This Thursday is polling day. For some of us, we have lived and breathed local politics preparing for this day. For others, it’s just another day.
Last May, in the ward where I am a Councillor (Evendons), approximately 40% of eligible voters voted, and this surprisingly is a good number, and one of the higher percentages across Wokingham Borough.
Over the last year I have spent a lot of time canvassing, firstly helping Helen Power in last May’s election, then surveying the ward from September, followed by election canvassing for February’s by-election and now for May’s election.
In other words, I’ve spoken with a lot of residents!
Most people I have spoken with have been engaging and friendly, and we have had some wonderfully productive conversations. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been sworn at (although mostly directed at politicians in general).
One of the key things that is being raised is this distrust of politicians, and I fully expect to see many spoilt ballot papers this evening at the count.
At the Evendons by-election count, one ballot paper had scrawled across it, “You’re all as bad as each other.” So this leads me to ask, is change ever possible? I too feel the same as many of the residents I speak with, and decided to try and do something about it.
I decided to throw my name into the hat and try and offer a different perspective.
Here’s the catch though: I’m now a politician and I have been told numerous times that anyone who wants to get involved in politics is in it for themselves and can’t be trusted. So can this negative view of politicians ever change?
The other thing that gets raised a lot are national issues. There are residents that won’t vote for a party locally because of their national stance on something. Being a member of that party, means they endorse that stance I’m told. Many I’m sure will do, but please don’t assume that being a member of a political party means that person agrees with everything.
The political system is a spectrum of opinion and within any party there is that spectrum. Just look at how divided some of our national parties are right now.
I am a Liberal Democrat because I believe in the overarching vision of the party, but I do not agree with all of our policies. This is why it’s really important to understand the individuals that are asking for your vote.
And if you still feel that there’s no one that represents you, then why not throw your name into the hat next time?
One final thing is a message to all current Councillors, and those elected this week. We are here to serve our communities and do the best we possibly can for our residents. In order to do this, we have to work together, cross party as much as we can.
We all seek to represent our communities, we have different ideas as to how to achieve it, but we owe it to our residents to communicate, to be transparent, to engage with one another and give our residents faith in the political system again.
Let’s see what we can achieve together!
Cllr Sarah Kerr is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Evendons ward on Wokingham Borough Council and is not up for election on May 2