If you watched BBC News South Today last week you may have noticed that the show ran a segment about the local elections scheduled for next May – and whether they might be cancelled.
South Today was not alone. Media outlets, Press, TV and Radio, across the UK all had this topic injected into their editorial priorities. A quick Google News search shows a remarkable uniformity of timing and content.
Most of these reports sought to reassure people that a further delay would not happen. But this sudden media attention (and a question in Parliament) served to test the strength of the democratic barricades.
The editorial line taken by the BBC was that the May elections might possibly be further delayed, and the government has already decided against an all-Postal vote – apparently out of an NHS-like concern for the Royal Mail.
Some outlets dutifully included concerns about voter fraud despite all-postal trials showing the scope for a reduction of the already miniscule problem. So now we’ve all been forewarned – put on notice of potential cancellation.
There is a crazy logic behind all this that would certainly appeal to this government. They’ll have the cover of a ready-made health excuse and a certain enthusiasm to avoid voter judgement on Brexit outcomes or their management of pandemic responses.
Next November’s COP26 conference in Glasgow is being primed to present the UK’s global climate credentials – despite the fact that they failed last week to block the creation of a new coal mine in Cumbria.
Make no mistake – these local elections are hugely important. Registration for Postal Voting is picking up and your Council’s Democratic Services department is already thinking through how the process can be made safe.
It may be just a Local election. It may be that no more than the usual 40% might bother to vote. It may be that central government can see no harm in delay. It may be that they think that the ‘branch offices’ are a giant waste of money and get in the way of cosy deals with developers.
But this is also the first opportunity that our communities will have to demand better local governance as an antidote to overcentralisation. If not already registered for a Postal Vote, get your application in now – before it’s too late.