Apologies for the lack of stuff here since Easter – apparently there’s some kind of election on and somehow I’m standing. How the hell did that happen, eh?
Actually, the best way to get away from election overkill is to take part in one, because they don’t half take up great chunks of your time. The sad thing is that the UK’s crap electoral system means that my vote in the general election is unlikely to change very much at all – as the brilliant Voter Power index from the New Economics Foundation (full disclosure: I donate to the NEF, because I like their work) shows…
A few hundred yards up the road – now in Eltham constituency (don’t even get me started on the bizarre new constituency boundaries, I’ll be here all night if I do) – my vote would be worth 15 times more, since the sitting Labour MP’s future’s looking rocky. But here in Greenwich & Woolwich, sitting MP Nick Raynsford could be forgiven for spending the next month with his feet up and a collection of fine cigars.
This is, of course, not an argument for sitting at home on 6 May and not doing your bit – spoiling your ballot is more honorable than not bothering to vote. But it’s why much of the media’s election coverage drives me crazy. Tuesday’s coverage of the election campaign launch was like watching a news from a parallel world where my vote mattered. “The party leaders might be down your way soon!,” cheered one report. I very much doubt it. The terrible news from Poland has forced a bit of perspective onto events over the weekend, but the early days of the campaign looked, especially on the BBC, like it was being produced by panicky journalists desperate to impress their bosses. (Lib Dem quote to ensure “balance” goes here.)
The worst, as ever, was BBC London News – where they’d obviously been told from on high to ditch proper news and run an election special featuring an awful “debate” about the NHS which went nowhere. And the programme neglected to mention the fact that London had been in election mode for a week already… the council elections.
You’re more likely to force change at the council election ballot box than you ever will at a general election, under the current system. That’s why the Conservatives are spending cash on newsletters in usually-unpromising spots like Charlton. (In 1968, Greenwich went Conservative on the back of a huge swing against Harold Wilson’s government. They’re hoping history repeats itself.) It’s why I’m hanging around around bits of Greenwich trying not to stab myself with a green rosette (the “ouch!” count is at two so far). And it’s why Labour were giving out crappy photocopied slips outside M&S in Blackheath on Saturday, saying how interested they were in my views. If only they’d shown that interest for the past four years.
But despite the council elections being more relevant to many and more volatile than the general election, they’re likely to get minimal coverage. Which is a terrible shame. (It’s a bit ironic from BBC London, which too often uses borough names instead of telling you where something’s really happened.) 32 sets of London elections presents a challenge, but there’s some stories in there (the Lambeth campaign’s sprung into vivid life on Onionbagblog) and just because something’s difficult to cover is no excuse for ignoring it. If London’s councils were covered properly, they might just do a better job.
The full list of Greenwich candidates is available now – sad to see the BNP standing 10 candidates in nine wards (including Charlton), but the Greens are represented everywhere for the first time and the Lib Dems hit trouble with a nomination in deepest Coldharbour & New Eltham. And I wonder how the Christian People’s Alliance will do in Thamesmead and Abbey Wood?
My own bit-part in the campaign means anything I say about the election is likely to be percieved as hopelessly biased, but here’s Andrew Gambier’s thoughts on the Peninsula ward battle. And on that note, I’m off to fret about some leaflet deliveries…