It was local elections on Thursday. I’m not quite sure why they occur at different frequencies and out of sync with each other throughout the country so I’m fairly sure its pretty bewildering for the majority of punters. If you have been door to door canvassing you will be aware of the extreme level of ignorance among the populace about what local and county councils actually do and how much more important they are to our everyday living than Westminster.
Its a sad fact that many councillors do little more than turn up to meetings. I cannot remember ever voting for a councillor I recognised and it never really occured to me that it was important which party they belonged to. Now, of course, I’d rather dive in a vat of sick than vote for a Tory but that’s beside the point. I’m not suggesting for a moment that councillors are not hard working because I know many that are very conscientious and active in their ward.
I went for interview last Sunday in order to be considered for standing as a Labour councillor. Its feels like an out of body experience already. I’ve been a political activist for a few years and it feels more comfortable being an outsider who grinds someone elses axe than being a politician with an axe of your own. Being an active party member (never mind holding office) makes you a different person — an anorak of sorts. On the one hand you become a forensic investigator of political opinion and on the other you get drawn into the murky world of local politics.
Politics is like being a hobbit in the Lord of the Rings. You’d have preferred to have lived a peaceful independent life in Hobbiton but once you are aware of the One ring, the eye of Mordor draws you to its gates and you become a stranger to the Shire and its ways. You become aware of new friends and enemies and those discussions you had in the pub consume your thinking. It is both isolating and familial. So while normal people might be picking up the headlines you are picking at the minutae.
The local elections this week were over sold and under performed. The results were OK for Labour but with the current stalemate in Westminster, OK was disappointing and, frankly, depressing. The Tories’ gains were effectively hoovering up the UKIP vote but overall they flatlined. But after 7 years in power, being in total disarray and having suffered several…