Editorial comment: It isn’t enought just to pledge opposition

The panel debates at the Gazette's local elections hustings at St Mary's Church. From left, Cllr Car

The panel debates at the Gazette's local elections hustings at St Mary's Church. From left, Cllr Caroline Russell, Nick Wakeling, editor Ramzy Alwakeel, Edward Waldegrave and Cllr Richard Watts. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

It’s not often Labour’s town hall leader Cllr Richard Watts praises Islington Conservatives.

But at the Gazette hustings on Monday night, he was happy to do just that. Especially because it came at the expense of Labour’s true rivals in Islington: the Greens and Lib Dems.

“It’s an enormous pity,” Cllr Watts sighed, “that there are only two parties on this platform who are taking the job of coming up with a set of policies for the future of this borough seriously – us and the Conservatives.

“The Tory ones are crackers but to be fair to them, at least they have tried. The Green Party effort of just having 10 pops at us in their manifesto, and a 345-word press release from the Liberal Democrats, really isn’t what the people of this borough need to make a proper choice.”

It was obviously political point scoring, but does Cllr Watts have a point? Whatever you think of the Conservatives’ astonishing plan to relocate primary schools on main roads, at least its manifesto was written with a view to governing – however unlikely that is. The Labour manifesto was a sleek 40-page book totalling 15,000 words.

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Anyone who sees the Green and Lib Dem manifestos without prior knowledge of Islington politics would be forgiven for thinking they aren’t taking the May 3 poll seriously.

Of course, that isn’t the case at all. No councillor works harder than sole opposition Green Caroline Russell. And despite having zero councillors, the Lib Dems (especially Terry Stacy) have been an important campaigning voice in times where Labour policy goes astray.

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But when both parties look back at the elections after May 3, might they wonder if they were better off writing manifestos to govern Islington, rather than just a plan to oppose Labour?

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