Confessions of a Political Animal

November 19, 2008

A problem of the second order

polling-stationAs we race inexorably towards Christmas and the new year, we are also moving towards the run-up to a new electoral cycle, with European elections and a round of local government polls due in May 2009 – what a political scientist would describe as a collection of second order elections. Such elections are those thought to be considered by voters to be of lesser importance, attracting lower turn-out and being used by many who do turn out as a mid-term referendum on national government (of course, if this turns out to be the date of an early general election, unlikely in my view, then we move firmly into first-order territory).

The problem with such elections is that the real issues that they are supposed to be driven by become more than a little obscured by the heat and noise of national politics – and local elections in particular are prone to this, at least in part because of the apparent managerialism and post-ideological nature of the massively decreased role of local government. It has been said that ‘there is no Labour or Conservative way to collect bins’. Up to a point, this is true, but this is a position based on a very limited perception of what a local authority should be up to.

Coming, as I do, from a left-wing perspective, I much prefer to look at local government in the light of Bevan’s quote that ‘socialism is the language of priorities’. And nowhere are decisions over the setting of (more…)

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