Sean Bennett: To vote or not to vote?

Local elections do not offer the wall to wall, rip-roaring excitement of a snap general election. Filling the seats of a council just doesn’t live up to the buzz of dispatching doomed souls to Westminster or ruining decades of European solidarity in one night. Hot off the back of some of the most interesting politics in recent memory, perhaps the stakes just don’t seem high enough in local elections for anyone to really care.

To be fair, in comparison to some of our international friends, local autonomy is not really a cornerstone of British politics.

Where the USA or Germany afford their states and counties considerable powers in order to alleviate pressure on central government, London still maintains a tight grip on most of the regions in the UK. Even the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have limited powers in many areas, though this has been changing in recent years. The governing powers of the UK still remain firmly situated in the halls of Westminster, with many local decisions being dictated by the national government to their local counterparts.

With this being the case, why do local elections actually matter? If the people for whom we are supposed to vote will have barely any effect on our lives, then why the hell should I stop watching Netflix and make my way to my nearest polling station? Frankly, it seems to be a total waste of time.

As much as I would love to spend the valuable time I would save by not voting on watching Brooklyn 99, I think I will still make the effort to put my cross in a box.

It is hard to refute that local elections are objectively less important than the more national events, but shouldn’t be understood as meaning that they have no value at all. Local services, even those run to a certain extent by London, do still tend to rely somewhat on local politicians and their policies.

Bin collections, policing, public transport etc. – all of these things could be affected by local elections, for better or for worse. Though it can sometimes be hard to pin down where local councils are doing their work, I can promise you that if they stopped altogether, you would notice.

So, if you want things to change just as with any other election, you have to vote. Hell, if you want things to stay the same, then you still have to vote to make sure that they do.

Aside from anything else, I find that local politicians often have more freedom than MPs and, as such, they can find the time to really get involved with their communities, if they choose to make the effort.

For example, councillors are given budgets which they must spend on charitable causes, so regardless of whether or not you think your chosen candidate will be politically successful, maybe they can make a difference to the community by donating to the right cause. With the time to see what is happening to their money, and to really get to know the people to whom they are giving it, local politicians can be extremely helpful in building good will and solidarity in communities, even if they aren’t making the trains run on time or solving the national debt.

At the end of the day, the same principle applies with all elections. If you don’t vote, then you don’t really have the right to complain when things don’t go the way you wanted them to.


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Sean Bennett

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December 2021
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