This week we will be back on the doorsteps for the May 2011 council elections. A rather later start than last year, but then I’ve only got one ward to work on instead of the whole constituency.
I have been looking forward to knocking on those doors again and seeing if we are as unpopular as we keep being told we are. There are stories around the country that some Lib Dem activists are refusing to canvass for fear of the reception they may get from previously loyal supporters. Well, I’ll guess I’ll find out – but two years ago, when we were canvassing during the expenses scandal, there were some fairly hostile receptions then so it can’t be much worse.
It is only ten months since we were last knocking up – and a lot has happened since then.
Last year the main complaint was having an election! People were not happy that their news was full of elections. One person suggested we abolish all parties ‘except the big two’ and let them take turns for five years each. Then we ‘won't need to bother the people with elections.’ I don’t think I’ll campaign for that.
The main issues raised with me last year were immigration, the local economy and Gordon Brown. Well, Mr Brown has moved on. And our cause was not helped by adopting an immigration policy which, while workable, was easy to shoot to pieces and, in my view, was a major cause in our fortunes falling away in the last few days. It would have been wiser to adopt Labour’s policy of not having a policy.
I anticipate that raised with us may well be the fact we went into coalition with the Tories, the tuition fees saga, and possibly the health service. None of these are local council issues, of course, but many people can’t tell the difference. Local elections nearly always reflect national showings, which can be a shame for good councillors of all parties.
We can’t do much about anyone who is angry about the coalition – after all, there is no coalition in the council, the Tories are in firm control, and we are fighting them as best we can. As for tuition fees, we can’t defend the indefensible. We got this badly wrong and have to hold up our hands and say so.
Where possible, I will aim to stick to local issues. We are defending two very experienced hard working councillors who have done a lot for their wards. We are also putting in the field a number of experienced ex-councillors and, of course, me! And I think I am good! We are hoping to get as many Lib Dems into the council chamber as we can to fight on local issues.
And we are opposing a lethargic and apathetic council which regularly releases long term plans which get quietly dropped before the next plan comes along. I make no apologies for repeating the fact that Swale is predicted to return to its pre-recession levels of employment in 2025 – far later than most of Kent – and the Council’s disinterest doesn’t help.
So off we go onto the streets in good old-fashioned political tradition. It will be much easier once the weather gets warmer and the clocks go forward but for now we’ll venture out in the cold and dark to seek every vote we can.