What does it take to become a councillor? Who seriously would put themselves up for election in Broxtowe, which has one of the lowest rates of pay for the elected in the country; puts you in the firing line for anything remotely connected, or not connected at all, to your area; and sees your inbox swell with letters about dog shit and potholes?
Quite a lot of people, it seems, including two people close to me, though on different ends of the political spectrum. Looking at the candidate lists turns up some interesting names. Many families putting up a whole bunch of candidates ( the record so far being 5 for the Patrick family, over two parties). Some are people taking another step up the professional politician ladder. Some who are standing on a non-ideological level, but work in the community so see it as an extension. A whole bunch recruited by Soubz from the Ranting Room, one of whom seems to be confused about exactly where he’s standing and started his campaign being reported by Broxtowe’s Chief Executive to the police for making violent threats to rivals. Nice!
Then there are the real oddities: the independents. I find these fascinating: without the support of the Party machine/ finances, they go it alone, having to build up utterly grassroot supports and pull voters away from the usual tribalism and national issues that perversely dominate local politics.
I’ve written about Richard MacRae, Independent Town Councillor and Borough candidate, a few times in the past. I’ll declare an interest: we both grew up on the same cul-de-sac in Stapleford; I was even quite good friends with his brother, Pete (we ran the leaving disco for Stevenson Junior School together: where we just played Status Quo’s ‘The Wanderer’ and Ray Parker Jnr.’s ‘Ghostbusters’ in a loop for three hours.
Tomorrow we have a couple of big stories, including a scoop on Anna Soubry’s Greenbelt betrayal:How and why she sacrificed Field Farm and Toton for a step up the career ladder.
Over to Richard:
My name is Richard MacRae and I am an Independent Councillor in Stapleford, I have been asked to write an article on why I became a Councillor, so here goes.
I never in a million years thought I would ever be a Councillor, it had never crossed my mind what so ever.
Like many people I would receive newsletters and campaign material from various people, have a read then go and put down my X on election day. I thought that if a Councilor was saying something then it must be true. I never questioned them once.
Several years ago I needed a hand with an issue and contacted a local Councillor, nothing happened and I thought that was strange as their newsletters always said how they help people. So I looked into it and got the problem sorted out myself. This in turn lead to several issues where I cut out the Councillors and got the issues sorted. Because I got the job done people started to ask me to help them with various issues as they knew I would get it sorted.
On the back of realising how many people locally needed help with a whole heap of issues I then set up Stapleford Community Group, at first it was just word of mouth, then I set up a Facebook page, this resulted it more requests for help which I gladly accepted.
Many people said they don’t use Facebook so I set up a website which everyone with Internet access can view. Again this resulted in more requests to help people with more issues.
A committee was formed and Stapleford Community Group became an official group and we have a constitution, child protection policy and code of conduct. We set up a bank account so any funds can be banked safely. It was with help and advice from both Nick Palmer and Anna Soubry who have both been supportive of Stapleford Community Group.
We now organise Bus Trips, Fun Days, Job Fairs and so much more, if you visit www.staplefordcommunitygroup.org.ukyou can have a look.
We also post articles submitted to the group.
Stapleford Community Group remains a non- political group and we have members who support various political groups, we do however talk about local politics as we like to keep the community informed of local going-ons.
In 2013 I was encouraged by local people to stand in the Nottinghamshire County Council elections, I had no idea what I was doing and walked miles delivering my campaign leaflet.
At the count I had no idea what to expect, a few Councillors told me to expect about 200 votes. Wow 200 votes I thought. I didn’t even know 200 people. I was happy with that.
The results came in and I had 955 votes, I was told I was 3% away from winning. Others will say I came 9th out of 11 people, which I did but I like the thought of being just 3% away from a victory. Not a bad result for an Independent person at his first election.
The result was such an achievement and encouraged me to carry on, more Job Fairs and local events, helping more people with various issues and of course fighting to protect the GreenBelt too.
In late 2013 two positions became available at Stapleford Town Council for the Stapleford North Ward, where I grew up and still live. So when the election was called by 10 local residents as the law requires (and I wasn’t one of them) I filled out the paper work, delivered my campaign leaflets and then on election day spent the day watching people come and go as they went and made there mark.
10PM and the election was finished, it was of to the county which took place straight away. The boxes were emptied out onto the tables and it was obvious I had won. The count took place, I was excited and certain Councillors were very rude making nasty and snide comments to my partner. They didn’t have the balls to say anything to my face though, they never do.
So there I was, a lad from Stapleford and I was now a Councillor, chosen by the people. I received way over half of the total vote.
I attended my first meeting as a Councillor and noticed a few Councillors were missing, I had the feeling they didn’t want to welcome me to the Town Council, in fact this never happened at any time.
One of the first things I asked of the Town Council was to allow meetings to be filmed, a few agreed but the majority disagreed and made it clear if meetings are filmed they will never attend again. The vote went against my request and I left it at that as the majority rule and I have always been happy with that.
A few months later the law changed and meetings can now legally be filmed. The two Councillors never came to another meeting and both lost there seats earlier this year, as they went 6 months without attending a meeting. Too close to an election to call a by-election or co-opt any one on.
The videos are an eye opener to watch as I noticed that when I talk at Council meetings certain Councillors turn away and either play with there phone, look out the windows, get up and read the notice boards or just talk amongst themselves, I could not believe how rude these people are.
What are they afraid of?
So hear we are again, it’s election time and I am standing for Stapleford Town Council and Broxtowe Borough Council to represent Stapleford North Ward where I live and love.
I hope the people come out and vote for me again so i can continue to represent them around the Council tables.
I try my best and I honestly enjoy what I do. I always said if I can help one person and make a difference I have done a good job, I am sure I have helped more than one person and I will continue to do so.