Stamford electors choose ‘None of the Above’

Here is the text of a letter I sent to Stamford Mercury this week concerning the recent low turnout in the two Stamford by-elections in St John’s Ward (20.8%) and St George’s Ward (17.2%) …

“Dear Editor

Congratulations to Rachael Cooke and David Taylor on winning the Stamford by-elections last week. I genuinely hope they make a positive difference to the quality of representation at South Kesteven District Council.

Sadly, their mandate has already been undermined by most people in Stamford. Despite the recent hyperbole about taking back control and the importance of a centenary of women’s suffrage, fewer than twenty percent of eligible voters turned out last week and fewer than one in ten residents expressed a preference for either of the aforementioned candidates.

I can understand why people are disillusioned with the current archaic electoral system.  Due to absence of proportional representation, most people do not get the person or party we voted for at either local or national level. At last year’s Lincolnshire County elections the Conservatives gained 54 percent of the vote but collected over 80 per cent of the seats. This situation cannot be accurately described as representative democracy.

Another reason for public disengagement is the mostly unfair portrayal of politicians by the media as being self-interested, corrupt and disconnected. Anyone who witnesses the passion, patience and attention to detail displayed by Councillors at almost any meeting will understand local politics is not about fame or fortune.

Finally, people don’t vote because they don’t think it makes any difference. Recent high profile planning cases such as Kettering Road where inspectors have over-ruled the decisions of councillors do cause one to wonder but there are plenty of sensible planning decisions which are upheld on appeal and consequently do not attract attention in the press. Furthermore, even a lowly backbench Independent like me can influence decision making and occasionally put forward and win an argument for change.

Come on, Stamford! If you are unhappy with the hegemony of the Lincolnshire Tories then get involved. Turn up to the meetings, write to your Councillors, even stand for election if you like, but most importantly make sure you vote. Every Councillor does make a difference for better or for worse and voter apathy can cost lives.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Ashley Baxter (Ind)
Market & West Deeping Ward”

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