I must say how tired I am of being patronised in my own home by the local Lib Dem newsletter: “It’s Lib Dem or Conservative Here. The Lib Dems are the only other Party big enough to run the Council.”
However true that may be, this hectoring slogan (which manages to be both defensive and aggressive at once) reduces the principle of democratic choice to a utilitarian No Choice.
It under-estimates the value of diverse political ideas in local government, even if those ideas are represented by a small minority of town or district councillors.
A single councillor from another party may work just as hard – or harder – than any in the larger groupings, and can bring new perspectives when serving on committees and responding to the problems and aspirations of local citizens.
There are people in local elections who really do vote for active, engaged individuals whom they know and value, regardless of party affiliation. We’re not talking about running the country here, but making the most of able, energetic, principled people who are already busy in their community.
In Seaford, Newhaven and Lewes there are a wide variety of support groups, campaign groups and community-based projects, all of them designed to help people, to protect and improve the environment, and to foster social cohesion.
Many of these were initiated and are now maintained, week in and week out, by the work of people who do not vote for - and would not represent - either of the two parties “big enough to run the council.”
It seems to me arrogant to suggest that the presence of a few people like this, on any town or district council, is inherently pointless.