I spent last year being quite politically active at a local level, and it taught me a lot. One of the main things I learned was that I couldn’t sustain it past last autumn. I’m not good at late nights. By about 8.30pm my concentration is generally very poor, and late nights have a dire effect on my body. Can’t do it. Local politics means Party meetings (evenings) Council meetings (evenings) council committee meetings (evenings) and I looked at how I was coping with two meetings a month and realised that there was no earthly way I could keep doing that, much less add to it.
So when the opportunities came along to stand for seats on the local council, I did not step forward.
I’d like to be politically active – my Gran was part of a town council for years, and I care about politics, local and national. I want to make a contribution. I would dearly like to follow in her footsteps, but she was quite a powerhouse and I am not. I get very tired, and I can’t concentrate at night well enough to do meetings.
Of course it isn’t just me. Lots of people have little or no scope for getting involved. There are reasons that a lot of people in local politics are older – no young children at home to disturb or accommodate. People who are retired often have the time to spare, and the means to handle the meetings. Try getting into politics without a car – it was obvious I’d have serious trouble standing as a parliamentary candidate in a rural constituency with little public transport. I didn’t stand – the party picked the older guy with the car, who is better at late nights than I am, although in the end he didn’t make it to voting day either. Of course having a car helps with those late night meetings, but you’ve got to be able to afford it, and not everyone can.
It’s not easy combining politics and child care. Politics and anything more involved than a 9-5 job. Shifts are not feasible. The very nature of the system makes it very hard for a lot of people to step up. It’s not a coincidence that a lot of people in politics are older guys from affluent backgrounds. They are the people for whom it is most feasible, and so it probably never occurs to them to look at who can’t work with this system, which voices are silenced by it, who is excluded. I think a bit of reconsideration would go a long way. If we don’t hear from a more diverse range of people, we won’t get a diverse range of issues and concerns properly represented.