The past two months since leaving the County Council have not been usual given the general election, but the past few weeks have been somewhat of an unsettling revelation about just how much of a bubble I have operated in and perhaps by extension just how much all politicians are in.
The past five or six years I have been at the heart of what I have been doing as an elected councillor, both on the County and the Parish (now town). On the County I have been pretty much involved with every aspect of what Labour got involved with and by extension a lot of what the council was doing. With the committees I sat on I had extensive knowledge of a broad range of what is going on, from policing and fire, to highways including industry and local economy as well as the state of the local NHS and education.
Whilst my time as a Parliamentary Candidate enabled his knowledge to continue past the time I stood down from the council, I am struck by how it has changed in the past few weeks, and just how much we really need to appreciate how silent we are.
I fully expected people to know and see what is going on in the council. I would use social media, my blog, the local papers, radio, newsletters and other media to distribute the message and because I would see the results of my labour then I expected people to take it on-board.
But over the past few weeks I have really seen just how much harder we need to work. That everyday people in our communities really don’t see it in the same way, or even see it at all. Not because of malice, or differences in party politics, but because it’s not seen as relevant or useful or interesting.
People don’t really understand the difference between the different roles of the councils, and what different respective councillors do. And when they do engage with the councils, then most things are largely commissioned out (bin collections etc) or hands bound by government (planning etc) then largely seen as impotent.
I don’t know what the answer is, but there are three elements that can be identified that need to do more, or differently. Councils need to do more to engage with the public about their roles and responsibilities and Councillors need to do more, not necessarily doing more case work, but more engagement about what they are up to. The second is that of the media and press, to report on what goes on, not just the sexy and the scandal but the more mundane yet critical elements to get the information out there. But the third is also vital, it’s the public who need to do more too, rather than just say “they are all the same etc”, but we need to do more to actually find out what is being done on our behalf and who is doing it.
It was an interesting election for messaging, Theresa May couldn’t raise a small gaggle of people to talk to, Jeremy Corbyn packed out stadiums and town halls. Yet, unless you were are an ardent follower of either, did you pay much attention to what was said? What encouraged you to vote the way you did? The leaflet in your door (if you got one), the media messaging, TV, Social media? In all honesty, did you hear any message, were you open to one, did you change your mind or have it reinforced?
As I said, I don’t have all the answers, but you do. What do you think, what can Councils, councillors and politicians in general do to engage with you on a day-to-day basis?