Saturday, 29 March 2014

My view on an open political forum in Medway

One of the things that keeps appearing on my Twitter feed is the suggestion that Medway Council and the Political parties could form an interactive forum to discuss policies and answer questions in the Pentagon centre, Chatham.

On paper this would provide anyone in Medway the chance to meet their councillors or learn what each party's policies are so that informed decisions can be made and spark debate. Much of politics requires door knocking and handing out leaflets that, lets face it, probably don't get read by half of the residents or hoping that your story gets picked up by the local media and written about favourably so an open forum, like the leadership debates would be massively welcome.

There is just one major problem... The public are just not that interested.

The best place in the Pentagon to have it would be on the second floor which is where there is the most space. Sadly, as predicted on this blog, the new dynamic bus facility outside has left a very small footfall going upstairs now, rather than the crowds who would have drifted past to get the bus before.

There is also the fact that when people are in town shopping they don't want to be bothered by charity workers, people handing out leaflets or politicians. Just go stand out on the high street and people watch - you'll see people with headphones on, pretending to play with their phones, politely declining or straight out just cruising past ignoring their very existence. Time is valuable and shopping is a lengthy enough process as it is - that's why so many people are shopping online these days - so most people just want to get on with it and get home or to something more interesting.

There is also a major problem in the fact that no one trusts politicians anymore. Where as issues remain like cost of living, jobs, education etc people whenever political parties get together they do nothing but squabble and blame each other and spout political dogma. Even when they tell the truth about things, like the Liberal Democrats getting you your income tax back on the first £10.500 you earn - the message is lost in the din of all the other hot air and noise. People have heard it all before, trusted and been let down by the other guy. Why would they want to waste time on their Saturday off listening to more wasted words?

People have their own preconceptions of what parties stand for and although they can be hilariously wrong at times there is no way to budge them from their position even when you're presenting facts to the contrary. Others will stick to party loyalty through thick and thin rather than let "them" get in office. 

Another big problem is manning the stalls. Let's be honest, the big two parties have the most members. With the best will in the world smaller parties in Medway like the Lib Dems, Greens, English Democrats and UKIP will not have the people power to be there week in week out for the full day. This leads to the disparity and ultimately the strengthening of the same old two party system that has left this country in the state it is now.

This is even further strengthened by people who, reasonably, think that if they want something done go to either the Conservatives or Labour - why waste time on the smaller groups?

Ultimately this is just my opinion nothing more but it is where I stand in the proposal - people lack the interest, time and have (rightly or wrongly) preconceptions of political parties and what they stand for.

The Libdems put out regular Focus newsletters and our councillors hold surgeries regularly to discuss problems in the ward that people are more than welcome to attend. There is also regular campaigning in the street and if you're lucky enough to live in one of our target wards you may get a knock on the door soon!

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