Central ward councillor Mark Hubbard launched his new political party this September to a packed out Shire Hall of almost 200 people.
It’s Our County claims to be “a new kind of political party dedicated to returning democracy to Herefordshire and to finding local solutions to local problems”. They are now campaigning ahead of next year’s local elections under the broad banner of ‘change’. But hang on, haven’t we heard all of this before? Blair in 1997; Obama in 2008; Cameron in 2010.What we quickly find out is that they’re just more of the same.
It’s Our County was formed out of It’s Our City, the campaign against the Edgar Street Grid. It’s Our City now looks set to be wound up at the decision of those involved in It’s Our County, despite the fact that firm plans are still in place for the ESG development.
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Since its launch in September last year, It’s Our City has dragged its feet over the ESG issue. Over the course of a year it has amounted to little more than a petition and it has failed to mobilise its 13,000 supporters–a campaign against a major development like the ESG cannot be fought with the single tactic of a petition alone.
In November when the petition was presented to the council we organised a feeder march to arrive at the time of the presentation. Despite repeated requests, they refused to advertise the march because it might lose them their air of respectability. For us the choice was simple: did they want to look respectful or did they want to win, because you can’t always have both.
When the petition failed we pushed for action: pickets at council meetings, marches, mass street meetings and rallies, occupations of council buildings … whatever it took. Many people told us that it was time for It’s Our City to take a more militant approach. Not knowing where to go next, the campaign went into near shutdown, emerging months later with its key members planning a new political party–It’s Our County.
It’s hard not to be cynical about this–was It’s Our City just a strategy to galvanise support for a future political party? Have they ridden on the backs of discontent over the ESG just to gain power for themselves?
It’s Our County is now claiming to be a more serious fight against not only the ESG but the council’s ‘growth agenda’ as a whole–the plan to build 8,000 new houses and a bypass in Hereford.
What we’re fed up with is Herefordshire Council making all the decisions for us. But It’s Our County will be more of the same. If they take control of the council next year it will still be ‘them’ making the decisions and ‘us’ who get no say. Their version of ‘democracy’ is exactly the same as all the others: we get a vote once every four years and if you don’t like what they do in between then tough!
No more leaders, No more political parties, let’s have some genuine people power instead.