Tuesday, 29 April 2014

At The Coal Face Of Politics

Patient visitors to this blog will perhaps recall that I have long been engaged in local politics, for many years as a councillor but in non-elected capacities of late.   One of my windows on the world has been the 'political surgery', assisting councillors & MPs dealing with the many problems that people bring through the door, hoping for instant solutions from their omnipotent elected representatives.   Sometimes it's great because they can be helped straightforwardly; other times, they can't.  And on some occasions they should really be sent away with a flea in their ear, though that never really happens at the level of face-to-face politics.

For various reasons I don't expect to be doing this after the forthcoming elections: last weekend may have been my final outing, which caused me to look back over some of the more, err, illuminating encounters.  I'm a dyed-in-the-wool empiricist and there's nothing like the reality check of real life for testing any political theories one might have heard in the lecture-theatre or the bar-room.
Unmarried teenaged mother:  "I'm determined to get a house with a garden ..."  (translation:  I demand the Council puts me in a house with a garden) "... so that I can smoke outside and not harm the baby."
Old fella in tired raincoat with big bundle of papers: "The timetable of the No. XYZ bus is hopeless.  I've devised a new one: it's much better, and I want you to get TfL to adopt it."
Frighteningly gaunt man, probably in his 20's, hard to be sure: "I've been convicted of benefit fraud and all my benefits have been stopped.  I haven't eaten for 3 days."  (It certainly looked that way.)
Veiled mother:  "I need you give me 5-bedroom house".  "But you and your husband only have one child."  "I good Moslem, I give my husband many sons, need 5 bedrooms."
Flustered middle-aged woman:  "They are consulting on changes to the bus schedules through my estate, they say it will be a big improvement.  The service is dreadful at the moment.  We rely on the buses - not everyone has a car, you know.  You must stop them changing anything."
Changing anything ?  Well human nature certainly doesn't change.  Of that much at least, one can be sure.



Bill Quango MP said...

Like it.
I had one constituent ask me to stop a neighbour parking her car across the street as it was " a very horrid orange colour."

Blue Eyes said...

It sounds like the bus man and the bus lady should team up.

The Muslim husband and the teenage mother might find some common interest too.

Sorry to hear that you are leaving the front line. Strangely, all three councillors in my ward are stepping down too. I would be interested to know whether it's because they are fed up or if they are moving up somewhere.

Electro-Kevin said...

I wouldn't be any good as a councilor I admit.

I think part of the reason for the democratic deficit is that people start out in politics with a definite ideology, get elected on it and then abandon it because "I must represent ALL of the people in my constituency."

When really they ought to represent those who put them in office if they are to instigate change.

Otherwise we end up with centralised politics which delivered us: the biggest crash in living memory, two disasterous wars and a week of national rioting.

Not blaming you of course, ND but elected councilors should be able to send people off with a flea in their ear if what they ask for is contrary to the majority of voters' wishes.

Nick Drew said...

Kev: - should be able to send people off with a flea in their ear

being in a marginal makes cowards of everyone: probably unnecessary in many cases because people generally respect a straight answer

but the asian communities are very 'transactional' in their approach and don't hestitate to suggest that large voting blocks are at their disposal

when I was an elected councillor, I had a big majority and did indeed give a couple of people the crisp advice they deserved

it is however fair to note that one of them took a swing at me (and I was a rugby-playing 30 years old at the time): he telegraphed the punch and I dodged it easily - but fell backwards down his front steps ...

Electro-Kevin said...

I'd be getting punched on EVERY doorstep, Nick.

In fact when one chap took a swing at me I dodged it deftly... only to split my head wide open on a picture frame behind me.

I finished him off easily with a boxing combination but news went around that victory was his and not mine - it was me covered in blood and not him.

Bill Quango MP said...

I've never been doorstep punched. But yelled at to get off the lawn many times.

Not being a gardener I didn't realise grass was so frail.

Ossian said...

Summing up

1. Representing all of the voters = Status Quo.

2. Representing tribal, factional interests = Change

3. Lying to both = Election success!

Steven_L said...

LOL, you should see some of the people that turn up at the council for consumer advice.

Two unshaven men stinking of drink "Until yesterday tennants super was £2 a can, and so and so on so and so street has put it up to £2.69 in one go, can they do that?"

Confused man referred from the CAB "They said I'd get £500 if I transferred my pension, I needed a new laptop so I agreed. A courier came round and I signed a load of papers without reading them. Where's my pension gone?

Middle aged man who works offshore and overseas a lot "So and so are billing me for international calls I never made. I left the phone with my girlfriend while I was in Kazakhstan. She's told me she didn't make the calls. Then hands over a current account statement showing a balance of £150k to 'prove he isn't lying'.

James Higham said...

There's a story behind that "not going to be around any more". Nothing ULIPish involved is there, Nick?