It’s not just the major parties at the polls

Votes are counted
Votes are counted

Gosport MP welcomes plans on homelessness but admits ‘it’s a significant problem’

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The major parties may often hog the headlines at election time, but the smaller parties are also keen to make the headlines.

One single-issue group is the Justice & Anti-Corruption Party, which is fielding two candidates.

The organisation is targeting the Portsmouth seats occupied by Mike Hancock in Fratton and his wife Jacqui in Charles Dickens ward.

And the men who are challenging the couple on Thursday say their aim is to help restore the reputation of the city and people’s confidence in local politics.

They feel the saga surrounding Mr Hancock and the civil case pending over claims he sexually assaulted a female constituent has left a black cloud hanging over the city and change is drastically needed.

Mr Hancock strenuously denies the allegations made against him, and says he will fight his corner when the case goes before the High Court next month.

Steven George, standing in Fratton, says: ‘We want to provide absolute honesty. The evidence is in the name – the Justice & Anti-Corruption Party.

‘We wouldn’t fiddle expenses or anything like that.

‘We’re fed up with the cover-ups like we have seen with the Mike Hancock situation.

Mr George says he has a long history with Mr Hancock, and first saw him at a party they both went to in the late 1960s.

Mr George, 62, says Mr Hancock – also a Portsmouth MP – called him when he knew he was going to be standing against him.

‘It’s time for a big change in Portsmouth,’ Mr George says.

Mr George’s partner, Jason Packer, 44, who is targeting Charles Dickens ward, says he wants to try and tackle the city’s ongoing parking problems.

Mr Packer says: ‘I am interested in looking at the traffic situation, particularly in the pedestrian areas, where it seems to have been a problem for the businesses working there. I think I have a good chance of winning because the majority of residents in the Charles Dickens ward are pensioners and they don’t like the way the Lib Dems are cutting their services.’

Meanwhile, the South East Hampshire Green Party is targeting central Southsea in the Portsmouth elections and hope to win over students and independent retailers in the area.

David Harrison, co-ordinator for the Green Party branch, says: ‘The aims we have are about sustainability, social justice and fairness.

‘It’s about trying to find ways of generating employment locally so people aren’t living on some sort of benefit.

‘We want to encourage the local businesses to be local and employ locally.

‘The main thrust in Southsea, like anywhere else, is to look at where there are empty premises and find ways to some how get some businesses to move into these premises and to employ locally, for everyone’s benefit.

‘We want to see integrated transport across the area and better use of green spaces.’

‘In Portsmouth there is a great bus service, but it can still be improved.’

The party is also fielding candidates in St Jude, Eastney and Craneswater, Cosham and Paulsgrove.

It’s also got one candidate standing in Gosport’s Lee East ward, Graham Smith, and three in Fareham.

Mr Harrison says that while he wasn’t sure of the party’s chances in those areas, he wants to establish a ‘long-term campaign’ in Warsash following on the success the party had in that area at the Hampshire County Council elections last year, picking up six per cent of the vote. ‘This year we are hoping to get into double figures,’ he says.

‘We’re looking at a long-term campaign in Warsash and build on that year on year to the point where people will start believing the greens are serious in Warsash.’

Havant Green Party, which is separate to the south east Hampshire branch, is fielding eight candidates in Havant’s wards.

Co-operative Party candidate Alan Durrant is standing jointly with Labour in Gosport’s Brockhurst ward.

ONE of the big issues political parties face on election day is the fact the turnout at the polls is usually poor.

And that’s why local government expert David Kett anticipates there won’t be any major shifts in power come Thursday.

But he is urging as many voters as possible to have their say and vote on the local issues that really matter to them - not necessarily what they think of a party nationally and their leaders.

He explains: ‘I think the problem with local elections is those who bother to vote, particularly when there are European elections at the same time. There are low turnouts.

‘People are disinterested with Europe unfortunately.

‘And when people do vote at local elections, they don’t vote on local issues.

‘They vote on national issues and their attitudes towards the parties, and that will help Ukip obviously.

‘But if there is a strong local issue, that can be reflected in the local elections.

‘Until central government gives local government tax breaks they are solely dependant on central government, so the cuts being made on a local level are as a result of central government cuts.

‘As far as that being understood come election day, I’m not so sure.

‘When you have low turnouts, they don’t give opportunities to minority parties.

‘Low turnouts make an election less predictable.’

The average turnout at local elections is between 30 and 40 per cent - with 34.7 per cent of UK voters having their say in the last Euro elections in 2009.

The lowest turnout at the last European elections was in Slovakia, at 20 per cent, and the highest being 91 per cent, in Luxembourg.

At the last general election - where people vote for their MP, and the party with the most seats rules the government - the turnout was 65 per cent, up from 59 per cent in 2001.

The highest ever UK general election turnout was in 1950, at 83 per cent.

Mr Kett, who teaches student journalists about local and national government, believes few people go to the polls in this country as many are confused with its first-past-the-post election system and who is responsible for which service.

‘If you want a democracy, and if you want your local areas to be improved, then people need to get out and vote,’ Mr Kett says.

‘There are two major reasons for a lack of interest in local elections.

‘Firstly, sections of local government are so confusing, that people don’t understand who is responsible for which service.

‘The election system is also so complicated that people don’t understand who they are voting for.

‘Both Labour and the Conservatives have been very keen to appoint directly elected executive mayors in order to try and drum up interest in local government.

‘What is clear in those areas where there are directly elected executive mayors, is a high proportion of the electorate can name who their mayor is.

‘So that may have an impact on people going out to vote.’