Elections – your views

The Chronicle mailbox has been filling up with letters about the elections – here are a few.

From Patricia Willet, The Crofts, Stotfold

I was somewhat incensed to read your article entitled ‘Tories do battle in poll selection row’. It was stated that Councillor Turner is ‘on all sorts of committees, a governor of two schools and into everything’. What was not mentioned was the fact that for every committee etc Mrs Turner is on, she is actually paid. If you refer to the council’s website, Mrs Turner draws in the region of £25,000 to £30,000 per annum. Forgive my cynicism, but could this have anything to do with her eagerness to sit on so many committees?

Anyone who cares to peruse this website can draw their own conclusions as to whether councillors Turner and Street’s motives are purely altruistic.

I am also puzzled by the fact that she states that by standing for ARlesey she would be servig two communities. Surely this is no different from being a governor on two different schools?

From Tony Fisher, Langford

What are Christina Turner and John Street thinking about?

As I understand the position, both were given the opportunity of being Conservative candidates but turned it down when they didn’t get what they wanted. They effectively resigned as members of the Conservative Party when they decided to stand against duly selected Conservative candidates.

They are now trying to present themselves as pseudo Conservatives saying they will “cross the floor”. This is hoodwinking the electorate.

They will not be allowed to rejoin the Party for two years, if ever. They should not therefore pretend to have the strength of the Conservative Group in Central Bedfordshire around them.

They are issuing two different leaflets – one for Langford and one for Stotfold. The Langford leaflet refers to and supports all the good work Conservative councillor Jon Clarke has done over the past four years and pledges to support him. The Stotfold leaflet does not mention him at all.

This kind of campaigning just gives local politics a bad name and has no place in the new ward of Langford and Stotfold.

From Lesley Lewin, Stotfold

The view expressed below is my own and is not representing Stotfold Town Council.

Two of the current Stotfold Conservative Councillors have decided to quit the party candidature and stand as independents in the forthcoming election. Thank heavens the true attitude of these two people has been made more public! Local people should have confidence that their views are represented by their elected councillors, but what has happened in the last few years? Have these two always represented the views of the people who elected them? Absolutely not.

I sat in a town council meeting many months ago where John Street stood up and told town councillors that he had negotiated that Stotfold would ‘only’ have six or eight Gypsy and Traveller pitches on a new site in Stotfold, and we should be thankful it wasn’t more! This ‘negotiation’ had taken place without any consultation with the town council and was met with a great deal of displeasure.

I might not always agree totally with everything that local campaigner John Clarke writes, but there can be no doubt at all that if it were not for his organised, determined and hard hitting campaign, involving hundreds of local residents, then we would be certain to see a gypsy and traveller site on our doorsteps. How much support did John Clarke get from John Street and Christine Turner? Just the opposite!

I sat in a town council meeting a few weeks ago and listened to John Street using his prerogative as a district councillor to address us and indulge in a vitriolic condemnation of John Clarke. I pointed out that it was improper to make accusations while John Clarke was not present to answer them, and perhaps Councillor Street should have informed him first and invited him to the meeting.

You must recall that Christine Turner and John Street had the audacity to claim in their last election flyer that they personally had ensured that Stotfold would be gypsy and traveller free, knowing that the campaign was very much led by John Clarke and the residents he engaged, and that the matter is still, to this day outstanding, because they refused to vote for Stotfold to be taken off the possible list when the opportunity arose.

Stotfold Town Council recently voted to support the new and revised Saunders Steam Museum planning application. Christine Turner is a member of the town council planning committee and was fully aware of the majority of local support for the application. There was no reason for any member of that committee to suppose that their view would not be represented, as was proper, when the application went before Central Beds Planning. Indeed, there was every reason to believe in the strength of the support from our Central Beds Councillors.

So what happened? Perhaps it should be made very public again that the local Conservative Party asked John Saunders to represent Stotfold at the coming election, but Christine Turner was asked to represent Arlesey and not Stotfold, at which point she declined due to conflict of interest. So she wasn’t actually representing the Arlesey part of her constituency at all in the last few years. How interesting is that?

It should be noted that, within hours of the disagreement, far from representing the town council and the majority of residents’ desire for the Saunders Museum, both John Street and Christine Turner actually spoke and voted against it when it was put before Central Beds Planning Committee!

We are constantly reminded that we need to tighten our belts, and tough decisions are ahead. We need worthy people without personal agendas, and without a grandiose view of their own importance, to make those decisions. We need people who will work with the Town Council to represent residents’ views, not those who sit on as many committees as possible who turn their backs and undermine the local council. We need genuine care, not vague, future pipeline promises. We do not need those who court votes every few years and disappear the day after the election.

From D E James, Fennel Drive, Biggleswade

Seems they are lying about AV that we’re voting on next week, but you’ve got to give the Tories marks for consistency.

