Look I’m interested in politics. I’m an active member of a political party. The other Friday night I was busy writing the latest Lib Dem Focus for the Westborough ward in Southend. I think that politics is an important venture and that you can really make a change. I’m not naive enough to think that if I ever get elected in any capacity I could change the world but real change doesn’t have to change the world. Quality of life isn’t measured by the big things but all the little things. However in this day and age being interested in politics is certainly not the norm shall we say.
‘It doesn’t matter who I vote for. You are all the same’ is a typical quote that I hear both on the doorstep and on the interweb. It is a depressing thing to hear when in fact a lot of politicians are polar opposite to each other. In Southend in the past few years there has been a rise of the independents to become the opposition group on the council. Yes the independents aren’t actually independent. They are a collective of independents who masquerade as independents. They have group meetings and whilst it is fair to say that they do not actually agree on many things the fact they call themselves true independents is a bit of a fallacy.
If that were true then why do they have meetings and offices within the Civic Hall? What they are are a bunch of people who worked out there was voter apathy with the main political parties and saw an opportunity to jump on that apathy and become elected. This voter apathy has not disappeared and they have gained more than a strong footing within the borough and are certainly here to stay. On one hand you can say that independents will only put the views of their constituents forward instead of a party line but you can also say that those within political parties can put forward the views of their constituents above those of the party as a whole.
The issue I have with independents is that you do not exactly know what you are getting. Take Westborough for example which has two independents but they disagree on a lot of things at council level. Heck in the leadership vote one independent voted for the Tory even though the other independent was in the vote. One is Tory leaning and heavily praises the Tory leadership but the other writes into the Echo most weeks to deride all party politics and how awful it is.
You speak to people about this and they don’t say things like ‘oh I like his views on x, y and z’ they just say ‘oh they are independent and therefore better than everyone else’ and that is so frustrating. Basically to a significant number of people being independent means you are better than if you are a member of a political party. You can be totally nuts and off the wall but as long as you aren’t wearing a coloured rosette they you have a leg up.
Now I’m not going to sit here and type that being in a political party is all sweetness and light and all independents are terrible. That isn’t what I’m saying. What I’m saying is there is so much apathy that independents in Southend are thought of as better than the rest but it is a role reversal elsewhere. Heck Labour could put up a tramp in places like Sunderland and they would probably win. So many people just vote blindly without actually listening or reading what the other candidates have to say and this isn’t getting better. It is getting worse.
The thing is within a party you have a lot of frustration too. Just because you are in a political party it doesn’t mean you automatically have the same views as everyone else. Take my party for example. The spread of views is incredibly diverse and even though you have broad similarities you don’t agree on the small or the medium issues all the time. So whilst you should all be pulling in the same direction a lot of the time you aren’t. You are having internal debates that take time away from actually doing things. These debates can go around and around and around.
Another thing I hate about politics is the rise of the politicos. I’m on twitter. I enjoy twitter. However the tribalism of politicos is something else. I don’t watch Question Time any more because basically people will hear what they want to hear. So few people have an open mind these days it really is a pointless exercise. I follow people of all parties and they all hear just what they want to hear and they say that. You try and engage in a proper adult conversation and most of the time they ignore you or just tell you that you are wrong. No actual discussion. Just black and white.
Well very few things in the world are either black or write. Practically everything is a shade of grey. I can’t sit here and type with a straight face that everything the Lib Dems do is right. It isn’t. I can’t think of any time in my life that I have or that I ever will say that the Lib Dems are perfect in every way. The reason I am a member of the party is because I agree broadly with their ideology. I’m not a member as I like politics but hate the Tories. I’m not a member because I was annoyed with the war in Iraq. I’m not a member because tuition fees was my number one thought in my mind. I’m a member because they in general pull in the direction I pull.
Speaking of another thing I hate it is revisionist history. I was at the hospital last night and do you know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see patients with cheque books. I didn’t see patients handing over cash in order to get treatment or a bed. I keep getting told the NHS is finished but people were still being treated and not paying out of their own pocket for it. So the NHS is opening up to more private companies and everyone is screaming about how bad that is but wasn’t it the previous Labour government that opened the door for this? People seem to have forgotten this.
Tuition fees have gone up and the Lib Dems are evil because they failed to stop this but didn’t Labour introduce tuition fees and didn’t they say they would put them up anyway? Oh wait yes they did. Yet people don’t hear this. All they hear is what they want to hear. Students have left the Lib Dems and joined Labour because of this. Guessing none of them are studying recent political history. It isn’t just students that have left. So many people left Labour to join the Lib Dems after Iraq but have flocked back now. It is like the war on Iraq isn’t an issue any more…
However there are things that I like and that is twofold. The first is there are some people who do actually have an open mind and do enjoy a good discussion. There are respective people out there who aren’t entrenched into their position. Actually having a proper grown up discussion either within the party (as long as it doesn’t go around and around and around) or with either undecided voters who have an interest in politics or even members of other political parties. Having a grown up discussion is one of my very favourite things to do and politics allows me to do that and there are a good handful of people that I can do that with. Sadly this is another of my bugbears as there are so many cliques and there are so many people who think they are cleverer than everyone else and if you disagree then a clique can close around you. I’ve seen it far too many times hence why I don’t think i sit in one. In general I just quietly bob along with this blog.
The other thing I thoroughly enjoy doing is actually the idea of helping people. Doing those little things that can actually make a difference. One man is not going to change the world but you can do those little things that can help people’s quality of life.
So even though I have written in far more detail about what I hate I still will be involved and you never know may get even more involved in the foreseeable future. The bad bits may well outweigh the good bits at times but I still have a rosy outlook and I still have optimism that when all is said and done I will make a positive difference to a few people’s lives. That is what I hope will happen and why I’m happy to persevere with politics. Still at times it can be a depressing slog…