The uncomfortable side of local politics

The uncomfortable side of local politics

I’ve always been interested in politics,  however this is the first year I have been officially involved with a political party and have been a very active political activist. In life I always go by what I think is right according to my moral compass. Over the course of the last year, I’ve been made aware of practices I don’t feel comfortable with. I have come across vulnerable people in our society, vulnerable people who don’t understand when they’re being taken advantage of.

Recently I had a discussion with a lady who was very excited about a visit from some Councillors. She said along the lines of… “oh Councillor X visited me, we were talking about who was going to replace Councillor Y this year,  then the one that’s going to actually be my councillor after the election turned up with the two others, so all four of them were here. ” I asked the lady if councillors explained how the election works she said oh no Z is going to be the next councillor I just have to go and vote for him. I asked the lady if they entered her house or did they just stay at the door. This is was to establish if this was just a case of them going door to door canvassing. She said that come into her house. I asked her why they went there, she said it was to introduce Z, her next councillor. Alarmed by this I then I tried to explain to her how the election actually worked and that she has a choice on who she can vote for. This is been a conversation I’ve had several times over the course of the year. Trying to explain to people how the election actually works. This practice of turning up unannounced at a household with a person who clearly has learning difficulties feels wrong to me. When it comes to someone who is vulnerable I stick with the facts whilst trying my hardest to be neutral as I don’t want to be elected because I take advantage of those that need protecting.

Another thing that has made me feel uncomfortable is the situation regarding postal votes. Last year when I went to my training as a candidate we discussed postal votes and how we could go and collect them from residents to post for them if they couldn’t post it themselves. When hearing this I had to double check that I wasn’t misunderstanding and according to the rules I can indeed go and collect people’s postal votes. This again doesn’t feel right to me because I could when I am there, influence someone to vote for me. I as the candidate would not be allowed in the polling station so why am I allowed to handle a postal vote? Therefore I have decided that I will not be touching anyone’s postal vote. It just feels wrong to me.

The day of the election all parties offer to pick people up and take them to the polling station if need be. Now I don’t have an issue with this in principle but what protects vulnerable people? What stops them being brought to the polling stations by people who have on the journey tried to influence their vote? Now there are some things I’m not going to be able to change. Voters will need lifts to the polling stations, but couldn’t this be a services that’s offered by the Borough and not by individual parties? Other practices of when it’s correct and proper to visit someone’s household and if we should be touching people’s voting cards, are issues I would like to have an influence over and change. Unfortunately we know in politics that not everything is fair and just. And we know immoral practices go on. But this is something that I would like to have an open discussion about. It is too late for things to change this election but I am reaching out to the all parties to ask that we are able to come together along with the election officers to make adjustments to the practices that happen so further protection can be provided for those vulnerable people who some may try to take advantage of. I’m writing this not to scare people, not to build-up paranoia, but because it’s something I truly feel uncomfortable with it’s something that I don’t like about politics and wish to change.

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