Thursday, January 04, 2007

Get involved

Brian Jenner wrote this excellent platform piece on ConservativeHome the other day which really resonated well with me. It starts to open up a real issue now that I think is at the heart of democracy in this country. On the one hand we apparently have a populous that is disenchanted with politics, yet is clearly not apathetic about political issues as we see the growth of single issue campaigning. So what explains this ?

The mention of Jeremy Paxman’s book is interesting because the book provides quite a few anecdotes about life in politics and is well researched, but does leave you with a slightly miserable feeling about getting involved. In fact if it had not been the case I was already involved in my local Conservative Association already by the point of reading I would have been put off.

The one phrase that caught my attention at the time was where Paxman asks the question ‘What is that makes certain people want to tell the rest of us what to do ?’ and with that, as in real life Paxman did the world of politics a great disservice.

From what of I have seen of people involved in political activity (of any persuasion) they go in to it to genuinely try to make things better. In other words for the best of reasons. Indeed I believe there are not many bad people in politics, just plenty of bad ideas.

As a result of the bad ideas and mistrust we see the rise of single issue campaigning, but thanks to the Paxman effect we don’t see that reflected in traditional political activity. If nobody took an interest, then we would get the nutters and the bigots in, but thankfully it’s not got that bad yet.

Part of the problem is the potential exposure to public glare. When I stood for election as a County Councillor I fully expected my friends to either not be that interested or possibly even ridicule me for it. But I was truly amazed at how many people admired my actions, even to point of saying it was brave and thought it was a great thing to do.

So it appears doing politics is OK if you know and can trust the person and that brings me then to two points; firstly how can you translate that into a willingness to get more involved and secondly why is there is a taboo about ‘doing politics’. What is it that makes people resist switching from being a voter to an activist or candidate? Having been someone that made the switch relatively recently, I can say that once it is done, you really wonder what the big deal was.

The other thing which will happen if political activity starts to become normal again is people will become closer to their elected representatives and will start to realise they are human and fallible, just like the rest of us. Perhaps then the fascination with the human failures will fade.

So yes, the answer is to get involved, make a difference and do a bit. You can do a lot and it will probably only make a small difference, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first footstep. Don’t expect to change to happen at once. We can all shout from the sidelines, but it’s those who get in the action that make the difference. Those that make the biggest sacrifices and do the most work are those that effect the most change.

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