push), whereas councillors are a far more anonymous breed. At one time, there appeared to be a proliferation of regional titans who were never slow to remind the electorate that they’d once run around without shoes on their feet, hard men – and occasionally women – carved from local stone and prepared to pocket a few backhanders to put their towns on the map. Many, such as Newcastle’s T Dan Smith, became embroiled in scandals that were a side-effect of their rapacious ambition, eventually paying the price with prison sentences and the consequent end of careers in public office. Yes, they were rogues, but there was a certain begrudging admiration for their refusal to be cast as pale imitations of their Westminster superiors. When compared to the bland double-glazing salesmen and primary school headmistresses who constitute today’s moribund councillors, it’s no wonder so few potential voters can be sufficiently fired-up to trek to the polling station.
Not that this will be evident as live TV coverage bigs up today’s elections once the results begin rolling in, mind. It’ll still be presented as ‘David Cameron’s first serious test since the General Election’ or ‘the first chance to gauge the public’s opinion of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership’ or numerous other ‘firsts’. The broadcasters love it, and they’ve not even had the EU Referendum to get their teeth into yet; not that through-the-night broadcasts of this nature aren’t occasionally entertaining, however – fun to dip in and out of, a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s even acquired a crass Americanism to inject a dash of glamour into proceedings – Super Thursday, as opposed to not-bad Wednesday and bloody awful Friday.
Lest we forget, the engrossing allure of local elections isn’t quite sufficiently engrossing to support the hype, so it’s handy we also have elections to the assemblies of Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the Scottish Parliament and one or two mayoral shindigs, most prominently the one darn Landan way, between renowned Bollywood devotee and man of the Asian people…Zac Goldsmith; and Sadiq Khan. Hell, there are even a couple of Westminster by-elections to add to the list. Come on!
Head-and-shoulders above the rest, though, have to be the elections for the local Police and Crime Commissioners. When the Tories introduced this extra layer of police bureaucracy in 2012, the turn-out amongst the electorate was a canny reflection of the public’s appetite for the new innovation: between 10% and 20%. One cannot but suspect had the damp squib proposal by the Blair administration for regional English assemblies got past the drawing board at the turn of the century, the enthusiasm on the part of the electorate would be similarly euphoric.
Having said all that, there are certain aspects of the day’s machinations which might prove interesting as pointers to where the major parties go next. Will the recent anti-Semitic accusations affect Labour’s prospects? Will the divisive European issue damage the hopes of the Tories? Will the internal coup that has been brewing ever since Corbyn rose without a trace be given the excuse it needs to move into action? Will the whole exercise serve as a warm-up for which way the wind may blow come June 23? Only one way to find out, you lucky bloody insomniacs.
And on a less cynical note, here’s a silly video…
© The Editor