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The tribal turn-off of party politics

Sandwell | | Published:

I sometimes wonder if political parties are really the right way to go about running local government.

Take the two cases this week of councillors elected as members of Labour, but now representing different parties - one Tory in Wolverhampton and a Green in Sandwell.

Wolverhampton councillor Zahid Shah was originally a Liberal Democrat when he stood for election in 2010.

Then in 2011 he got onto the council with Labour but has now 'crossed the floor' to be with the Tories for the remainder of his term.

Labour had got frustrated with his attendance at meetings and were planning some action against him anyway.

But the party can hardly be surprised by his lack of loyalty, given his past form for jumping ship.

Party politics can be a weirdly tribal business, a sort of 'them vs us' affair and it's something that can really turn the voting public off.

It's the same in the Commons, particularly at Prime Minister's Questions, where some MPs are more bothered about how they sound while asking the question than they are about the response. It becomes a chance to just score a point rather than to find anything out.

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How much more could be achieved, both in Westminster and locally, if people weren't fixed on the party line and just did what they thought was right?

In an age of Twitter and Facebook, it's very easy to keep in touch with your community and be guided by what your voters want, rather than your party.

The whole issue of councillors leaving their party for another makes me question just how many elected members really are devoted to the ideals of their colleagues in Westminster and how many just want to be on the council.

That's no criticism, by the way. Most people who want to serve on an authority do so because they want to help and make a difference to their local community.

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The allowances are probably a useful incentive for some, but it's not exactly an attractive career.

You face the sack every four years and your chances of a pay rise get dashed every 12 months because the public would consider it outrageous to give you any more at a time like this.

And that's probably where the party comes in useful. At least if you're not a lonely independent you have someone else to moan to.

Return ticket to Falkirk row for MP Tom

After being wrongly dragged into the row over alleged union vote-rigging in the Scottish seat of Falkirk and resigning his shadow cabinet post, Tom Watson has become a strong voice from the backbenches.

He campaigns on everything from paedophiles to fixed odds betting terminals.

The West Bromwich East MP has put the whole issue over Unite and its influence over the Labour party behind him and is dealing with things that matter, such as the economy.

So he was more than happy to endorse the pledge of bus company National Express West Midlands to buy its vehicles from a British manufacturer, safeguarding thousands of British jobs.

Although he might not have been so chuffed if he'd been told in advance where some of the buses were made...Falkirk.

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