One more sleep

ONE night to go

ELECTION EVE

SO here we go, election eve.

Tomorrow, some people’s lives are going to change in a big, big way. Whether that’s the people of Camden is not for me to say, but things definitely won’t quite be the same for the individuals who have been brave/silly enough to put themselves up for the public vote.

It’s easy to be cynical about local councillors, and sometimes we are right to be – these last four years have not been short on the usual mix of shifty manoeuvres and social media backstabbing.

But we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all House of Cards. Not all of it. Certainly, I have never really bought the idea that they are all in it for themselves.

One of the common lines is that… they are only on the council because they want to be an MP, and not to actually help anyone.

Personally, I think all MPs should be a councillor first; just as all national journalists should’ve done some time on a local. It would only expand their horizons and how they see the world.

Of course, we have seen several councillors reach the Houses of Parliament and others give it an energetic good shot before falling short. But a term or two, or three or four, on the council – providing that is they are active players – should be seen as a good thing.

Surely it’s worse for ‘the chosen ones’ to simply be parachuted into safe parliamentary seats a million miles from Camden. Maybe the Miliband brothers could have spent four years in the council chamber before getting their plum opportunities. We could reel off some other names.

I think all this because the new candidates elected this week can only imagine now what is ahead of them. They will have been schooled and coached by those who have been through it already but if you have a heart and soul nothing can really prepare you for meeting families with starving children and fearing the worst.

I imagine, and I have been told this is pretty accurate when comparing notes, that surgeries are like the cases that present at the front desk at the Camden New Journal offices in Camden Town, marked only by desperation.

It can be distressing and hard to know how to help.

For any councillor doing the job in the way they should, this isn’t just one person coming to the CNJ counter once or a twice a day, but a regular stream of people wanting to meet you and wanting fixes you can’t always provide quickly, if ever.

Endless calls, endless emails, many meetings – and with the steep challenges of rising bills and evictions, it’s only going to pile on.

Regardless of what’s been said over the last few weeks in search of your votes, there are always some councillors who disappear into the sand almost as soon as they are elected. They quickly start missing surgeries and hardly say a word in meetings.

But those who embrace the challenge and stand up for their constituents (perhaps even against party politics) shouldn’t simply be dismissed as a career politicians, even if that’s what some of them ultimately turn up to be.

Look away now if you are a candidate on the ballot paper tomorrow but perhaps it is easier to explain all this by telling you that whenever I meet a councillor who has left the Town Hall, voluntarily or not, they always seem…. a little healthier, a little bushier tailed.

Most say that while they enjoyed it – or think they remember enjoying it – and feel they helped in some way, they wouldn’t be rushing back. They are happy the surgeries, the hours, the evenings, even the stage managed council meetings that they themselves helped stage manage are in the past.

No, it’s somebody else’s turn now.

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