COUNCILLORS CAN BE A FORCE FOR GOOD – OR BAD

21 Feb 2024
Stephen Conway headshot

To be elected to serve as a councillor is a great privilege. Councillors can make a real difference to their communities. They can act as local champions, defending and promoting the interests of the people they represent.

It has been my great pleasure for more than twenty years to represent Twyford on Wokingham Borough Council. The village is a very special place to me, with a strong community spirit. I love living there and I love acting as one of its borough councillors.

As a member of the executive and now leader of the council, I try to act with the interests of the whole borough in mind, not just those of my own ward of Twyford.

I have always believed that I can do best for my community, and the borough more generally, if I am honest and open about what is possible and do all I can to help within a system that doesn’t always allow much room for manoeuvre.

I have also always believed that councillors have a responsibility - a duty - to support community cohesion. All the communities in the borough contain people with different backgrounds and interests; the job of the councillor is to bring people together, not set them against each other.

Unfortunately, I have become aware over the years that not every elected representative shares my vision of the councillor as the calm and rational peacemaker who tries to keep the wider public interest in view.

Sadly, there seems to be an increasing tendency for our politics, locally as well as nationally, to follow the example of the United States, where stoking up tensions and actively seeking to inspire anger and aggression are seen as legitimate tactics, especially by the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party.

As we approach our own elections, I’m afraid we are likely to see more divisive rhetoric, more irresponsible exploitation of fear, and more attempts to fuel anger in our own country and even in our own borough.

Politics is, of course, by its nature about conflict, about the cut and thrust of debate. I am not asking for politics without passion, or without criticism of opponents, but for a politics that is conducted with respect, decency, and honesty.

I hope I am not being overly optimistic when I make a small plea to fellow councillors for a less confrontational kind of politics, which seeks to defuse tensions by finding common ground rather than magnifying or even manufacturing difference.

By conducting ourselves in the right way we are likely to produce better outcomes for the people we are here to serve.