I’m delighted to hear that Rachel Jupp has been elected as a Town Councillor in Monmouth. It is 18 months since she first stood as an Independent for Indy Monmouth, failing narrowly then and repeating that in a first by-election later, before yesterday’s victory.
I have fairly frequent conversations with people who have attempted to enter these ‘lowest’ layers of our political system and initially failed. Most recently, these have been with Belgians who put a huge amount of energy into creating groups standing with a set of values, in their recent local elections and failed to see anyone elected. There, although their proportional representation system is much fairer than ours, it is still incredibly hard to get your first person elected.
What they have done, though, is up the game. They have forced people to take notice and – in some cases – to take ideas from the new groups, especially around a more participative democracy. It may feel poor consolation to someone who has tried so hard (and failed) to be fobbed off with what sound like platitudes of ‘things will never be the same because you stood’. But it’s true. Equally, there are places where one or two councillors are really making a difference despite their lack of obvious power. The Cynon Valley’s one successful candidate continues to do a great job and the Alternative Party in Denmark may only have nine MPs but they continue to attract a disproportionate amount of interest and coverage for ideas that constantly challenge…..and so on.
Rachel joins a group of Independents in Monmouth who have sometimes struggled to impose in world that can find change tricky. I’d argue that now is the time when local and global really comes into its own. Town councils must step up to fill the chasms of need created by austerity at a local level – and also add their voice to the global issues that affect their citizens by, for example, declaring a climate emergency. What next for Monmouth?