Uncontested local elections in Cambridgeshire 'bad for democracy'

Fen Road, Newton, Cambridgeshire Image copyright Geograph/Richard Humphrey
Image caption A large number of election seats are going uncontested in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire

An election candidate at a council that has a quarter of its seats uncontested said improving the situation was "important for democracy".

Twelve out of 39 seats on Fenland District Council have only Conservative candidates.

The Tories have run the council since 1999 and are the only party contesting all seats in Thursday's local election.

Steve Tierney will retain his seat and said the situation was "a little disappointing."

Mr Tierney, who spent a month canvassing and leafleting, will retain his seat in Medworth ward in Wisbech without any voting taking place.

"I like a fair win and that's been taken away from me. I think having more candidates is important for democracy," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Conservative party is the only one contesting all the seats for Fenland district council

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS), which campaigns for proportional representation to replace the first-past-the-post system, described the authority as "the worst offender in England when it comes to uncontested seats".

Darren Hughes, ERS chief executive, said: "The result is a worrying number of 'one party states', safe seats and electoral wastelands.

"This is a disaster for faith in politics.

"A more proportional system would end the crisis of local 'one party states' and open up our politics."

The composition of Fenland District Council going into this week's elections was:

  • Conservatives - 28 seats
  • Independents - 8
  • Liberal Democrats - 3

Total: 39 seats, which were all due to have elections in 2019

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Turnout in local elections tends to be low in the UK averaging 36% in English shires, according to the Electoral Commission

While the Conservatives put up candidates in all 24 wards (some wards have more than one seat) and there are 15 independent candidates, the other established parties of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are contesting only five seats each.

'Bad for democracy'

UKIP will not be putting up any candidates this time round.

Former UKIP county councillor for Wisbech North ward, Paul Clapp said he felt he could "achieve more outside of the political system than in it".

The local Green Party said it had "pushed hard" to field more candidates, but found "limited interest".

Martin Field, a Labour candidate in the March East ward, felt uncontested seats were "bad for democracy".

The last time Labour had someone standing in every seat in Fenland was in 1995.

Liberal Democrat candidate for Parson Drove ward, Gavin Booth said: "The state of national politics now puts people off and this has caused a lot of apathy for local politics, which is a shame."

Independent councillors Virginia and Michael Bucknor are stepping down after 12 years in local politics due to Mrs Bucknor's ill health.

"We've always felt as independents there's really no place for national politics," she said.

"We're serving the community and local concerns which has got nothing to do with politics and what's going on at Parliament."

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