In each and every election campaign, candidates, from the first-time hopefuls to seasoned councillors, will be canvassing for your votes, writes Steve Lane, Werrington First councillor on Peterborough City Council.
But, while making their doorstep pitch, many will occasionally meet the disinterested saying “politicians, you promise the earth and deliver nothing”.
It’s unfortunate to hear, I know, but it would be foolhardy to try to change a preconceived opinion that ignores the detail that councillors are not of that breed.
There will be an underlying cause for that anger, so it would be pointless trying to debate what makes a good councillor, and the benefit of voting for the right candidate.
The damage and cause of these complaints has evolved over the past few weeks and has been completely outside a councillor’s role. Politicians, whom we elect and in whom we place our trust, have created this state of affairs, not councillors. Brexit has tainted all political debate since the referendum, and just about everything is so distorted by Brexit viewpoints that I predict this strength of feeling will wreak havoc with local election results this year.
Traditionally, mid-term local elections tend to reflect the national popularity of political parties.
Under normal conditions, people would make a vote based on local issues or their local councillor, fully aware that local elections are about who can best empty their bins rather than who can best deal with the EU. But, given the complicated issues that MPs have created in the neverending Brexit process, we should not be surprised if it is the hottest topic on the doorstep.
This mood has amazingly filtered down through to party members themselves. Many grassroot participants are faithful volunteers, cheerful and smiling footsloggers who willingly hit the streets in support of their party’s candidates. But we hear that enthusiasm has been dented by this campaign and many are coming back with reports of a public discontent for anything remotely political.
Trust in the two main parties is at such a major low, confirmed by a recent poll that shows both have been overtaken by a brand-new party that could have such a pivotal role to play this year, and one that just might change the balance of power in many local authorities, including Peterborough.
Locally, the Labour representation on the council spent too many years in the doldrums, but are now almost back to fighting strength after the gradual recovery of seats in recent years. They would be hoping to gain sufficient seats this year to allow them a better grip on power, only this may be affected by their party’s leadership being as confused as the Tory front bench over Brexit.
To be honest, I expect that local candidates of all colours will struggle to gain any clear vision of how successful their doorstep campaigns are, and with such a slender majority of control, even local Tories may find their backs against the wall in their traditional heartland. Instead of surfing on the wave of success had the Prime Minister sealed our Brexit withdrawal at the end of March, or even April 12, they would have coasted to victory. Now it is anyone’s guess.
And yes, it could be said that politicians who promised us the earth, or at least Brexit, have delivered nothing. I feel that rage too, but there is nothing a councillor can do to change things.