Using your vote means you really have the chance to shape the district’s future

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City council elections will take place on May 2

Thursday is decision day. It’s a big decision too: will you take time out for 10 minutes to change the world – or at least this part of it? In our busy lives, that’s a tough call, I know.

If you think I’m being a bit extreme, then perhaps you’ve underestimated the power of your vote, even in this broken democracy. Because the simple truth is that in this week’s election, so many council seats are being closely fought that every single vote really does count.

Maybe you still don’t believe that?

Well, the 2017 general election result alone should tell us that the margins between winning and losing are now tiny.

And the options have changed, partly as a result of Rosie Duffield’s win and partly due to the disappearance of all the UKIP candidates in this election.

That means that in several wards, the decisions of people who used to vote for one or the other could be critical. Sturry, Beltinge, Gorrell, Heron, Herne and Broomfield, Seasalter, West Bay and Wincheap all had sizeable UKIP votes in 2015. If you were one of them, will you switch to another Party, or stay away?

On the other hand, the reciprocal absence of the Greens in Nailbourne and the LibDems in Sturry is a clear attempt to get voters to make a tactical switch – but since Labour was well ahead of both other parties in 2015, the combined LibDem/Green votes in Sturry still won’t be enough to oust the Tory candidates – unless it all goes to Labour.

In Westgate, Labour won the 2017 by-election by a mile. So if Green and LibDem voters want to keep out the Tories, should they switch to Labour as they did for Rosie?

All of these are examples – and there are others, like Barton (disclosure: I’m a candidate there), Blean Forest, Wincheap – where the decision of each voter genuinely matters.

The result is that across the district the majority of council seats might well be serious contests. Which in turn means that, despite the disaffection many people say they feel with politics and politicians, the chance exists for each voter to have a significant impact on the way our District is governed in the future.

But will people take up that challenge? It is not, after all, a secret that turnout in local elections is usually very weak except when it coincides with a general election.

The idea that turnover will again be low is something that the Conservatives would love people to accept, because it suits them to discourage a high turnout.

They saw in 2017 what happens when the mass of voters get to the polls determined to vote for change, which is what many people in our urban areas are crying out for. In any case, perversely, with a low poll every vote that is cast carries greater weight – which is another reason why people should take the time to exercise their hard won democratic rights.

In addition, voters in the city and Whitstable wards have another reason to get involved. If, as the Tories hope, they carry most of the rural seats which they’ve arranged so they don’t face serious competition, they hope to have enough councillors to run the district even if they don’t gain most of the votes.

Believe me, the rural Tories are quite happy to sit in their gardens and dictate what happens in the urban areas without suffering any of the consequences. That after all is why we have such lax licensing hours in Canterbury, a car park no-one wants, too much student housing and so many homeless people on the city streets with no prospect of help or housing.

So there’s the choice each of us face. Get out to vote, cast your vote for the Party most likely to win against the Tories and take control. Or you can ignore the election and have a continuation of the failed policies of the Conservatives.

That’s what democracy comes down to: it’s your choice, and it’s your responsibility.

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