Thursday, 23 July 2009

Norwich North decides

Polling stations are open and a few of the seventy-five thousand eligible voters in Norwich North have already cast their votes.

This is the first Parliamentary by-election since the MP's expenses scandal, and, according to some reports, the country is agog to discover whether our local electorate is still seeking to punish the three main parties for their betrayals of public trust.

Individual cases of the abuse of the expenses system were revealed day after day when the Daily Telegraph published the lists of expenses claimed by sitting members of Parliament. It became clear that, with a few honourable exceptions, MPs across the board and across party lines were treating their public offices as milch-cows to be milked for every last drop in expenses claims.

Clearly there is still a lot of anger in the nation at the way MPs seemed to have cheated the tax-payer, and then, by-and-large, seemed to have got away with it.

This anger was expressed in the European and local council elections that took place last month, where the electorate chose to demonstrate their disgust with politicians by not voting at all.

Unfortunately this strategy backfired, and voter apathy or voter anger resulted in the repugnant extremists of the BNP gaining two MEP seats.

When most voters fail to participate in their democratic right to vote, there are unintended consequences, so the concern today is that voters will actually vote as the best course of action for Norwich North.

Time has passed and pledges have been made. MPs know now that they have to be more transparent and accountable in their actions, and not just in claiming expenses. There have been sincere and sustained actions from the 'big three' parties to rekindle electorate loyalties. They assure us that they have changed.

The wonderful thing is that there is a real choice on the ballot sheets today, and a variety of ways to vote constructively, or to make a protest vote.

For those still seriously exasperated by the three main parties, Rupert Read of the Greens and Independent Craig Murray offer substantive, intelligent and mature alternative candidates.

For those wishing to protest, there is Anne Fryatt of 'None of the Above', and Howling Laud of the 'Monster Raving Loonies'.

Young Thomas Burridge of the Libertarians represents untainted political ambition, and votes for Bill Holden or Peter Baggs are votes for rooted locals concerned and knowledgeable of local affairs.

Despite all the wishful thinkings of political pundits and poll 'predictions', the results are still far from etched in stone.

The electorate of Norwich North have the dignity of choice in a free democracy, a choice still denied to so many elsewhere in the world.

This is the moment and this is the decision.

Go for it!

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