Friday, October 07, 2005
"Professionals or Amateur, who do you want in charge?"
As someone who has stood for election I have some advice to the candidates standing for Mayor.
Running for office is a balance between being attractive enough to win while not making impossible promises.
Reading through the manifestos delivered this week I was struck by the fact that most of the candidates seem blissfully unaware of this.
Half the candidates are promising to reduce car park charges, keep the streets clean and lower taxes, without specifying where they will find the money from. The manifestos are littered with promises of spending on business support, tourism, social housing and maritime events yet not one candidate is saying ‘oh, and by the way, your council tax will have to skyrocket to pay for it all…’
A third of the candidates are offering ‘zero tolerance’ policing - which is not even within the Mayors power.
Just one candidate (Conservative Nick Bye) has raised the education issue – which is easily the most important part of the new Mayors responsibilities accounting for over half the council’s budget.
The reason we are cynical about politicians is we think they promise anything to get elected and then let us down.
Let’s be honest - the Lib Dems aren’t intentionally running Torbay badly. Their problem is that they also made reckless promises in order to get elected (£100 off your council tax, remember?). How they made political hay when our administration was criticised by the Audit Commission, -too late- they found out for themselves that pleasing Mr Prescott’s office involved shutting toilets and closing schools to fund posts like an ‘ethnic diversity officer’.
To find solutions to the Bays problems means developing policies that can survive not just the Councillors, council officers, and the Trade Unions, but also Government auditors, Health and Safety, The EU Commission, John Prescott’s office and all the other New Labour ‘stakeholders’ that apparently have a right to interfere in our local affairs.
It’s going to take a very experienced political operator indeed to make the changes that they promise actually happen.
Most candidates seem to be saying ‘vote for me, I’m not a politician’ which is about as reassuring as discovering that the surgeon about to undertake your heart surgery is an unemployed gas meter man.
If I am flying on a plane, especially during a Typhoon, I want a qualified pilot in the cockpit, - don’t you?