Sunday, February 12, 2012

Local politics - too important to be left to politicians

The local council elections this May have thrown up a few intriguing issues. Marple's two wards have both been relatively safe Liberal Democrat seats, but these are far from normal times. If the national picture is to be translated locally then the LibDem vote is in meltdown and they will probably lose control of Stockport Council, which they currently run with the tacit support of a group of independent councillors from Heald Green.

Last time round, the Conservatives trailed the LibDems by 8 per cent in Marple South and 10 per cent in Marple North. A softening of the core vote could easily swing it. Link to the results is here.

Locally in Marple there are only really two well organised political bodies. The Liberal Democrat party and Marple in Action. That is not to say that Marple in Action is a political party, far from it. Indeed, there are many crossovers in membership and over the single issue of the supermarket the LibDems have come out as against it.

Yet I get no impression that the Conservatives have a sufficient organisation in Marple. The Conservative Club is a social base, not a political one. They have fielded "paper" candidates in the past, young activists with a willingness to put their names out, but with no hope of winning. Now that they have the opportunity, do they have the means?

A cynic could say the local councillors and candidates have played to the prevailing wind. Had there been no outrage at the proposals, I dare say the councillors who have sat as college governors would herald the inward investment success of attracting interest from Asda. As it is, they've latterly come to the table and been rather shocked by the weight of public opinion (see the picture above at the Area Committee in Memorial Park which rather shook them up).

I think all of this has made Marple quite volatile politically. There is also, to my mind, the continued question as to whether Shan Alexander should continue a career in public life following her conviction in 2009 of a driving offence which resulted in the death of a passenger in her car. I certainly don't think she should, as I said here. I don't know whether this is a big issue locally, but it should be.

But as I've said before, here for example, there is a vital need for an open and public debate about where this community is heading. Marple in Action has done a great job raising this long term thought to the fore. But will the councillors? In a council chamber, with party loyalties pulling elected members in one direction and another, I fear the main priority of this community and it's fragile business base could be overlooked.

I don't think the short term objectives of Marple in Action are under any immediate threat from the issues of this election - it is important too that the organisation remains focused on this huge single issue. But beyond that I have an uneasy feeling that the longer the Marple Area plan is thrown into the hands of council committees and dense reports, the more obscure it appears to ordinary people. 

My view, which I have come to recently, is that this election is time for an independent slate to come forward and stand up for the community. And put Marple first.

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