03 May 2007

I, Tomáš Ruta, a citizen of Europe

I have just returned from the polling station. Yes, I am now in York and yes, I have not got a British passport. But as an EU citizen, I am now entitled to vote (or indeed stand) in local or European elections in any EU country where I reside.

What a satisfaction after what happened in my General Studies class shortly after I came to Britain three years ago. The teacher in my £12 000-a-year London school asked us who we would vote if there was a general election today. When I put my hand up for the Liberal Democrats (mind you, that was three years ago) - and was the only one to do so - he told me: "you don't have a vote". He was Irish.

I cast my vote for the Labour candidate and my fellow School of PEP student Grace Fletcher-Hall. She is one of 4 candidates competing for the Heslington campus ward. There are 22 wards in York, which have to turn in 47 councillors. The candidate with most votes in each ward gets elected (if there are more seats allocated to a ward then the candidates with most votes succeed). The Council is now dominated by the Liberal Democrats, who at the moment hold the Heslington ward as well.

The use of the majoritarian system means that the Conservatives have virtually no councillors (and MPs) in big northern cities like Manchester, Newcastle or Sheffield. Surprisingly not even in York, which has not got much old working-class stigma attached to it. Michael Heseltine, Thatcher's challenger, has been in charge of re-building the Tory relationship with "the north" since David Cameron took over the party leadership in 2005. We will see how successful he was when the results from local elections across England are published tomorrow.

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