Elections in Cumbria in 2009
1) At some stage between now and June 2010, there will be a general election.
When this happens there will be six MPs elected from Cumbria, with some boundary changes: specifically Keswick and three other Allerdale Borough Council wards (Dalton, Crummock, and Derwent Valley) will move from the Workington constituency into the new Copeland constituency. There are also boundary adjustments affecting the other seats.
The effect of these changes are to make the Labour held constituencies of Barrow & Furness, Carlisle, and Copeland significantly more marginal.
All three would turn Conservative on a swing of a little over 6%.
The most likely date for the General Election is May 2010, but it could be called at any time that the Prime Minister chooses, and he would undoubtedly call an election this year if he thought he had a good chance of winning it.
One constraint on when an election could be called this year is that they would need to pass a special act of parliament allowing three "principal" elections on the same day if they wanted to go for the same day as the county and Euro elections (see below). But the need to pass a new law in order to do something has rarely stopped this government.
2) All seats on Cumbria County Council will be up for election in June.
At the moment the county has no overall majority. Usually the elections are held on the first thursday in May, but they have been put back a few weeks to take place on the same day as the county election. Councillors will be elected for a four-year term.
3) On the same day there will be an election for members of the European parliament.
Cumbria is part of the vast "North West" Euro-constituency which currently has nine Euro-MPs but will drop to eight next time.
This election will be fought on a truly dreadful system involving "closed party lists" which is politician-speak for "you can only vote for the party and not the person."
Each party can nominate a slate of candidates, in order, and the seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the votes they get and to candidates in the order that their names appear on the lists chosen by those political parties. Which means that if you are number one on the Conservative or Labour list, you could be caught red-handed stealing from pension funds, fiddling your expenses and contributing to the collapse of half a dozen banks, and unless your party throws you off the list, you are still guaranteed to get elected.
Undemocratic? Absolutely. An insult to the voters? Yes. Supported by almost every party except the Conservatives? Afraid so. Labour brought it in to win brownie points with Brussels and get more control over their own MEPs. The Liberals would have preferred a more democratic form of Proportional Representation such as STV which is used in Ireland, but when they didn't get that, they supported the ghastly regional list system because PR would gain them more seats. Most of the small parties also support PR on the basis that they think they might win one or
two seats through it - as the greens and UKIP did last time.
But however dreadful the closed regional list system is - in my book it's the worst system of election ever devised, and if I had my way I would scrap it tomorrow - it is still important that people vote. This is our one chance for several years to remind the mandarins of Brussels that they should be accountable to voters, and the more people vote, the more chance that some people in the EU parliament and commission might pay a tiny bit of attention.
Nothing in Copeland at the moment, but on 5th March in Carlisle there are elections for two wards on the City Council. In Castle ward a sitting Lib/Dem resigned the day before she would have been thrown off the council for missing meetings for six months, while Beulah ward has an election caused by the sad death of the sitting Conservative councillor, Sandra Fisher, who was the previous mayor of Carlisle.
I knew Sandra slightly: she was a very nice lady who worked hard for the area and will be missed.