The North Korea of north London?

WHATEVER your politics, a council where all or just about all of the councillors at the Town Hall are from the same party can’t really feel very healthy. Take Islington, where 47 of the 48 councillors are Labour. You can’t blame the party for winning the election or the lack of opposition but maybe the jokey serious front page of today’s Islington Tribune┬ámakes the point about how hard it will now be to scrutinise the ruling group.



6 Comments on The North Korea of north London?

  1. It’s a complete embarrassment to the electoral system that one party can dominate elections so strongly. Terrible for the people who’s views aren’t represented by Labour, but pretty bad for Labour voters too, given there’s now no effective checks and scrutiny of the Council. If ever there was a case for reform, this is a prime example. Given how tenuous many councillors connections are to the ward they represent, and how loose the eligibility requirements are in Camden and Islington, I can’t think of many good reasons why there shouldn’t be a proper PR system in place for local elections.

    All the pressure’s now on the Islington Tribune!

    • The voting system isn’t PR but actually gives people ample opportunity to split their 3 votes between parties, and anyone who was at the count could tell you there was a lot of that going on as well as people only voting for candidates from one party.

      I don’t think you should prejudge those Camden residents who stood to be elected under the Labour banner whether they will be good at scrutiny or not. In terms of loose eligibility requirements – Camden and Islington’s rules are no different to anywhere else. The only clear examples of what you seem to suggest was a group of Green candidates who stood because the Guardian offices were in Islington and they qualified because they worked in the borough, rather than lived there.

  2. I’m sure that all the Labour Councillors will intend to subject Council decisions to fair and proper scrutiny, but equally, it’s a fair assumption that greater additional scrutiny from Cllrs who aren’t Labour supporters would be even better?

    I agree that the case of Greens standing because they work at the Guardian is stretching the rules to their limit, personally I think you should have to live in the Borough you represent, because then you’re affected by the services. But I think the benefits of having a Council legislature that is proportionally representative of residents’ political views are greater than the drawbacks of losing the ‘personal’ link of a Cllr to a Ward. You could still assign Cllrs to a particular ward, how many of current Camden Cllrs live in the Ward they represent anyway?

    And the fact that you can have 3 votes in a Ward election is irrelevant, because it’s how they’re used that matters. You could for example have voted three times for a LD and then what?

  3. Because this story is about Islington, I assure Tim that, overwhelmingly, Labour Cllrs in Islington live in the wards they represent. The local connection is extremely important in local government. Most of our time is not spent in the Town Hall but in our locality. A pure PR system would break the local connection which would undermine a fundamental of local government. Tim’s suggestion that elected members be randomly allocated to wards is bonkers. Theo is right that 3 member wards mean voters can make choices themselves about proportionality. All of us who attended an election count after May 22nd will testify the number of split votes in Borough elections has dramatically increased in recent years. In one Islington ward this May there were around 1,500 ballot papers which were votes for multiple party candidates. Tim’s complaint seems to be that people do vote for a single party and use all their 3 votes for that party.

  4. I think it’s great if you can have a ward councillor who lives in your ward, but I don’t think that the benefits of that are greater than the benefits of having a local authority legislative that more accurately reflects the views of all voters in the local authority. Given how ward boundaries nowadays don’t necessarily reflect peoples understanding of an actual area – for example, where I used to live, I think relatively few people would be able to identify the boundaries of Cantelowes, Kentish Town and Gospel Oak on a map – the hyperlocality of the ‘local’ connection’ I think is overvalued.
    Having ward councillors allocated to wards by a party isn’t that ‘bonkers’, isn’t it the case that Parties aim to select their strongest candidates and provide them the greatest resources in wards they believe they can win? Regardless of whether they live in that ward or not?

    My central complaint is that the FPTP system means that although we do have the option of splitting our votes, because the votes aren’t transferred to candidates by preference your three votes don’t have a proper chance of being represented in the final make up of the Chamber.

  5. I also suspect that the importance of the attachment of Ward Cllrs to local Wards may only really matter to people who are engaged with local party politics.

    What is surely even more important is to try and get turnout above 50% in local elections (it was less than 40% in both Camden and Islington). Being able to say that every vote will genuinely count might be an effective means to encourage that?

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