By now last week’s elections have been analysed, over-analysed, and then analysed a bit more for good measure. There seems to be certain sense of shock at the outcome and a sense, certainly amongst those I’ve spoke to, of trepidation. Last week was not a good experience for any Liberal Democrat; but strangely at both the counts I attended I found myself talking to people who gave me a rather better feeling about these elections in general, if by no means making me happy with the results.
On Thursday night (or should I say the early hours of Friday morning, the count did drag on until nearly 6am in Sefton Central) I met a young lady attending on her own; Lindsey Melia, the local Green candidate, was her own agent and was introduced to us by a group of local non-party political campaigners for whom environmental issues were a key concern. She told me she’d stood because in the last election she’d wanted to vote Green and found there was no candidate in the area and so had determined to change that. I cannot think of a better response to that situation. No matter what you think of party politics here was a young woman who saw a situation she didn’t like and set her mind, and indeed her time and effort, into doing something about it. She will have known she wasn’t going to come close to winning, it’s a safe Labour seat (and indeed sadly neither the Greens nor the Lib Dems even managed to garner enough votes to reclaim our deposits) but what she did do was offer people a choice. A choice that the 1,184 people who voted for her would not have had otherwise. She also stood in Linacre Ward for Sefton Council (another safe Labour seat) and there offered the only alternative to Labour and The Socialist Labour Party and came away with a pretty respectable 12% of the vote. I suspect Lindsey will be back, she came across as quiet but determined, and personally, though we may be standing in different political camps, I hope to see her name on the ballot paper again and I hope more people have a similar reaction to her if they find themselves having trouble finding a candidate they can support.
That was Thursday, I managed to go to work on Friday and finally get some sleep. Then I was back on Saturday for the parish council counts. The unexpected holding of three out of four seats the Lib Dems fought on Lydiate was fantastic. While there though I again found myself talking to people outside of my own party, the same non-party political group that introduced Lindsey to me to begin with. Known locally as ‘Frag-off’ and standing for election under the title Community Action Not Party Politics this group of local activists are fighting, just like the local Lib Dems, to save the local greenbelt that contains some of Britain’s top agricultural land. They had a fantastic victory and took control of Formby Parish Council, winning nine out of the ten seats they contested. These people again seemed dedicated to fighting what they saw as wrong. To them this wasn’t an issue of party politics, one lady told me they came from a variety of backgrounds and said she personally liked the idea of political coalition. We agreed that debating sensibly with those who disagree with you, being forced to defend and see the flaws in your own ideas and beliefs, is good both for us as individuals and for the things we stand for. I suspect Formby has found itself under the governance of a group who will work very hard for them and, despite being involved in party politics myself, I think their decision to support this group that chooses to work outside the party system was a good one.
At both of these events I met people dedicated to making their corner of the world a better place. I met the kind of people who when seeing things they disliked have made concerted efforts to do something about it. No matter what the election results, there are people out there quietly working away to improve their communities and I’m willing to believe that this holds true across the country. Lose your faith in politicians if you will, but cynicism would be hard pressed to stand against the kind of people I met at the local counts. It’s one election, personally I don’t think it’s a good result, but it’s not the end. Saying it is the end is letting them win, so, like these local activists and those who get involved because they want to see a different point of view represented, don’t stop fighting, don’t stop voting, and don’t lose hope.