Paul’s Campaign Diary

Saturday – Rustington

We ran a lively and successful street stall in Rustington, West Sussex, on Saturday. Rustington has a bustling high street with some great retailers, including Truffles the bakers which I keep seeing across Sussex, and Turner’s Pie Shop owned by Phil Turner who came second on the Apprentice last week. We had the usual encounters with residents and retailers concerned about everything from the NHS to potholes. It was the national retail crime day run by the Labour Party, Usdaw, and the Co-op Party so naturally we talked about retail crime with Rustington retailers. 

A couple of things struck me from the conversations. One is that there are no no-go areas for Labour, even in affluent parts of West Sussex. The iniquities of the first-past-the-post system mean that people are forced to vote for their second-best choice, but many more would be openly Labour if they thought their vote would have a direct influence. The Tories’ decision to regress to first-past-the-post in these elections for Police and Crime Commissioners is a deliberate attempt to skew the results in their favour. I support electoral and constitutional reform, and have done for over 30 years.

The second thing is that most people have no idea what a Police and Crime Commissioner is or does. Again, a lack of knowledge and a low turnout favours the Tories. People simply don’t know there’s an election and that they have a vote next week. The Electoral Commission could do far more to publicise the election.

But more, we need a complete revamp and re-energising of our system of political education in the UK. Citizenship should be taught, starting with the schools and colleges, through the prism of constitutional rights and hard-won freedoms not quirky traditions. Again, a cynic might argue that a deficit of political literacy, and the lack of a vibrant political culture, favours those in power.