It is said that nothing concentrates a politician’s mind like a forthcoming election. Suddenly they are everywhere, shaking hands like long lost buddies with people they wouldn’t normally share a half of shandy with down the local; kissing babies regurgitating their previous meal (the babies not the politicians… well…); and promising each elector a share of their lottery win – I made that one up.
Apart from the media I have actually never seen a politician act like that. Usually they are too obsessed with protecting their massive majority – Dominic Raab anyone?- or totally focussed on persuading their would be constituents that they, the politician, is the only creature on earth that a sane person would want to be their representative in Parliament.
Of course so far these descriptions really fit only national figures. However, with the local Borough elections coming up on the 5th May thousands of would be politicians will be subjecting themselves to the scrutiny of their fellow citizens in the vain hope that with a rush of collective blood to their heads the electorate will propel the candidate to the esteemed position of local councillor. I have to declare an interest dear reader; many years ago I was a local councillor and my brain has now gone so soft that I am putting myself at the mercy of my fellow Waltonians this year.
Why? It is a thankless task equivalent to being a coconut on the shy at the Hersham Green fair. Most electors wouldn’t have a clue who their local councillor was and cares even less. It is an “unpaid job”, with only a limited financial allowance(1), and they are expected to attend countless meetings every month to listen to some old fogey twittering on about cycle paths or some other riveting local issue. Local councillors are fair game for every moaning saloon bar punter – ‘greedy; lining their own pockets; all the same.’ But are they?
Most of the candidates I have met are people who genuinely want to do good for the local community. Often they are passionate about the social well being of their fellow citizens and are determined to do something about it. It may seem as futile as pushing a ten-ton boulder up the down escalator to Sainsbury’s car park but as Barack Obama said ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’
It may seem bizarre to compare Obama with a borough election candidate but he must have started somewhere; and goodness knows the odds were stacked against him. The saloon bar punter quoted above often complains about the poor performance of local councils and, by association, councillors but the same people who complain are equally often the very people who don’t cast their hard won democratic vote in the first place; ‘waste of time’ etc. Of course some councillors are fairly useless but the percentage is possibly less than that for the rest of society.
Both my readers are intelligent people (they promised to vote for me if I said that) and will be wondering what putdown is coming up. Well, none really, at the risk of being accused of self-justification I would urge all electors of Walton and Hersham to video Eastenders on the 5th May and go out and vote, preferably for the Labour Party candidate but at least use your vote if only to honour those who fought for your right to cast it.
(1) For details of Councillors Allowances in Elmbridge please see: http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk/Elmbridge%20Borough%20Council/Finance/membersallowances201415.pdf