It's a tough time to be a democrat in the UK, particularly one who is also a member of the Labour Party. Public disgust with the political process is at an all time high; the Labour Party appears to be on the verge of electoral extinction; the SNP are supremely confident of winning the by-election in my own seat; the BNP stand poised to pick up at least one MEP; and the lack of ideas for where to go forward is terrifying, lost in the stampede of politicians trying to defend the indefensible.
At a time like this I start to wonder whether someone like me has a place in politics. See, I'm unashamedly naive and optimistic when it comes to democracy. I believe that to serve as an elected representative is the greatest honour that you can receive from your fellow citizens. They are, through the means of the democratic process, choosing you to work on their behalf, make decisions in their interests and represent them in the local and/or national discussion. What an honour! Representatives stand on behalf of the public and therefore should never think themselves above those they serve.
Sadly, this seems a very misplaced view in the current climate, where we are being forced to witness the greed and arrogance which has polluted our political system. Our democracy is corrupt, the representatives having ceased to represent anyone other than themselves, lost in the 'job' that they have and in maximising their own gains. To me political representation is not a job, it is a vocation, a role which you are called to and which exists to allow us to better serve our communities. It is about serving not commanding; about being one of the people rather than a class above them.
My Papa was a councillor, and later Provost, in Dumbarton for years and during the majority of this time the role was unpaid. He worked during the day and then attended meetings in the evening, somehow managing to fit his family and other commitments in around this. This involved sacrifice, but he did it because he believed in the difference he was able to make, and because he believed in the honour of the role that he had been entrusted with.
The current mess disappoints me and in many ways puts me off involvement in the whole sordid process. However, a bigger part of me reacts with anger to the mess and makes me more determined to play a part. I believe my naive, simplistic and idealistic view of politics is a good one, and I'll be damned if I'll have it ruined for me by those who misuse the system. I believe that political engagement can and should be a massive force for positive change and that all of us, even me, have a role to play.