In many cases there are voters who could be forgiven for thinking “what’s the point?” when they go to the polls – with some results a foregone conclusion.
For example, Sutton Coldfield will have a Conservative MP and Labour will run Sandwell Council. But at least people have a choice and other candidates can try to upset the odds.
We can also almost guarantee that Labour’s David Jamieson will be returned as West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner on May 5.
How? Because it is the third election for the post in four years and Labour has won with around 50 per cent of the vote in 2012 and 2014.
The 2014 by-election was of course a result of the sudden death of Bob Jones, but could have been avoided if succession plans, such as an official deputy, had been put in place by the Home Office.
Now there are just four candidates – the Lib Dems, who manage to contest most political seats in the region, are among those who are not going to bother.
Cash-strapped parties do have to target their limited resources and when you have to pay a £5,000 deposit to stand and spend time and money on a campaign and have next to no chance of winning it is understandable that they are sitting this one out.
But there is an added factor this time that makes this Police and Crime Commissioner poll even more pointless than the run-of-the-mill safe seat. Barring a freak change of plan, he (not a sexist comment – the candidates are all men) will be stepping down within about 18 months.
That is right. Next May we will be voting in the next West Midlands PCC because it is intended that the role will be handed to the regional elected mayor being introduced in 2017.
There may be a brief period of negotiation and hand over of duties – hence the PCC may last another few months after may before he steps down from the £100,000 a year post. That means that we will have voted for the political head of the UK’s second largest police force four times in five years.
Given that it has proved a safe seat and that the role will almost certainly be scrapped within a few months it is almost a miracle than anyone has even bothered to stand for election.
And if it were not happening at the same time as council elections, one wonders whether many would bother voting at all.
Think of the children
Thousands of children are now gearing up for their SATS – but this year there seems to be increasing pressure on six- and seven-year-olds to perform.
Many with a social media account will have seen example questions circulating and parents reporting tales of anxious little ones worried about the dreaded tests. In one post from Warrington. a parent has highlighted her son’s maths paper pointing out to his teacher in red ink that her son cannot even understand the questions. He did not know what a 2D Shape is, nor an ‘inverse calculation’. She herself, a woman of 39 years, could not identify an arrow shape given to her son to name.
The mother described the questions as “so abstract in their nature that it renders them virtual gobbledygook”. She added: “We had tears and I am unwilling for him to be subjected to this nonsense.”
Even this journalist, as someone who writes for a living (not very well, you might say), was struggling to tell his stressed-out six-year-old last week what a ‘fronted adverbial’ was in a grammar paper without looking it up on google first.
And many parents have tried the various online sample tests and failed too.
While education does move on, methods change and children are introduced to things not dreamed of a generation ago, it is also the case the tests are harder and seem to be applied with more vigour this year than in recent years.
And who can blame them?