Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tomorrow's local elections
Last week in the USA, one thing you could not get away from was the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to secure the Democratic nomination for the presidential election later this year.
As an outsider to American politics, it has been absolutely fascinating to watch the enormous TV coverage of this campaign which is, in effect, only the hors d’oevres before the main course of the election battle between the Republicans and the Democrats for the White House.
What is important, though, is that it has made politics in America interesting again after four years of an ineffectual Bush presidency.
Of course, it is Barack Obama who has electrified audiences up and down the country, making it a real possibility that he will become the first black president of the United States. His message of hope has, probably for the first time in a generation, encouraged hundreds of thousands of young people across America to abandon their previous apathy to politics and to take a real interest in the issues of the day.
Even though she is behind in the race, political commentators are not ready to dismiss Hillary Clinton just yet, especially when she is extremely popular among blue-collar workers and women. As a result, it looks like the Democratic race will go down to the wire.
Of course, this all benefits the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, who is slowly building support whilst his two rivals are actually doing his job for him through negative campaigning against each other.
The 71 year old former war hero has been in great form recently, particularly over his defence of free trade, and is neck and neck in the polls with both Democratic candidates. Despite his age, I wouldn’t bet against him to become the 44th President of the United States in November.
So what has all this got to do with Wales, you may ask. Well, just in case you haven’t noticed, there are local council elections being held this Thursday. Whilst not on the same scale as the presidential primaries in the USA they are, nevertheless, critically important in determining the future democracy of Wales.
For some, this election will be about sending a message to Gordon Brown on how growing economic problems are affecting their daily lives.
For others, it will be an opportunity to cast a vote on the perceived success or failure of the Labour-Plaid administration in the Assembly.
In certain counties such as Gwynedd, local issues such as the fate of the local school re-organisation plans may come down to one or two seats and such an emotive issue may bring out more people to vote in certain wards.
However, for the vast majority, it will be about how whether your council has delivered services efficiently and effectively to your local community, which is why this election is important to many people, old and young, across Wales.
In the twelve months, Americans have shaken off their apathy towards politicians and have finally understood that staying at home and ignoring the political process is no longer an option. Like our cousins across the Atlantic, it is time to realise that our vote can make a difference.
Don’t waste it on May 1st.