We’ve all heard it before: “I vote Labour, I’ve always voted Labour and I always will vote Labour.” This kind of phrase sums up large sections of metropolitan areas and northern local Councils.
Below is a photo of Liverpool City Hall, which has recently been embroiled in a corruption scandal that some have argued will lead to Labour losing out on one of their longest-controlled areas since the Second World War.
Investigations into the Liverpool City Council have led to the UK Government taking over the ‘dysfunctional’ parts of it for at least three years. There is little opposition to this move.
However, it’s issues like this that come about from many years of stagnation in uncontested areas. If you know you’re going to win re-election anyway, why bother trying at your job? I know it’s a cynical outlook on politicians, but they’re politicians.
Where do we find accountability in these politicians when the voters aren’t able to do so? This isn’t a Labour problem – it’s for all parties across the UK. It’s something that needs to be changed to ensure better standards for the British people.
A system used in America is the ‘primary’ system, whereby members of political parties actively vote in very public elections on who the candidate should be for a certain electoral contest.
So, say we’re deep in Labour territory – my home town Gateshead, for example, where the Council spends millions on the refurbishment and re-decoration of offices, which it has done. Perhaps it tries to push Council Tax to the legal limits too, which it is doing – how do people stop that? Are they going to vote for anyone else except Labour? Hell will freeze over before that happens.
How do we make those sorts of changes? How do we lower Council Tax and reduce Council spending, or at least spend it in the right places – which many agree the Council isn’t doing?
We can’t, at the moment. But if the primary system existed, some of us could. Labour members in the local area who care about improving Gateshead would have influence over the people who are running for Labour in this area.
Even if they’re running for re-election, they must be selected by the party members. So we could still have one-party dominated Councils, but opening up decisions on candidacy to the party membership would add an extra layer of accountability that simply doesn’t exist at present.
It would take a lot to reinforce accountability amongst safe seat/area politicians, but opening up party accountability would mean that although general voters may be trapped by party allegiance, candidates would have to fight to prove themselves accountable to their party.