Election season is fast approaching. The autumn and winter days of gentle canvassing and leaflet dropping will soon be replaced by a trail of candidates knocking on doors disturbing people’s evening meals and the Champions League knock-out stages. With the evenings getting that bit brighter canvassing isn’t such an arduous task although the rain, wind and cold remain a real challenge. My tactic for dealing with bad weather is to knock on apartment doors in the comfort of carpeted corridors and relative warmth.
A certain amount of silly season descends before the business end of elections, one example is the news that Olympic boxer Ken Egan wants to stand in the Local Elections has prompted a transfer market of sorts with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael doing battle for the star signature. We might need to introduce a transfer window! In my view if Ken is serious about local government and working as a Councillor he should stand as an Independent on a platform that he can deliver on. He may find if elected as a party candidate the challenge of party discipline too much and ultimately try and go his own way anyway. What he has is instant name recognition and will poll very well regardless of a party badge. In that sense he does need a political party label to get him elected.
Talk also continues about the possibility of a new political party emerging. There have been newer parties registered but they remain small and the Reform Alliance has ruled out the possibility of contesting the Local Elections although I fully expect Peter Matthews to run in the European Elections. So a significant new party will not offer itself at the May Locals. However what is clear, and I have certainly found on the canvass trail, is political parties are very unpopular as is the political system. People have been promised reform but they are just not seeing it. It’s not just the present government parties that are unpopular but all parties. In many respects this has opened up possibilities for Independent candidates and the polls are showing that Independents could make a real impact in May. However a criticism of Independent candidates is that they have an incoherent platform and often run on single issues. I think this is rather simplistic. For my own part I have built a manifesto based upon local concerns and the wider issues I see as important to Local Government overall and Fingal County Council. People want to hear positive ideas and positive actions and not negativity.
As an Independent I have been able to put together a manifesto I know is achievable and realistic and I can say with certainty I will not break any pledge I make. Party political candidates will also make promises and in nearly all cases mean it however they cannot control a shift in party policy or compromises their party makes to gain power. We have seen this manifest itself many times with pledges made during an election campaign often abandoned.
Recently the Independent TD Thomas Pringle outlined an idea I think has merit. He suggested that groups of Independents could agree a common platform on key principles. In many ways Irish political parties are outdated and the whip system prevents independent thought or expression. Independents coming together and pledging to implement key policy issues if elected in my view would represent a real change.