I am delighted to tell you that at the close of nominations today, I am a validly nominated candidate for a by-election in Carfax Ward of Oxford City Council – the ward I served as a councillor from May 2010 to May 2014. I look forward to the opportunity to continue campaigning for the people of Carfax on such issues as the Covered Market, late night noise, cycle and pedestrian safety and making sure those that live in the South part of the ward are properly looked after during the reconstruction of the Westgate site. I also hope to hold the account the Labour council’s dreadful recent history of planning recommendations and decisions in and around Carfax ward, as well as continuing to work with local social housing providers to tackle the problems of prostitution, drug dealing and other antisocial behaviour around their homes.
The reason for the by-election is that the Labour Councillor for the ward who was elected in 2012 decided to resign late last month, little more than two months after the last election and then two people from within Oxford (although neither in Carfax Ward) asked the City Council to hold an election almost immediately afterwards. I should be clear that we don’t know why Anne-Marie resigned and I am not criticising her for resigning, I am criticising Oxford Labour for calling a by-election at such a ridiculous time for a student-heavy ward. A resignation does not in itself cause a by-election.
I had just left the UK for three week camping holiday in Spain and France just before Anne-Marie Canning’s resignation. Despite that I am happy to say that I was able to complete the vital parts of the nomination while in Spain and then post them to Tim Bearder, my agent, in time for him to deliver them in person (as required in law) to Oxford City Council before today’s nominations deadline.
It is extremely frustrating that Oxford Labour appears to be calling a string of by-elections at the moment. Not least because the City Council reckons they cost about £4,000 of taxpayers money each time but also because having them over the summer, particularly in school and University holidays, disenfranchises a huge number of voters. In my mind, to call a by-election in Carfax Ward which has a vast majority of students, with polling day to happen on 4th September is incredibly cynical and a clear attempt to maximise chances of winning by minimising turnout in the election. I’ll be surprised if we see 10% turnout. Hardly good or fair democracy in my mind. If anyone is in any doubt about the Carfax by-election being caused by Labour then do take a look at the photo adjacent. It shows that one of those calling the election has 8 facebook friends in common with me – all of whom are strong Labour activists, councillors or ex-councillors. That person also gives his address as Rose Hill – so hardly a Carfax resident! The other person calling the election lives in a different part of the City again and has previously nominated a Labour candidate in a recent by-election.
This is the second by-election Labour have called since the main May local elections and another Oxford City Labour Councillor has resigned today. They seem to be carefully timing them so they can move the Labour machine from ward to ward, election by election – and causing more cost for taxpayers than if all three had been held on the same day. Again I don’t think this is good or fair democracy. It also seems that they’ll all be over just before Labour conference. How convenient, and self-serving!
So the questions I think for Labour are:
1. Why are you calling these by-elections one-by-one?
2. Do you think it is acceptable to make the City Council spend £4,000 of taxpayers money every time rather than having a batch of by-elections on one day or better, doing the above and resigning in a timely manner?
I think the people of Oxford need answers to these questions and I will certainly be seeking them over the coming weeks. In the meantime I look forward to getting down to some serious campaigning on the issues that matter to the people of Carfax ward.