So I think I might be starting to give fractionally more of a shit about local politics.
It’s still not a great deal of a shit, mind. I’m not going to start taking to the streets and campaigning loudly for the important issues facing the good people of Bromley just yet, not least because I don’t know what they are. I’m not at the stage of waving placards angrily outside City Hall (do we even have one of those?). But the idea of having some sort of involvement in what’s going on around here politically is starting to seem like a less dull and distant notion.
This is largely down to a couple of activist websites I’ve been encountering recently, in particular TheyWorkForYou.com, a largely volunteer-led project organised around the idea of establishing some accountability for our elected politicians. Which sounds like a handy thing to have. And it takes off a lot of the pressure for me to have to be organised myself, in order to get involved in some way.
For instance, all I’ve really done so far is type in my postcode so they know what constituency I live in. And now I know all sorts of things that I’d never taken enough interest to find out myself in the time I’ve lived here, like that my MP is called Bob Neill, is the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, and that he has tended to vote against legislation to establish and protect gay rights and in favour of renewing Labour’s anti-terror laws. Which are the kind of things I might want to know if and when I’m trying to decide who to vote for in future. Also, Wikipedia tells me that in the last by-election the liberal democrats made substantial gains in this area, and as such Mr Neill has one of the smallest majorities in parliament.
I was actually first prompted to find out who my local elected representative is when I was being encouraged to find out his position on libel reform, and was directed to WriteToThem.com, a site built to make it absurdly easy to send messages to your MP without having to do all the off-putting research like finding out who they are. I didn’t get a reply to my questions, and apparently only 48 out of 147 messages sent to him this way in the year 2008 got a response. Which ain’t great.
And then there’s Democracy Club, which provides a forum for residents of a particular constituency to suggest and discuss local issues that may need addressing, in the context of a forthcoming election, and recommends the kind of tasks you can do to help get things done. Right now, the main default task being recommended to me is to “Describe local issues”, but I’m so woefully out of the loop that I can’t even really think what to bring to the table here. I’m going to keep a lookout for any election leaflets we get posted, like it says, but I’m still hoping to be able to follow people’s leads for a while. Things seem mostly fine around here, really. The bins get picked up on time. The roads aren’t full of pot-holes. The crime rate has avoided me entirely.
So… what should I care about most? Now that I’m actually being persuaded to take an interest, has anyone got any ideas where I should go from here? How do I decide what’s important to me without getting bored again? For all that this has grabbed my attention, it’s still local politics, and it’s not unlikely that I might just doze off if I try writing about it at this length again in a few weeks.
In other news, another anti-gay Republican senator is gay. Yeah, this kind of thing has long since stopped being any kind of a surprise. I guess he’s doing better than most to have simply come out, though, rather than done the press conference rounds with his supportive wife by his side and muttered about indiscretions and having a problem and needing help and going into rehab. I’m just looking forward to when this all becomes as irrelevant as race, frankly. Not that I’m saying we’ve totally moved beyond racial prejudice and into a utopia of tolerance and acceptance or anything, but at least people aren’t usually appalled by white folks and black folks wanting to get married any more, and the only people who still openly complain about foreigners being inferior are mostly fuckwads we can all just ignore.
So, what I appear to be saying is that I can’t wait for the day when everyone’s homophobic bigotry is forced beneath the surface and has to fester in secret as people mask their true feelings for the sake of a superficially polite and tolerant society, just like they’ve done with racism. Maybe that needs a little more thought.