Home Page Worried about May 7? Just make a decision and move on 13/04/15

Haverhill Poll
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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

So nominations have closed and the runners and riders are all listed before they make their way down to the start. Whether all of them will come under starterís orders is another matter because there are still more than three weeks to go, which is plenty of time for gaffes.

Nevertheless, we now have some idea at a local level who we shall get to choose between and I have to say the range of options is quite wide.

There are plenty of nominations in Haverhill this time, so there are none in the town elected unopposed, and there will be no need for co-options later as there were last time. This time no one can argue with the result.

There are probably a variety of reasons for this, but the healthy political debate at both national and local levels over the last two or three years must have quite a lot to do with it.

However much cynicism there may be around, there are still plenty of people prepared to stand up for something or other, or against something or other.

Locally, I think this marks the point when Haverhill finally put behind it the memories of the Haverhill Representative Alliance debacle and its divisive and damaging aftermath, which had put many potential community leaders off becoming involved in local politics at all.

A new, untried and inexperienced generation took their place and stumbled rather incoherently towards a greater understanding of how to get things done, if they can be done at all.

Now they have gained some confidence, and an even newer generation of protest politicians are nipping at their heels as hard as they can, reflecting the dynamic which is in evidence at a national level as well.

The problem they have is very different from that of the current establishment. Whereas that has a record with which many are highly discontented, and has to spend its whole time trying to justify itself and not to offend against the latest political fashions, the new kids on the block have to persuade the electorate of what they stand for.

It is easy to be against things, but a lot more difficult to define exactly what one is in favour of.

Nevertheless, there is the prospect of a close, exciting and maybe even defining election. The only worry is how many people will actually take part in it.

Some years ago such a situation would have resulted in a huge turnout, but there is a degree of apathy, particularly amongst the young, which reflects how they find all this political argument and posturing singularly unimpressive.

Why, they ask naively, can people not just work together to do the best for the country and for all of us? The answer to that lies in the curious human condition of having opinions. If you donít have an opinion on something it is always hard to see why anyone should feel strongly enough about it to disagree violently with someone else.

There is considerable danger in not having an opinion, or in having such a woolly one that you donít feel that it is worth expressing even in as mild a form as a cross on a ballot paper.

I hear young people say that they would like to vote Ė even that they feel it is their duty to vote, honouring all those who fought to obtain that privilege in past generations Ė but they just donít know who to vote for. Afraid of doing the wrong thing, they may err on the side of doing nothing at all.

I wonder how many young people felt like that in Germany in 1933. Not that we face anything like that sort of choice here on May 7, but the option of doing nothing can have quite serious consequences.

It was nice to see TOWIEís Jonny Essex at least trying to get a handle on what was at stake in the election by chatting to the political leaders. I would like to think Haverhill was not awash with people who are quite as ignorant as he was until he began to do something about it, but Iím not sure, particularly when it comes to local politics.

It would be interesting to have a poll which could tell us how many Haverhill residents under 30 could name our MP, our town mayor, or the parties which control Suffolk County Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Haverhill Town Council.

I rather fear the answer would be a shock to many of my generation. If the poll went on to tell us how many of them could say in which areas of life they would be affected by the voting at a local level on May 7, the answer might be an even greater shock. And if you donít know how the result would affect you, why would you bother to vote?

Itís the fault of all the parties, who insist on talking in a language only the politically literate can understand and, much of the time, addressing themselves to the Westminster Village Ė and I donít suppose many people under 30 even know what that means.

The reason the Scottish Referendum achieved such a massive turnout was that the issue was easy to understand. It was extremely difficult to unravel its complexities and to assess who was telling the truth about them, but at heart it was an easy choice to comprehend Ė Yes or No.

This election is much more difficult and, as often when faced with a question for which there is not a simple answer, people shy away from it, taking refuge in the personalities, or just not taking part at all.

In the end, perhaps it is best to imagine what one might be shouting when queueing immediately behind an indecisive motorist at a T-junction. For goodnessí sake, make a decision and move on.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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