With the local elections only four days away, we could all be forgiven for wondering if this event will amount to little more than going through the motions. From the moment that Theresa May announced a snap general election, the local elections have been firmly relegated to a sideshow, to be negotiated on the campaign trail for the general election.
This is a great pity, because before May’s announcement, there were real concerns that constitutional politics would squeeze out debate on local council issues. The snap election made that a fait accompli, and the one chance in five years for towns to pass judgment on their local authorities was virtually wiped out. Instead, we face a ballot over a campaign which didn’t really get started, and one where we can expect a reduced turnout because of the election’s diminished significance, because it is inevitable that some will now see the local elections as meaningless and not make the effort to cast their vote.
Yet the election could have serious ramifications for the parties involved, particularly Labour. As we report today, the party that not so long ago utterly dominated Scottish politics could face the prospect of losing control of Glasgow. And if Glasgow isn’t Scottish Labour’s heartland, what is?
This, if it happens, could then have a knock-on effect for the general election. Of course, Labour has little to lose in terms of seats, with only one MP representing a Scottish constituency, but the loss of Glasgow would be symbolic of the party’s demise in Scotland.
Again, however, this aspect of next week’s events overshadows local issues. This may be a plea in vain, but we would encourage all voters to consider the issues that directly affect them – education, housing, transport, social care – and judge the candidates, and their parties, on these measures.
There will be a chance to give a verdict on the broader issues of Brexit, or an independence referendum, in only five more weeks. But it will be five more years before we can hold our local councillors to account again.