Oh Lewisham, Lewisham, what have you done?

I am angry today. I am properly angry. About politics. Not so much about the general election although there's plenty to get worked up about – rather concerned about the Lib Dems capitulating to the Tories without cast iron guarantees about PR and the economy, but I have no problem with Clegg talking first to the party who got the bigger vote. OK, I have a problem with it on an ideological level, but from a democratic point of view, I think he's got no option but to see if he can make it work with the Conservatives first – perhaps staying up all night to liveblog it has knocked a lot of the enthusiasm out of me. No. I am angry about the local elections.

Funny how, although I'm quite easy about democracy in action on a national scale, I'm in a raging fury when it happens on my doorstep. Lewisham is now, to all intents and purposes, a one party state. We had a Labour landslide – five out of six Green councillors gone, Mayor Steve Bullock re-elected for a third term, both socialist councillors kicked out of Telegraph Hill and in my own, Lewisham Central ward, we lost both our Liberal Democrat representatives in favour of three Labour ones – and Max Calo didn't get elected.

Let me reiterate that – Max Calo didn't get elected. Someone who has campaigned tirelessly for the people of this ward before he even considered going into politics, who was instrumental in keeping open Ladywell Pool and getting any kind of interesting community arts action off the ground, didn't get elected. Instead we got the guy behind this post, a Labour guy (I now know as Damien Egan) who was more concerned about how the Hither Green Cinema event would reflect on him if it didn't work, than about doing something good for the area.

For fuck's sake, Lewisham. What were you thinking?

I am quite certain that if the local elections had been held on a different day to the general election, the result would have been wildly different. That the expected national Labour collapse didn't quite happen is, I suspect, down to Labour voters getting out to make sure the Tories didn't get a majority and, while they were there, voting tribally on the other ballot papers. It's the only explanation I can think of for such visible, approachable, good councillors and candidates losing across the borough. Not just losing – being wiped off the map.

I'm moving to Downham.

While we're on the subject of popular politics, in the British Library on Thursday I came across a stat from the 2006 State of the Nation poll. It asked respondents what, in their opinion, was the most important issue facing Britain at that time. 35% replied 'immigration' – the next 'important' issue was terrorism at 14%. The NHS came in 12%, education 8%, Iraq 6%, the economy on 4%.

In my notes I have written "Are these people idiots?".


2 responses to “Oh Lewisham, Lewisham, what have you done?

  1. Max May 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    it’s a big setback for democracy in Lewisham, and for four years we’re completely stuck with this result.
    We should never run local and general elections together, we elected a slate of people with no particular merit, and of course I feel very strongly about the local Labour Party impersonating local campaigns, I have spoken with people on the doorstep that fell for it and were going to vote for Labour because they believed that the Labour Party landscaped the exit of Hither Green Station and was running a local cinema club.
    As you know I’d never be able to impersonate anyone like that, I lost the election but at least I did it without pretending to be anyone else than me.
    Personally I’m taking it very easy, I’m in an excellent mood and have plenty of things to do. Had I been elected I would have been panicking about what I can and cannot do.
    See you around soon

  2. Anonymous bloke May 29, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Maybe, just maybe, we didn’t vote the way you wanted us to because we didn’t want to vote for a group of people who, us not having done their bidding, would be patronisingly dismissive of us, and who would be so insulting towards the people we actually chose?
    Please don’t insult us by saying we voted “tribally”.
    Just a thought.

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