A power vacuum. We’ve said goodbye to Brussels. Westminster has dissolved into squabbling about the precise emissions from its own rear end. There seems no alternative. Wye with Hinxhill Parish Council will have to take control.
In these difficult times, we can supply reassuring good leadership. A parish council with seven councillors and one clerk, we have an ex-brigadier, a former housing association manager, a journalist, a playwright and, most useful of all, a breakdown recovery company director among our number. And thus far we haven’t been tainted by any expenses scandal. Our allowance is £100 a year and most of us don’t claim any more than that in expenses.
In contrast to Westminster, we are terribly polite, practically falling over ourselves to allow a colleague to perform some task or other. We are totally united on Europe because none of us have the foggiest how each other voted. And I’m sure our training managing litter bins, the village green and the local lavs, recently divested from the local megastate (Ashford Borough Council), will be invaluable when it comes to working out a new trade agreement with the EU.
There is of course the small problem of our own authority. We might be accused of being in our own bubble – population 2,500, halfway between Ashford and Canterbury… And our media relations might not be quite what they should be – the parish website is still crowing about a village hall extravaganza held in 2015. But nevertheless, like Jeremy Corbyn, we are confident that the country will swing behind us in any snap election.
And if that were to happen… then perhaps the world might turn away from studying the failings of the EU and the implosions at Westminster to study what is going wrong at the very lowest level of British democracy?
I seem to have abruptly changed my tune. Did I write “what is going WRONG?” Perhaps things in Wye with Hinxhill are not quite so rosey after all? I feel a sudden sweat. My own spin machine – homemade and made out of recycled material – is unravelling: thoughts that have been lying dormant for years are coming bubbling to the surface.
Oh dear oh dear. Doubts about our leadership potential are about to be released. The brigadier will not be happy.
Here they come… How is it that in a community of 2,500 people only 7 people come forward to work as councillors? Why are there four vacancies on the council? Why are these public servants, in common with local councils throughout the country, overwhelmingly white, elderly and male? Why don’t people know who their local councillors are and what they do? Why isn’t more use made of social media to engage the young? Why isn’t it more of an attractive, enjoyable task? Why is there such a disconnect between politics at parish, borough, county, national and EU level? Why is there no acknowledgement or thanks for what we do?
I got involved in local politics because I thought that working locally might be a way to accelerate social and environmental change. Five years on and I’ve had to adjust my views. I still think change can be pushed forward locally but I no longer think that working on the local council is the way to make it happen. It was perhaps naive of me to think otherwise. I now think that reforming local democracy is one of the changes that needs to happen.
The past few days have indicated very clearly that democracy at international and national level is broken. But let’s not ignore what’s been happening locally for years. And, given that we have a substantial rebuilding process on our hands, let’s please start from the bottom up.