Election? What Election?

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ANOTHER election day in Wales, and that same old sinking feeling that real democracy didn’t really get a look in yet again.

Voting for local authority elections has hovered around the 35% mark here in recent years, and there are genuine fears the figure will be lower than 30% this time.

The public are of course weary and punchdrunk after two long years of the Covid saga, and still wary of public participation in many cases.

And it’s also a big ask to ask people to come out to validate a political system which has failed society in so many ways over the past two years

But the very nature of local politics and its overall profile is also to blame for the large scale public apathy, with both Westminster and Cardiff Bay equally at fault.

The Local Government Association recently termed the UK as ‘the most centralised country in the Western world’, with that ever-present Whitehall mentality a huge factor in all that.

Which allows for none of the vibrant and active forms of regional politics which so marks other European nations such as Germany and France for example.

And here in Wales, the Senedd – run by Labour for 22 years – has never given any real thought to how to make local politics more meaningful and accountable.

With their only focus to turn Cardiff Bay into a mini Westminster at the expense of the rest of Wales – a tactic guaranteed to alienate and disincentivise people.

This general alienation can be seen at its worst in Gwynedd this time perhaps, which has 40% of its seats uncontested this time.

With an unpopular Plaid administration having closed a raft of local schools and youth clubs over the past few years, one would imagine that there would be much more interest in contesting seats in the county.

But, the general malaise and lack of interest in the rest of Wales usually shown by Y Senedd has obviously seeped far and wide.

A spokesman for Gwlad said it was high time for a more nuanced and accountable local politics in Wales, bringing power down closer to people.

‘As a party, we would favour reducing the existing 22 councils to around 6, but give these authorities genuine power over local matters, including health, so that they can really make a difference locally’ he said.

‘We believe this would then make local politics more relevant and people would want to engage more with the whole process.’

He added it was a real indictment of Labour’s wilful neglect of the need to build up a sense of Welsh citizenship that so many voters remained so unaware of what services councils were responsible for and how to keep them accountable for those services.

‘Of course, the weakness of our own Welsh media is a big part of all this, but the Welsh Government has to bear the main responsibility for not caring enough about local democracy’ he added.

At this election Gwlad has 21 candidates, mainly in the Llanelli and Swansea area, with party leader Gwyn Wigley Evans also contesting the Llanrhystud seat on Cyngor Sir Ceredigion.

Other pro-independence parties are also on the ballot box, i.e. Propel and the Sovereign Party.

With all the established parties having been such unswerving advocates for all the lockdown mandates, it will be interesting to see if the three smaller parties – all of whom spoke out against lockdowns – can take advantage of the growing realisation concerning the social and economic havoc caused by these policies.

But whatever the results today, most of us could agree that the whole local authority set-up, and its elections needs a huge shake-up.

So that in future we can have a better informed electorate who can deliver real verdicts at elections on how services in their areas are run and delivered.


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