Independents for Frome has had two electoral periods of controlling the town council. The first started in 2011 (when we had an initial 10/17 seats) and the second in 2017 (when we started with all 17). In each period we have faced a bye-election just before the final year. In each case the ward with the bye-election already has at least one councillor – so people are represented – and the new councillor will make no difference to the balance of power. But the Political Parties seek power and – at a cost to the town of £6,000 – demand an election.
I respect their right to contest elections and that of the electorate to vote. What I am so disappointed by is the tired old crap that gets wheeled out which encourages the electorate to stay in the status quo we know is so corrosive. Already leaflets are being delivered focussing on one unfinished project of the current council and listing a set of lies and half truths to demonstrate……. well what? Presumably, that this group of councillors makes bad decisions.
The logic of this ‘slagging off’ approach is that the ideology that one Party has (and all members adhere to) should be replaced by another ideology. But this fails to understand the model of Independents for Frome, which is that a set of individuals with a range of views, skills and experience work together as a group for the betterment of the town. This sits in a different paradigm, which the Political Parties are unable to engage with, or choose not to. This is a great frustration for me.
We will now trudge through a period in which three or four Parties will tell a disinterested electorate what their national manifesto says while also slagging off the work of a group which has hugely benefitted them as individuals. (As ifF we will put forward a candidate who will put Frome first and bring something to the mix of experience we already have – and we’ll look for someone who will stand again in 2019 if elected.) But what all this does is add to the cynicism of most people who either wade through the negativity, or bin it on sight…..
Ideally, at this level, the people would choose from a set of individuals without the confusion of Party ideology. But given that the Political Parties will forever remain in the only model they know of putting up candidates (however poor they are), the next logical step for ifF would be to enable the people to choose the ifF candidate. This could be through ‘primaries’ or – way better – using sortition as espoused by Patrick Chalmers in his new set of films. Unfortunately we don’t yet have the time or energy to orchestrate this, but it should be an aspiration of groups like ifF.
There is another reason why the farce of this immanent bye-election annoys me. It reminds me of a parallel on another stage: ‘Trump…..is not just a dysfunctional aberration within an otherwise functional political order, nor does he alone constitute an existential threat to the survival of American democracy. Rather, he is a morbid symptom of a system entering into an advanced state of decay’ (from Jerome Roos writing in ROAR). The Lib Dem approach is also a symptom of a system that fails to serve us well. Humankind does not have time thrashing about in a sea of hopeless ways to find the leadership we need to tackle the impact global issues are having both internationally and locally.
I want to move on and not be hauled back by individual egos and power seekers whose actions ensure the suicidal systems stagger on. I believe our natural state is one of cooperation and I enter 2018 with a sense of urgency which does not have space for manufactured conflict. The challenge is that most of us struggle with change – we need to be braver.