It feels very strange that although the various voting elements all took place last Thursday that today there are still some results that we are expecting will be completed today. Many of us can recall the days when elections took place in the daytime and nearly all of the counting was achieved overnight with some settings where speed competitions took place. That helps to justify why elections were set out for a Thursday so that the results were published overnight or on the Friday and then the big news pieces emerged in Weekend newspapers. It now makes a lot more sense for far more voting results to be prevented from being counted overnight and for the staff who need to do this work to work during their normal working days. However, that means that many of the results are not achieved on Fridays which is the last day of the week and so the penultimate day of a week is the wrong day to have modern elections. Of course, some people would prefer digital voting to be an option and whilst there are many credible reasons why that is not yet happening it seems inevitable it will occur eventually. If our votes were dealt with through internet type technology the results would be available within seconds of the end of the timescale. In the meantime, for a number of reasons the paper and pencil based approach in public locations is what will be happening.
Along with the challenge of how and when to vote there is also the issue of how to find out about our potential representatives. I have had personal experience of standing in an election during the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election and that is one that desperately needs a different approach in terms of communication. Clearly some people would argue that there is no need for information to be submitted in a conventional way such as printed material, but currently MPs and Councillors do send out their material in that way, and indeed the Government funds some of it. However, it is very difficult for PCC candidates to do the same, partly because they do not get the same support that MPs get when it comes to their elections. Because I stood as an Independent PCC candidate, I had to work much harder to communicate what I intended to do if I was elected than the party members felt they needed to do. That is also true when it comes to local elections and Parliamentary elections when almost all of the Independent candidates do not get considered by most voters.
It is vital for our nation to find a way through that barrier. The reality is that some people who are not historically involved in a political party join one very late in the day to get elected. I am aware of two people who fit that description. One was Sarah Wollaston who took part in an open session for people in the Totnes area who were willing to stand as the Conservative candidate for that constituency. She was a very credible MP from 2010 to 2019 and for those of us who are not strong supporters of the Conservative Party, it is perhaps understandable that she then stood as a Liberal Democrat at the 2019 General Election. Sadly, the people who voted for her previously lost confidence for her at the end, even though she was clearly willing to stand up for the community and took positions that were not consistent with the party she had been a nominal member of. Another person who had also not been previously involved in a political party is Gavin Shuker who joined the Labour Party in order to become the MP for Luton South. His involvement was very similar, he began in 2010 and remained till 2019 when in his case he stood as an Independent. These are two very significant people who worked very hard for their constituencies for 9 years and they both had similar views about Brexit and felt they needed to leave their parties, and their votes became null and void. We need to find a way to understand what is in the candidate’s identity in a way that makes the party much less significant. One of the reasons for this is that the peak of party membership was 1952 when 2.8m people were Conservative members and 1.015m people were Labour Party members. Currently there are 10% members of the Conservative Party and 50% members of the Labour Party which is the largest party but it is not receiving three times as many votes. One of the few Independent MPs was Martin Bell and he was very credible for Tatton and I would be delighted to see more people like him in Parliament.