06:00 17 February 2022
Politics is a very important part of many people’s lives – on many levels.
This motivation can take you to the center of government – in parliament or even the ministerial office – it can lead to an advisory role representing your local community. Or it may simply involve being a member of a political party or activist for a cause.
But no matter how politically active a person is, you really have to understand that it has to be a serious interest, it has to be done with the aim of improving people’s lives – and it has to be done within the framework of the law.
This means that participants really need to have knowledge of the legal restrictions under which they work – and the standards of behavior they should expect.
Over the past few weeks in this region, a few problems have highlighted this.
The Ipswich Conservative Association posted a blog on its website which contained an offensive image falsely linking Sir Keir Starmer to the decision not to prosecute Jimmy Savile for sex offences.
It would be hard to argue there was anything illegal in there – but there were false claims and it was wishy-washy in the extreme. It did absolutely nothing to improve the reputation of the CIA.
It was later removed once the serious lapse in judgment was realized by conservative officials – I don’t think anyone familiar with the process of publishing a blog post would accept the explanation that it was an “administrative error”.
The party hopes its swift action to resolve the issue will minimize the damage – but it is a reminder that politics is not a game, it should be serious business.
Another issue that has erupted in Essex shows how important it is for local councils – and their members – to agree not to operate in a vacuum. Their decisions must take into account national planning laws and guidelines.
We have all heard people say that “councils should not allow this or that development to go ahead”. More recently I have seen comments that there are too many cafes in Ipswich. For example, some say Starbucks should not be allowed to open on Westgate Street.
The thing is, councils can’t choose which companies they want to this extent. They can prevent clearly inappropriate development like opening a fast food joint across from a school, but there are very strict guidelines on what can go where.
And with major property developments, there are strict guidelines that councils must follow before deciding on planning permission. If they get these decisions wrong, the plaintiff can win an appeal – making councils (and therefore council taxpayers) liable for huge legal bills.
If this happens too often, the government can take the ‘nuclear option’ and take over local authority planning – and this has happened in the West Essex district of Uttlesford (which includes Stansted Airport).
A group of activists against the development of the airport and plans for thousands of new homes in the district ran for office and ran for council with a majority to oppose many of the proposed construction projects.
When they applied for planning permission, most were turned down – many against the advice of professional planning officials – prompting numerous appeals to government which were upheld.
Now the council has the right to make decisions on major planning applications removed – these will now be decided directly by government until ministers are satisfied that the district is capable of making planning decisions again. legal arrangements.
It really doesn’t benefit local people at all – but it is a stark reminder that local councilors’ powers are limited and if they ignore national politics they are unlikely to win a row with Whitehall.
Many people participate in politics for entirely laudable ideological reasons – they want to work to promote their own vision of utopia.
But this ideological zeal should never trump the rule of law or the vital importance of common sense and decency – politics should be about improving people’s lives, not just seen as an exercise in points. .