Monday 27 January 2020

Go but leave the seat please

Too many times fractious councillors take up their seat and walk. And many councillors are not up to the job. Annemarie van Gaal proposes some changes.

Last week Jamal Nouhi, member of Breda local council, announced he was leaving the local Labour party. He was, of course, holding on to his seat and continuing as an independent councillor. Nouhi compared homosexuality with paedophilia, a way of thinking his party fortunately is far from endorsing. As he left, Nouhi called labour the party of ‘faded glory’. Let’s hope he doesn’t think he represents the bright new future.


It’s the umpteenth time a councillor leaves his party and goes it alone. Over the last couple of months dozens of councillors, from both chambers and the provincial council, who disagreed with their parties upped and went, blithely taking their seats with them. We don’t need all these one-man bands, especially in parliament where the financial cost is high.  

Let’s go back to the local councils. It is the type of representation closest to the people. Isn’t it time the rules governing the election of councillors reflect the changes in society?


The standard argument for letting disgruntled individual councillors keep their seat is that we feel that members should be allowed to have their own opinions and don’t always have to tow the party line. It’s the party which chooses the candidates who, frankly, are not always the best people for the job.

Most people vote for a party and what it stands for. Those votes are lost when people like Nouhi decide that the party is no longer for them. What it comes down to is contempt for voters.

And another thing: if we think an individual councillor’s own opinion is paramount, why do we have local party representation in the council at all?


Why don’t the local authorities make a list of locals who know the community and want to dedicate their time and energy to making it better? They can present their plans, thoughts and ideals and sit some sort of exam to prove they have sufficient qualities for the job, such as being able to understand a budget. The chosen council then selects the aldermen.

That will put an end to inexperienced party workers and make way for talented people selected for their knowledge and expertise. No more coalitions or parties but simply: democracy. Letting the locals decide instead of the parties is a bit of a jump but why not select a few towns and give it a go?

Annemarie van Gaal is head of AM Media and a writer and broadcaster.

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