Tomorrow, across Britain, many elections are taking place. These are elections that, mostly, are about a year too late because of the Covid “emergency” of 2020. As a result, the Mayor of London, for example, has been in office – unelected – a year after his sell-by date. Scotland and Wales will have elections for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. There will be local council elections across England and elections for Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales.
The elections are taking place over a year after the first lockdown was announced by Boris Johnson and in the middle of a second national lockdown. And we had various regional flavours of lockdown in-between (alongside pointless mask mandates and a rag-bag collection of dictums that made no sense – remember the one about the ‘substantial meal’ when the restaurants were last open?).
Lockdown, indeed, was a concept that was unknown on these shores before March last year. Inspired by China, lockdown has succeeded in bifurcating the electorate in a manner that was unimaginable even during the crescendo of the 2016 Brexit campaign. Society is now divided on the basis of the informed versus the scared (plus civil servants ‘working at home’).
For the informed, therefore, the elections present something of a dilemma. The last party anyone of sane mind would vote for is the Conservative Party. One could barely squeeze a wafer-thin mint between Boris and the policies of Xi Jinping. This ‘Conservative’ Prime Minister has overseen the effective suspension of civil rights and democracy, the unemployment of vast swathes of the productive workforce, and an escalation of public debt to levels never seen in our history. No Marshall Plan will get us out of this monstrosity of debt.
Meanwhile, Keir Starmer wanted the same policies, with bells on, sooner, harder and deeper – with zero consideration for the fact that Labour constituencies have been hit hardest and deepest by lockdowns that have devastated local communities and livelihoods.
Hence the dilemma. Who to vote for? Admittedly, local and regional government is supposed to be about the local and regional. But Covid policy swamps everything else. Boris and his big lockdown are the huge elephants in the voting centres.
The alternative choices facing the electorate, therefore, come down to Reform (the party that emerged from the party formerly known as the Brexit Party); Reclaim (ostensibly the Laurence Fox party – who is standing for London Mayor); David Kurten’s Heritage Party; and a smattering of LibDem liberal anti-lockdowners (but it’s hard to find out who they are among the swathes of woke).
In addition, there’s The Democratic Network (TDN) candidates, led by Nigel Jacklin. Its candidates have tapped into concern – in particular – by local communities about the ‘service’ provided by the police.
According to Jacklin, “In the major cities the Mayor holds the police to account. Elsewhere it’s the PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners). These are elected positions we can vote for on Thursday. Very few PCCs are independent; perhaps more will be elected this time.
“We have met many people who feel the police are “out of control”. Others are concerned about the increasing ‘politicisation’ of the police. Many of us have witnessed scenes involving police brutality during lockdown that we did not expect to see here in the UK. A survey we conducted in March found that the majority of people lacked faith in the police.”
In fact 78% of respondents in the survey conducted by TDN were not particularly confident that, should they need help, the police would handle their complaints effectively. 77% of respondents were not particularly confident that, if they were the subject of police attention, the police would be fair and reasonable. These elections provide an opportunity for change – and TDN is putting up candidates to prove it.
It may well be, of course, that we’ll just have a slump in turnout and the same old candidates will romp home, based on a much-reduced mandate. This is likely to be the case in the London Mayoral election.
Meanwhile the government will continue to spin its short-term relaxation of Covid rules while making subtle hints that it may just have to do more of the (lockdown) same come the usual spike in respiratory infections in Autumn and Winter.
But tomorrow’s elections are an opportunity for a protest vote like no other protest vote in our history. Hopefully the maverick, thinking, and, frankly, outraged candidates will do well. We might even have a few upsets. Fingers firmly crossed.