It could prevent another century of Tory political hegemoney. Could it also be a sort of riposte to their throwing the welfare state into reverse and shovelling money from the poor to the rich? Just wondered.

From Will Waterman, Arlesey Road, Stotfold

Here in Stotfold we still have three Tory candidates. OK one official and two “independent” (in all but party banner).

This is a blatant flout of electoral rules. Of course those who enforce such rules turn a blind eye fearing “rocking the boat”. Anyhow in their view Stotfold people are too thick to realise.

But are we? Another lot (husband and wife team) that are standing are being quizzed and berated on the doorstep over this ridiculous £26M proposed leisure centre project that will destroy this town and will open the door to a new traveller site on the same block of farmland.

As for the Labour guys, where are you?

Hobson’s choice one asks?

Could be a stayaway Thursday this polling day for many.

From Elizabeth Belcher, Horne Lane, Potton

Quote from Conservative leaflet issued on behalf of Anita Lewis and Doreen Gurney, candidates for Potton Ward: “We support local residents in the campaign to fight large developments within Potton.”

Fact 1: Central Bedfordshire meeting January 2010: the draft plan, including the large sites, was discussed and changes to the document could have been made. NEITHER councillor even attended the meeting and therefore didn’t vote, and certainly couldn’t support a letter sent to the meeting by Potton Town Council objecting to the large sites.

Fact 2: Minutes of Potton Town Council, 1 March 2011 ‘Cllr Anita Lewis stated that she would not be voting for or against the LDF (the document which proposes the large developments) at the Central Bedfordshire Executive meeting on 15th March.’

Fact 3: On 15th March Cllr Lewis voted FOR the LDF, ie contrary to her statement to Potton Town Council and contrary to its wishes even though she is a member of it.

Finally, under intense pressure at Potton annual town meeting, she reluctantly reversed her position, and agreed to vote against it at a full Central Bedfordshire Council meeting, by which time the damage had been done.

Is this ‘support’? I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

From Tony Shepherd, Goldfinch Drive, Sandy

We are being asked to vote in some important local elections in Sandy and yet I have very little information about a number of the Candidates. I therefore have the difficult decision of deciding to either vote for somebody I know nothing about or not to vote. How difficult would it be to include a short statement about each candidate with the voting papers?

Like many people in Sandy I am rethinking about my political allegiance and I feel that candidates should have done a little more work to win my vote. Having previously been a candidate for local elections I know it’s hard work but come on Sandy candidates do a little bit more to win our votes.

From Roger Smith, High Street, Meppershall

David Cameron and the No2AV campaign mock the AV system of voting as giving the gold medal to the runner who finishes second or third.

Rather, think of each round of AV voting as a heat in the electoral race. While FPTP gives the gold medal to the winner of the one and only heat – with the “elite” runners starting at the front, and less fancied runners at the back – AV gives the gold medal to the runner who wins the final. Surely that has to be fairer?

From P M Overfield, Peartree Close, Shefford

In the days when the choice was Whig or Tory, a single round of voting guaranteed an absolute majority (unless there was a dead-heat), so the resulting successful candidate could genuinely claim to be a valid representative. But add a third contender (and these days it’s not that uncommon to have five or even more) and the typical result degenerates into a largest minority. This gives rise to the commonly-heard complaint “Why should he/she represent us when more folk voted against him/her than voted for?”

AV recognises that representation is such an important task that minority support, however large, just isn’t good enough. It resolves this inadequacy by a process of gradual refinement to convert the largest-minority into an absolute majority, doing this by re-using ALL votes according to the voters’ declared preferences. Note that ALL votes are counted in EVERY round ~ the implication of the “One Person One Vote” objection, insinuating that some people get more votes than others, is a serious mis-representation of the facts. Yes, there is the exception that occurs when voters don’t assign all their available preferences. In this case AV assumes, reasonably enough, that such voters have voluntarily withdrawn from the election. Similarly it also assumes that if a voter’s favourite is still on the list then that voter will still wish to vote for that candidate. Does anyone object to that?

Yes, AV will cost extra, but just how much is hard to predict. The cost will involve only the counting of the minority votes that are reassigned between rounds. The major costs, of hiring and manning the voting stations and running the original full count, are not duplicated, so the increase should be limited. Yes, electronic counting equipment wouldn’t be cheap, but it’s a bonus rather than a necessity. Including this cost also adds a second variable in the comparison (change in voting system plus change in counting system), and any scientist will tell you that when you change two variables it’s impossible to say which variable caused the change in result. For the same reason cost comparisons with AV in other countries are unreliable ~ they involve this different voting system in a different country ~ again a double variable change. Unfortunately politicians are not, in general, trained in Scientific Method, so are unlikely to recognise the invalidity of their arguments.

All in all I believe that the above comment presents facts rather than opinions, and clearly shows that AV is wholly democratic, and definitely superior to FPP.

Why not add your comments below?