Long, long ago, in my student days, I went to a talk by David Owen at Strathclyde University. It was around the time that the Gang of Four were breaking away from the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party. It was the first time I’d been to a public lecture by someone of his stature and I remember I was quite blown away by it. He may not have been the orator of Michael Foot’s standing, but it was still very powerful stuff. At around that time I also went to a rally where Shirley Williams, always one of my favourite politicians, was speaking. I had friends who were doing Politics, you see, and they made sure I went to all the right events. Anyhow, Shirley Williams was preceded by a local Councillor who introduced her with a rambling speech. When her turn came, it was immediately clear that Williams was in another league. She may not have been glamorous but she oozed charisma. I’ve no idea now what she said, but I do remember the enormous gulf between the presentation skills of this leading politician and the local councillor. There was no mistaking which of the two had made it to the top.
This memory returns to me every time one of our local councillors makes another gaffe and I try to remind myself that they’re surely doing their best and that it must be a truly thankless job being a local politician. For instance, there was the issue over the swimming pools when my two were small. Continue reading