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The Day After

May 23, 2014

The day after

Results for the council elections across the country are still coming in and here is what I have to say: Most councillors lost their seats for no fault of their own. Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats are all parties of government and all have now a local as well as national record while the latest popularity of UKIP is simply due to the fact that they have no record of government.

I was first elected in 2004 with all the enthusiasm and big ideas for change that every newly elected councillor will (or should) bring to the job. I thought my council was not listening, many decision were bureaucratic and not transparent, leading politicians were either cynical or incompetent and I was going to make a difference. The first 2 years were relatively easy- I was in the opposition benches. But then in 2006 came the triumphant moment when we took control of the council. This is when I really learnt to grow up as a ‘politician’.

My biggest wake-up call was to experience how negative the news coverage was and how overnight I was transformed from the honest hard working community campaigner into the cynical, greedy, incompetent ‘politician’. No matter how well we were doing leading the Council and how successful the changes we implemented were, we got criticised – almost as if being the decision makers was evil in itself.  At best the good things went unnoticed while the things that were less successful were always picked up. What the press loved most was to blow trivial disagreement between two people out of proportion to create clashes of personalities rather than looking at the proper arguments.

The overwhelming impression for the public is bad government and that established political parties deliberately confuse ‘ordinary people’ about what is really going on.

So if established politicians are rubbish and their government is almost invariably rubbish the ‘ordinary’ voter is for ever in search for the new saviour politician or a new party who will finally be ‘honest’ ‘trustworthy’ or ‘one of them’.

The latest saviour is Mr Farage and UKIP and I predict that most who now see the answer to their political misery in UKIP will be disillusioned as soon as elected UKIP members will actually have to make proper decisions. And UKIP politicians too will end up on the rubbish heap of other politicians and probably much sooner, because the most dishonest thing to say to people is that there are easy answers and simple solutions if only politicians were ‘honest’.

Government is difficult, complex and messy; decision making is never straight forward and often full of compromises. Good and bad decisions are being made in local and national government but I doubt that anybody sets out deliberately to make bad decisions when he or she gets first elected, however many – including me when I was first a councillor- have a very poor idea how difficult the job can be particularly the responsibility of government.

I also think the media should make the effort to have a proper look at how decisions are made and the different options on the table when a solution has to be found. The press has played a big role in creating the unhealthy disconnect between ‘politicians and ordinary people’ and should start to play a constructive role in setting some records straight. Otherwise all the media does is create the latest hype for some fresh faced newcomers to promise the earth only to be dumped a few seasons later as dishonest and cynical traitors.

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