Minority parties make their voices heard

Local elections will be held in May next year
Local elections will be held in May next year
Picture: Steve Robards

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Some voters say they feel disillusioned about going to the polls on election day because the mainstream political parties they have to choose from appear so similar.

But there are minority groups which are determined to let people know that they offer something different, and say they deserve to be heard.

It’s the UK local elections on May 22 next year, which means it will once again be time to choose who should represent your ward.

The party with the most seats rules the council and gets to elect a leader and members of its cabinet.

In Portsmouth, the main political groups are the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives, but Ukip want to be seen as serious contenders.

Leonardo Ciccarone, a founding member of the party’s Portsmouth branch, which started last year, said the party plans to put forward candidates for 10 of the city’s 14 wards.

Though those haven’t been confirmed yet, the areas it wants to focus on in particular are Milton, Copnor, Fratton and Hilsea.

He said one of the aims running up to the big day would be to dispell the myth that Ukip is a single policy party focused on tackling immigration.

‘To run a campaign you need money, money to dispel what people think of Ukip,’ he explains.

‘People think Ukip is only about immigration.

‘I myself am a migrant, I moved here 47 years ago from Italy.

‘When I first came to this city, I found a job, paid my taxes and I respected the law of this country.

‘As long as you are paying your taxes and being respectful that’s fine, but if you don’t like it then this country should say, you can go back home.’

Mr Ciccarone says Ukip’s aim in Portsmouth is to explore where taxpayers’ money is being spent and where it’s being wasted.

‘People need to believe that Ukip will make a difference, that we’re not just the same as the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives, they just go on and on about the same things.

‘If you are a councillor, you represent the people, not some kind of institution.

‘You need to tell the people what you’re doing for them.

‘What Ukip want to do is find out where all the money goes.

‘With the Northern Quarter, everyone is saying we are going to do this and that, but nothing ever happens.

‘Up to £50,000 has been spent on investigating Mike Hancock and the council leader has spent £70 of taxpayers’ money on Christmas party invitations.

‘This is at a time when people are going to food banks.’

In Fareham, there are 16 seats up for election, and in Gosport there are 17 seats available.

Bob Ingram, chairman of Ukip’s Fareham and Gosport branch, said the party will field candidates in both areas and hopes more members will sign up.

He hopes the party will capitalise on the success it had at the Hampshire County Council elections this year, where it gained 10 seats.

‘We are feeling very optimistic,’ he says.

‘The political landscape has changed.

‘In a way, Ukip is a rebel vote, but it’s also about preservation.

‘Over the years people have seen things happen they don’t like, and it’s built up.’

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Tusc) hope next year’s election will be seen as the biggest stand made by left-wingers since 1980 when it puts forward an anti-cuts candidate in each of Portsmouth’s wards.

Branch secretary Ben Norman says there will be a focus on promoting a bid for Portsmouth Naval Base to come under community ownership.

Ben says: ‘We are hoping it will be a landmark for the left.

‘We are going to be working with our colleagues in Southampton too, councillors that are currently elected, to ensure they get re-elected, in the hope of building a good, community-led alternative to austerity.’

Meanwhile, The Green Party hopes to win its first seat in Havant and one of its candidates, Tim Dawes, is running for St Faith’s ward, which is controlled by the Conservatives.

The party hopes to secure 35 per cent of the vote there.

Mr Dawes says the aim is help stimulate the redevelopment of Havant’s town centre and make sure shops aren’t just turned into new homes.

‘We actively speak for the people who live locally, rather than for the developers and those with money,’ he says.

‘With the way things are going, I think we will get a strong vote.

‘We want proper redevelopment, and redevelopment of the town centre that isn’t just based on satisfying spectators who have been holding on to dead property for a long time.

‘Voters are feeling disillusioned.

‘If you speak to people in the street most people say they are, and the problem is most of them don’t want to vote because of it.

‘What they need to realise is if they vote for those who could make a difference, that could bring them into power.’

Councillor Luke Stubbs, who represents Portsmouth’s Eastney and Craneswater ward for the Conservatives, said cuts imposed by the city’s leading party, the Liberal Democrats, will probably affect their performance at the ballot box.

‘Predicting elections six months out is a bit of a mug’s game as something invariably comes along in the final few months that changes the political weather,’ he says.

‘Still, at present, it looks like the Lib Dems are going to lose some ground.

‘From bowling greens to public toilets, they’ve taken a bit of a battering since the last elections and this will likely affect their support at the ballot box.

‘As for Labour, they’ve recovered some ground since the 2010 general election, but it’s not clear whether that will translate into seats.

‘The big unknown is Ukip.

‘Will they stand, how many votes will they attract and from whom? It’s going to be an interesting year.’

Meanwhile, Lib Dem cllr Mike Hancock, says he hopes to retain his seat in Fratton, and believes savings would have been made by whichever party was in power.

He also says the impact of having the local and European elections on the same day could spark an increase in the number of voters.

‘We have had to take some pretty dramatic measures as a council,’ he says.

‘The overwhelming view of the people of Portsmouth is they are quite happy with The Pyramids Centre being kept open and I think there can be no doubt about that.

Reflecting on the direction modern politics is taking, Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, says: ‘Politics in Britain is changing.

‘The power of the old three political parties is in decline and new forces are gaining momentum.

‘At the next set of elections the people of Portsmouth will have a simple choice. Do they vote for one of the same old grey parties, who will carry on making the same mistakes. Or do they vote for change?’