I love almost everything about working at PAS. Probably my most favourite thing of all is working with councillors. I was at one of our leadership academies last week in Manchester, and (as usual) I was struck by a couple of things.
Politics is optional
One thing we do at the outset is to allow the group to make its own rules. I think the only rule we enforce is “Chatham House” – everything else is up to the people there. I particularly enjoy it when the group suggests a “no phone” policy. There is nothing more crushing than trying to engage people who spend the majority of their time texting people and then ask dumb questions because they weren’t listening. (yes, councillors do this too).
At this recent gig one of the rules was “no politics” – which is not entirely unusual. No group wanting to get stuff done collectively is helped by people cat-calling each other. But this group actually didn’t tell each other which party they were from. Of course, some people were very guessable, but that was not the point.
That evening, over dinner, several people remarked how refreshing it was. In the calm, away from the electorate, everyone finds it very easy to accept that (for the most part) councillors put themselves forward in genuinely altruistic ways. And, in some little way, our off-site training events offer not just some new thoughts and ideas about planning but some chance to recharge the batteries amongst civic-minded people without the tribalism of local Local politics.
Female councillors have a tougher time canvassing
I also learnt that female councillors face some peculiar hazards while out canvassing. On my table 50% of them had encountered naked male electorate while out knocking on doors. There were some amusing stories about how this sort of behaviour could be countered with a well-chosen put-down. But, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, not one of the male councillors had a similar story.