Friday, 20 March 2015

Serving The Right Master

When I was (eventually!) persuaded to stand for election to our local Council, I went in with a mixture of political naiveté and worldly experience in other respects. It was a valuable perspective as it allowed me to be genuinely principled yet still with much to learn – so I did not get above myself. Those who were there with me, particularly during my early years on the the Council, will remember how I was, and might even have predicted how I'd develop over the years.

This post, though, isn't about me, though that illustration of a real-world example is valuable regarding what follows...

The point I am making in this post is one I have looked at previously, and which warrants revisiting in the run-up to the elections. Although in broad it applies to the national elections as well, this is particularly pertinent to local elections, especially those that I personally witness in this area.

The bottom line of any candidate's agenda (if indeed it is grand enough to be considered an 'agenda' as such) is whom one serves. Is it a political party, is it that party's local agenda, does one have a personal agenda, is it an ideology – or is it serving the community?

The easy answer is, on this occasion, the right answer: it is serving the community that one represents when elected by that community. Political parties universally expect their selected candidate to more-or-less slavishly follow the 'party line' on just about everything. To some extent that is understandable; and factions with local party Associations will have their own 'top coat' that sits over the party-wide basics.

All of that is actually quite understandable, if one puts oneself in the position of one of those party members involved in the candidate selection process. This applies to all parties, by the way, including those who like to pretend that they are somehow 'different'. They are not.

Therefore how is the selected candidate to behave? As I have indicated previously, it is to serve both masters as best one can, but never sacrificing the underpinning principle of being there first and foremost for the community whose crosses on ballot papers put the winning candidate into office.

That was how I always worked, for example, though not all appreciated it and one of my ward colleagues abused it to further his own ambitions at my expense. I was never fooled by this, by the way, and merely accepted it while keeping very good records! We all stood on a published platform, but that didn't mean we were limited to that necessarily narrow outlook.

A few dozen individuals might have selected the candidate (often far fewer than that), but at least several hundreds or possibly thousands of people actually elected their representative via the actual democratic process. There is no point whatsoever in our system of governance if it does not operate in precisely that manner.

This is not only in law, because the actual election is the 'real deal' and with lots of legal provisions and safeguards, but because parties are known for devising arcane 'points' and other systems for their own candidate selection. Moreover, packing selection meetings with friends, family and/or other effectively 'bought' votes is rife in candidate selections, as Andrew Gilligan and others have reported on many times.

It has even been done to me, so I could give chapter and verse on this. Not today, though...

I have in the recent past covered a little of what happens when elected representatives are more interested in their own agenda than in doing the job they were put into office to perform. This tends, on the whole, to be characteristic of one or more specific political parties, but applies to everyone in the business: be certain of whom you truly serve, and why!

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