I'm really enjoying not being a candidate this year in the local elections, it's the first time in years I haven't stood and it's quite liberating.
Today I had a look at the list of candidates in my area, Lancaster City Council. It makes for very strange reading. There is one ward where the Tory will be unopposed and a few other wards where one or other of the main parties hasn't been able to muster a candidate. In my ward we have no Lib Dem candidates and their numbers appear to have plummeted across the authority, hardly surprising I suppose.
We have no UKIP candidates this time, no BNP candidates and no English Democrats. The biggest smaller party is the Green Party, who already have several seats on Lancaster City Council, largely due to the disproportionately large student population, and they have a healthy number of candidates this time.
There is also a good number of independent candidates, be they Morecambe Bay Independents, Free Independents, Really Free Independents, Really Really Free Independents, plain old Independents or whatever. Perhaps we're a contrary bunch in North Lancashire but some independents even refuse to be allied with other independents in a group on the council, a bit like the old Monty Python Judean blah blah blah sketch.
The beauty of Lancaster is the unpredictability. In 1999, when I was elected, we (independents) were the biggest group on a hung council, Labour losing control. I think there have been minority councils ever since with some strange political alliances ensuring some semblance of local authority ticks along. It's certainly healthier than Manchester for example, where they would still vote for a pig if it wore a Labour rosette.
So if you want a giggle on May 6th, just have a look at the results in Lancaster, they're bound to be slightly bizarre. But I'm thankful for that, it makes it more difficult for the big three take us for granted, and that's without AV.