Monday 7 December 2015

Government of the People

Outlining a political strategy is no easy matter in these days. Not only is the world apparently in a degree of ecological, financial and political crisis but the true facts are difficult to ascertain. This is due to spin; plain lies and subterfuge we are fed constantly. We must deal not only with a rapidly changing picture but often with information which may be patchy or misleading or just totally untrue.

Even at local government level the culture of spin is king - hiding bad news, praising the mundane and announcing repeatedly future exciting projects which may or not materialise on time, on budget, or at all. Being elected apparently means you are not only the most popular (or least worst) of the choices on offer, but also the best person to decide what your voters now want. If something was in your manifesto you can at least assume they liked that policy.

But a bunch of policies are not necessarily all popular or even desired in any way. Maybe they just liked your party's image or your personality. Few will have read the small print and no-one has given you permission for unilateral action on the many issues which arise unexpectedly in the future

People First member and Carmarthenshire County councillor Siân Caiach engages in the arcane method of actually asking people stuff.

For example, the news that both a doorstep and an online survey on the local government reorganisation by People First before the 2015 General Election gave the result that most people thought that a merger with the Swansea Bay area was the best idea for Llanelli, went down like a lead balloon with my County Council comrades. All the political parties in Carmarthenshire County Council  wanted to keep Carmarthenshire as is, and knew, presumably instinctively rather than by the third-rate method of actually asking, that was what their voters wanted too, thus there was no need to discuss the issue at all. We have, it was said, one of the best councils in Wales, so why change it? Asking real people their opinions is clearly a waste of time when their elected representatives know exactly what their voters want without asking them.

Most people are not interested in politics, at least most of the time. Only when there are large and well-publicised elections or a political decision effects you personally does politics touch your life. In our many-tiered government few members of the public can confidently list the various responsibilities of Westminster Government, Welsh Assembly and County or Community Councils. Too often it is only when things go wrong that the public take any notice of the bodies who act for us, and through our votes, with our authority.

On Wednesday December 9th, the Plaid Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council will propose a motion that the council not only supports the UK remaining in the European Union in the forthcoming 2017 referendum on the subject but will make every effort to persuade our citizens to vote for staying in. Even the UK government's negotiations are unfinished and the exact date and conditions of the vote unknown. As the two largest groups in the council, Plaid Cymru and the Labour party are officially in favour of EU membership the vote will doubtless be won but the real opinions of ordinary people do not factor at all in the process.

Why the CCC needs to do this, spending time and resources when the UK government and others will doubtless be generously funding a YES campaign, is beyond me, but the bottom line is that once again the opinions of our constituents are meaningless. Carmarthenshire County Council does as it wants, and if you don't like it: tough.

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