Why politics?

I once uttered, partly tongue in cheek, my disappointment at being elected – I was used to campaigning. My solution was to continue campaigning, and whilst not in pursuit of votes it was with the resolve that I would try my best to ensure the residents in Milton ward got the best representation I could manage.

You see, I do not engage in politics for the simple aim of being in power. I am trying, in my own small way, to help create a world where everyone is treated as equals and where peace abounds. I am also in it for the debate; I do not know all the questions, let alone the answers, in Rumsfeld-style it is unknown unknowns. I do not knowingly choose ignorance or the wrong path; I am just aware of my fallibility.

Just yesterday I had more conversations. One or two mutterings about all politicians being the same, all in it for themselves. “Of course, you are paid for doing this” said one, referring to my canvassing and campaigning activities. I happily informed said resident that I have never been paid for this – I doubt that any political activist of any persuasion is paid to knock on doors. Whilst elected politicians do receive recompense – for the last two and a half years I have had a councillor’s allowance – the majority of us are engaged in voluntary activity.

In part there is selfishness. I want a better world for me and my family. In large measure it is altruistic: I want a better world for everyone.

I have had a number of Conservative councillors in my home town tell me how easy opposition is. I think that six months into this new experience for them they have yet to really understand what has happened in Southend-on-Sea, and what they need to do improve their party’s fortunes locally. If opposition is easy then I suggest that they are not doing it properly. Whilst they may like to blame a whole range of factors, they cannot escape from the fact that they were given a comprehensive thumbs down by voters in Southend-on-Sea last May. They have been shut out of wards that until recently were considered Tory strongholds. I put this down to complacency, and if they think you can just turn up and do opposition with little effort or consideration of what it really takes to hold an administration to account then I suggest this as further evidence of complacent attitudes.

Complacency, or rather fear of it, also drives my compulsion to continue campaigning. It drives my desire to examine the world and my attitudes to it. Politicians should be alive to the issues that affect those elect them, they should also show leadership. I am not merely a conduit between Milton residents and the borough council, although there is an element of this in my role as a councillor. However, I do try to understand what is going on, what I can do about it, and also what is likely to affect people going forwards. It is not just the street-level parochial, bread-and-butter pavement politics issues – as this blog attests I take an interest in national and international issues.

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