Any election result must always start with congratulations to the winning candidate. This is easy for me to do as I have known Denis Fuller for many years working together on positive community projects such as the Surrey Heath Youth Council. He deserved to win because quite simply, he was the candidate who had the most support both personally and for his political party. I am sure that he will continue to work hard for the residents of Camberley West as he has done in the last 4 years on successful campaigns such as getting rid of cowboy clampers in Frimley.
Sadly, the turnout in these elections was very low and that is a real shame. Around 7 out of every 10 voters did not see the point of voting for anyone either because they didn’t think it makes a difference, none of the parties or candidates inspired them or they didn’t want to waste 10 minutes of their life walking down to the polling station or even sending back their postal vote form. A small number of these are deliberate choices (such as religious reasons) but the vast majority are not and just see voting as pointless as nothing changes regardless.
This is the real issue of the election. It isn’t actually about the campaigns, pledges, percentage shares going up or down, party slogans or endless analysis. Some areas yesterday were more fiercely contested than others but yet it appeared to make little or no difference to the turnout figures.
This is not a new trend but it is a dangerous one when you have political parties and candidates totally unable to reach out into communities beyond a small minority of their own supporters. In most areas, there were at least 3 candidates to choose including the so-called protest vote of UKIP. In fact, the real “protest vote” were the 70% of people (and increasing) who decided to take no part in it at all.
All of the political parties moan about “not enough young people voted yesterday” or that they need younger activists and yet if we are all quite honest, do little or nothing about it. But it is not just younger people – it is people of all ages and nationalities who are saying the same thing.
Now that elections have finished and there are none planned for at least 12 months, I want to start an open debate about how we can improve this situation at least in a small way in Surrey Heath. For my part, I intend to try and get more into schools and youth centres (one of my own pledges) and speak to young people about why I got involved in politics as a local lad myself and welcome any political colleagues from any party who want to join me.
On a wider aspect though, it would be great if we could get some real practical ideas from the community and perhaps set up a non-political residents panel on the issue as a way of getting brutally honest feedback.
And as a final reflection, I just want to publicly thank all of the 991 people who decided to vote for me in Camberley West. I know that many of those will be disappointed either personally or politically but I’m not – to go from 434 votes up to 991 votes when a boundary change reduced the area and then the turnout was lower was a great result and a real credit to all in my team. In fact, we got 29 more votes than the winning Conservative candidate in Frimley Green & Mytchett! More importantly, it meant that the winning candidate and his team had to work hard for their win which they undoubtedly did and credit to them.