With the local elections 2011 upon us (not to mention the AV vote. I said not to menti… oh please yourself) it’s interesting to note the number of areas where there is no contest.
In these constituencies, and mine is one of them, the number of individuals standing for election is less than the number of available seats. In my own parish one councillor has stood down after more than twenty five years service due to ill health and no-one apart from existing councillors has put themselves forward as candidates for the next council, leaving a space to be filled by co-option. This means I and my fellow councillors have effectively been elected without ballot – which is good in that our parish saved the cost of an election and that money can now be spent in other ways. However, it would have been more satisfying to have stood and won in a real election – which would have been the case (confidence) had two or more extra folk been nominated.
But if only one other individual had put his or her name into the hat during the nomination period, they would have become a new councillor (assuming they met the criteria) – again without either a ballot or a selection for co-option. I am aware of one constituency where this has happened, and which after May 5th will have a BNP councillor, much to the surprise and apparent annoyance of residents in the town concerned. The list of nominees is only publicised after nominations close, so there would have been no way for the townsfolk to have put someone up against the fellow.
Apathy is always a troublesome beast, but perhaps this example might sharpen all our minds next time around. I wonder if, at the next local elections, we might even consider asking folk to stand for election just in case; standing down after nominations close if no-one controversial has stood unexpectedly… Otherwise, this is how they get in.