Opinion: You don’t have to politicise everything

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Image: Shutterstock/VectorMine

You can tell local elections are on their way because everyone else is to blame for the problems in Bedford Borough and the fight for political point scoring has reached record levels.

With political conversations about WhatsApp messages, immigration and, yes, Brexit ongoing, it seems some local politicians can’t help but jump on the bandwagon and point out how their colleagues in other parties are to blame for this, that and everything else.

I guess it is easy to use national issues to get one up on the other but in local politics, energy should be aimed closer to home.

When I first came to Bedford as a young(er) journalist, Frank Branston was mayor. As an independent himself, he decided to form a council executive that was as balanced as possible in its political makeup.

Some argued this meant there was too much infighting and nothing got done. I, however, disagree.

I felt that what we saw was a genuine opportunity for all opinions to be heard properly and appropriately, the decision on a matter was therefore usually down to Frank, and he could make that decision with all views considered.

Interviewing Frank, he was always happy to speak his mind, and he was also happy to own his mistakes if he made them. It was refreshing and I enjoyed that all-too-short time of my career being able to talk to him.

Of course, there may be some rose-tinted glasses on as I think back, it may not have always been as perfect as that.

But, with the constant fighting and finger-pointing and blaming of historical decisions we see today, I do feel like it was a lot more constructive.

National issues

In just the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen one political group take the credit for a single councillor’s work, suggestions we should be celebrating the condition of our terrible roads, and countless press releases claiming the issues we face are all Westminster’s fault.

Of course, national politics is a mess at the moment, just mention Matt Hancock or Suella Braverman to anyone and the responses are quite colourful. I’ll reserve my comments about those two for my mates over a pint.

However, these things (and most other Westminster scandals, regardless of party) really have nothing to do with the majority of issues in local politics.

Yes, government funding is an issue and yes our town centre is suffering in the same way as many others (it’s not just a Bedford problem), but much of a local authority’s work, and those councillors who hope to represent us, are nothing to do with what you see in the national news.

That stuff is for Mohammed Yasin MP (Labour) in Bedford and Kempston, and Richard Fuller MP (Conservative) in North East Bedfordshire to deal with, I won’t bother mentioning Nadine Dorries (is she still an) MP.

Of course, our MPs do work with the local council to hear various issues from a local authority perspective, but they’re the ones who are charged with representing us at Westminster – so leave the national issues to them.

Local councillors, on the other hand, deal with areas far smaller. They have often grown up in the wards they represent and they know their neighbours well. They understand the needs of Bedfordians at a truly local level.

Of course, they have different ideas about how things should be done, and that’s why you may choose to vote for one over another, but of the many I’ve spoken to over the years, they are all, regardless of political persuasion, just as frustrated with Westminster as you and I.

In fact most of the councillors I speak to are just as frustrated with the local political point scoring by those higher up as I am.

Most of them just want to do what they can to help the people they represent.

Most of them just want what’s best for Bedford Borough.

As one of them said to me last week, what we need is a council full of councillors who work together and use their collective experiences and knowledge for the greater good of the Borough.

What we don’t need is misplaced and irrelevant propaganda about which political party is best.

Sometimes we don’t need to make it political, sometimes we just need to work together and get things done.

I couldn’t agree more.

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