DEMOCRACY IS always touted as the political system where the people decide who rules them, but we are in an era where our hearts and minds are pummelled by spin, deceit and hidden agendas from those who seek the power which public office grants them.
Now that local election silly season is upon us, new candidates are out selling themselves and current councillors are revisiting the neighbourhoods that voted for them several years ago to try to convince them to, once again, lend them their support. Apathy is also a major candidate, with many people switching off from politics altogether due to a perception that their elected councillors just do what they want, help themselves to chunks of taxpayers’ money and that it really doesn’t matter which political flavour of councillor you have.
In Highfield and Waterloo, the electorate have been fed the generic Labour leaflets, which mostly play upon national issues and attempt to take credit for many of the projects which are ongoing at the moment. There have also been the smaller snippets with information about the candidates.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, have circulated their “In Touch” leaflets which were put together largely by a Tory party apparatchik based in Manchester and printed out on toilet paper. Whilst some councillors have customised the leaflets to include local issues, most have not. That said, each In Touch leaflet has a short biographical segment about each candidate.
One of the points I noted on these leaflets was that Susan Fowler plays upon her family history and that her parents and grandparents were hoteliers. No mention that she is a director of a scaffolding firm called Boxer scaffolding. Similarly on Ian’s leaflet it claims he is a chiropodist (which he is, but I understand he no longer practices) but no mention that he is a director of a scaffolding firm either.
Ian’s leaflet also says of him that ‘he feels that actually living in the ward is invaluable as it keeps him in touch with everyone’. Susan Fowler doesn’t live in her ward.
Each candidate is also quoted as having a motto. Susan Fowler’s is “My word is my bond, and I will always stand up for what I consider to be right and proper”. Tony Lee’s, on the other hand, is “My word is my bond, and I will always stand up for what I consider to be right and proper”. Hmm.
One true voice
Aside from the poor quality leaflets that have gone out for these Conservatives, an additional leaflet is exploding into circulation around Waterloo and Highfield, just days before postal voting forms are delivered.
This leaflet, produced by some angry Blackpool residents, highlights issues which may well have been reported in the Gasjet, but are long forgotten, as well as some that are currently in the news. It appears to deliver many of the stories I have covered here, too, but rather than existing happily in cyberspace, they are delivered in hard copy directly into the homes of the electorate. I’m told over 4,000 homes have been leafletted so far, with another 6,000 to go, totalling around 15% of Blackpool’s households.
Aptly titled “Profit before politics”, the leaflet is headlined with the Crystal Road story, telling it from start to finish and in doing so labelling the property a “condemned dive” and highlighting the £180,000 which the Fowlers received from Blackpool Council.
It moves on to note Ian Fowler’s 50 first class rail trips between 2008 and 2009 (as reported by the Gazette in a first class rail exposé) and also notes his denials about the safety of the Crossing of Death on Lytham Road, which is something Ian Fowler spent his ward budget on. Great way to win votes, that.
The reverse side of the leaflet contains a wide picture of Bond Street and details the flawed one-way scheme which Ian Fowler had a lot of involvement in. Fowler had claimed that people were getting what they asked for, but most businesses disagree with this and say that the voting was flawed. Finally there is a short story about Boxer scaffolding, the firm which Ian and Susan Fowler don’t seem to want to tell their electorate about, and the possibility that some of the £5m loan to the Pleasure Beach could be paying the Fowlers’ scaffolding bill.
In summary, the leaflet contains a passage saying that the it is not intended to tell people how to vote but that the authors wanted to show what some of their councillors have been up to. They say they have voted Conservative before and have since “seen the light”.
I am told that the response on the doorstep has been excellent, with many people questioning why Peter Callow is not included on the leaflet.
Tony Lee and Lily Henderson are said to be distraught at the damage this leaflet could do to their own chances of getting re-elected. It seems unreal that they could not have known about all of the issues raised though.
Personally, I applaud this leaflet to the full. It is about time councillors were held accountable and about time people received an independent source of election media which gives the full story and not just half of it.
Latest unconfirmed reports have suggested that Simon Blackburn has personally visited Ian Fowler to say that he had nothing to do with the leaflet.
Many thanks to the hotelier that sent me these!