Caerphilly MP Wayne David’s blog: May 14
A Healthy Democracy
On May 3, the Caerphilly Borough had important elections for its Borough Council and for its Community Councils. Elections were held throughout Wales and Scotland and in many parts of England. Undoubtedly, these were significant elections because the results determined the political complexion of local authorities at a time when those local authorities will have to make difficult spending decisions. The elections were also an opportunity for people to give their views on the policies of Central Government.
As a Labour MP, I was of course very pleased that Labour did remarkably well in these elections, locally and nationally. But the point I want to make is that it was disappointing that so few people exercised their democratic right and ‘voted’. Across the country as a whole the average turnout was around 32%. This is a crying shame because these elections, as I have said, were important and the lesson of history is that if people do not value and engage with the democratic process, then it can be easily lost. As a former History teacher, I remember only too well explaining to my pupils that Hitler came to power in 1933 because people in Germany lost faith in the country’s democratic process.
Now I am not suggesting for one moment that Britain in 2012 is anything like the Weimar Republic in 1933 but it is always important to make the case for democracy at every opportunity. I also recognise that people are unenthusiastic about our electoral process because they have a cynical view of politicians. How many times have we all heard people say either ‘they are all the same’ or ‘they are only in it for their own ends’?
To be honest with you, in many respects, politicians only have themselves to blame. The expenses scandal should never have happened and for too long, politicians, if the truth be told, have been ‘economical with the truth’ far too often. Naturally I would say that politicians in other political parties have been more ‘guilty’ than Labour representatives but all representatives share a collective responsibility.
My message then to all newly elected and re-elected Councillors is to recognise that the electorate has placed a huge responsibility on your shoulders. Difficult decisions will have to be made but it is important that decisions are made on the basis of what is in the interests of the people who you are elected to represent. In order to make the right decisions it is essential that Councillors, like MPs and AMs, keep their feet on the ground and don’t allow ‘power’ to go to their heads. And maintaining an intimate relationship with the community one represents is, in my view, the cornerstone of a sound democracy.
Labour MP for Caerphilly