Thursday, 31 March 2011

"I only ever see you when there's an election!"

The above is an example of a typical complaint levelled at politicians by constituents, seemingly unhappy that their door hasn't been knocked more often by their elected representatives. At face value it seems a perfectly valid complaint but if you think about it, why is it a complaint at all? Do any of us actually sit at home thinking that what we really need right now is a knock on the door from a politician?

Let's start off by acknowledging that it had never been easier to contact your local politician. All have email addresses, many publish mobile numbers and a fair few have embraced Twitter & Facebook. It may be true that in some cases these accounts are managed by assistants but it doesn't take much to get a personal response from your target. There aren't many MLA's who won't be able to meet face to face at relatively short notice and to his credit, the DRD minister can be contacts directly through twitter.

With that in mind, a complaint about lack of contact can only refer to that of the politician making initial contact either through doorstepping or publishing newsletters and the like (but I'm not going to cover that right now).

When it comes to doorstepping, outside of election periods, it is a great way to canvass opinion and assess what the issues of the day are but is that really what we want our MLA's doing with their time? After all, they were elected to legislate (the clue is in the title) and that is what they are paid for.

Of course they could get out and meet the people on their own tome but do we really expect our politicians to sacrifice their social lives completely? Yes, they need info on public opinion to help shape their policy but does it have to be the politician that collects the info?

Parties should, and some do, organise activists to conduct periodical doorstep canvassing to ensure that the public are engaged but let's not resort to tired and cliched criticism of our politicians when in truth there is no shortage of genuine criticism that can be thrown their way.

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