Elections 2015: How will Brighton and Hove vote?

Now that it is 2015, anyone interested in democracy can look forward an historic year.

WardMapCorrectedNow that it is 2015, anyone interested in democracy can look forward an historic year.

In just over four months - on the same day, on Thursday, May 7 - citizens will have the opportunity to vote for whomsoever they want to run our city and govern our country.

Inevitably, even understandably, many will choose not to exercise their democratic right. In the last city council elections in 2011, turnout was only 41%; that’s right, nearly six in 10 did not bother to vote.

Not that this has stopped many of them complaining about the failures of local politicians.

Nationally, the turnout at the 2010 general election was better at 65%. Only about one in three stayed at home.

It doesn't have to be this way. As Scotland showed. When the stakes were high, well over four in five made their votes count.

Well, the stakes have never been higher than here and now.

As Brighton and Hove Independent has repeatedly highlighted, our city is facing a crisis - a time when difficult and important decisions have to be made.

Some of these decisions – for example, those to be made about next year's council budget - will be made by the current city council, on which no party has majority control. There are 20 Green councillors, 18 Conservative councillors, 13 Labour councillors, one UKIP councillor, and two independent councillors.

It is entirely possible that the council elected on May 7 will be similarly divided, leading to another minority administration that finds it difficult to push through its own agenda.

This may or may not be desirable. It may or may not what we collectively want.

On the same day, it is entirely possible that the government elected on May 7 will be either a coalition or a minority government operating on a vote-by-vote basis.

Again, this may be desirable.

Just one thing is certain: we can control only how we exercise our own votes - locally and nationally. Not how others exercise theirs.

It is our democratic right. It is also our democratic responsibility.

Never has this responsibility been greater; never before have there been city council elections on the same day as a general election.

In the next four months, Brighton and Hove Independent will make itself available - in print and online - to all those who wish to engage in this unprecedented exercise in democracy. Moreover, it will organise public meetings across the city to enable citizens to hold office-seekers to account.

In print, we will routinely make available space - inevitably limited - to politicians of all parties so they can put their arguments in their own words to the citizens of Brighton and Hove. Throughout, we will remain independent and unbiased - but not anodyne or unopinionated.

Online, starting today, we will build the most informative environment possible for the people of our city.

In the coming months, we will devote discrete areas of this website to each political party.

We will publish online all their press releases and leaflets, promote all their public events, and link prominently to their own websites and social media.

We will create a page for every candidate, on which you will be able to read all their statements and follow all their activities.

For each of the 21 council wards and the three parliamentary constituencies, we will publish data and other information aimed at helping you decide who to entrust with your vote. The first of our ward profiles is published today; others will follow every week.

At the heart of all this, however, will be what you tell us you want, what you need to know, and which questions you want answered.

Specifically, we want to hear from community organisations, businesses, trades unions, and individuals about what matters most to them.

And the goal?

At the very least, we have to work together to dispel apathy, to increase turnout, to support informed decision-making, to interrogate dogma, and to incentivise honesty and honour in our politics and our politicians.

Together, regardless of our views, we have to do what we can to breathe new life into out politics. If we can do that - whatever else is the outcome - then that will be the victory that democracy deserves.