ARE we witnessing the end of the Independent local councillor?
The decision by two of our county representatives to throw their hats in with the Conservatives at the 2013 elections is nothing new. Even MPs have been known to switch allegiance – some right in the middle of their terms.
But what is remarkable about Gordon Castle and Jeff Watson’s annoucement are the reasons they have given for doing so. Both were elected as Independents, but they have long been members of the Conservative-Independent Group at County Hall.
However, by standing as fully-fledged Tories in two years’ time, they say they will have more clout on local affairs. They say they have reluctantly accepted that Independents cannot represent their constituents as well as they might unless they are part of a declared group.
The message is that to succeed, you must nail your colours to the mast.
While the county and district levels of local government have been drawn on party-political lines for decades, this has not usually been the case at town or parish councils.
Yet the forthcoming by-election for Castle Ward in Alnwick has resulted in a flurry of nominations, not only from the ‘big three’ of yellow, blue and red, but also green. It is unheard of in the town council’s long history. Only one Independent is standing – the rest have the backing of election agents at local branches of their respective parties.
So, how long before politics creeps into the grassroots of our parishes?
It might not be as long as you think.