The invisible election. Or, if all politics is local how do I find out what’s going on?

Trying to remember the last time I read a local newspaper.  The headline in the local paper the day we moved in was Poplar Gang in Meatcleaver Bloodbath – which you’d think would be enticing enough to make me take out a lifetime subscription.  But I don’t think I’ve  looked at the Advertiser since.  There are lots of reasons why.  I live in the East End, but generally work and socialise elsewhere, and as I didn’t grow up round here my sense of belonging to a local community is pretty shaky.  (As a side issue,  I wonder if I’m unusual in not being locally engaged?  And, if I’m not,  does this make community action as a way of running public services look particularly flaky in London and other big cities?)

A lack of information becomes an issue when  there are local elections being fought.  I’ve seen  no campaigning going on round here apart from a Respect battlebus which occasionally thunders along the Mile End Road.  I haven’t been canvassed by anyone, there are few leaflets for the general election never mind the local  one.  There are lots of  don’t-vote-for-Gordon-Brown-he’s-got-a-silly-grin posters, but they don’t help with local issues.  There’s a referendum going on in Tower Hamlets to install a directly elected mayor that I didn’t even know was happening.

I’ll accept that my ignorance is  my own fault,  but having realised the problem I’m at a loss to know how to put it right.  I can follow Tim Donovan’s  BBC London blog, but he’s really writing about how national policy from the big three parties will affect London.   The same is true for the Standard.  London’s too big and too complex for even the BBC to get down to really local detail.   Which is why I looked at today’s East London Advertiser and found, well, not much.  There is  – shiver me timbers! – a pirate standing at the general election, but  nothing about the local poll.  It’s completely unfair to judge the paper on one edition, but it’s hard not to think of Nick Davies‘ warning of the decline of local newspapers and the sense that as they decline so  does local democracy.  The local papers are also under attack from local authority freesheets pumped out by councils wanting to show what a good job they do.  So, I suppose I do see a local paper every week – East End Life –  where the idea of great headline is something like Council Achieves Record Levels of Satisfaction.  I’m  just not sure I want to base my vote on it.

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2 responses to “The invisible election. Or, if all politics is local how do I find out what’s going on?

  1. What referendum? Why directly elected mayor? Do we all get to take a turn, so Cameron can fulfil his manifesto pledge of getting us all to join in? It’s not enough – I’m with Andrew Rawnsley, holding out for the Governor-Generalship of Bermuda.

    Why on earth would Tower Hamlets need a directly elected mayor? Maybe we should just go the whole hog and have a referendum on secession and independence. Freedom for Tooting! Power to the People!

  2. Pingback: Where’s the audience for local TV? | Sole Trader PR

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