I have a friend who is running for local council. This has made me aware of something that had not really occurred to me before. There has been a lot of discussion about political participation and urging of more people to stand for election, but in practice local democracy is a lot like the undemocratic past, when only small elites could participate. Granted, you don't have to be a landowner or nobleman anymore, but you do need to have a fairly privileged existence.
It is very difficult for a normal person with a normal job and normal responsibilities to stand for council. This is what my friend has made me realise. She is one of the privileged few because she has her own business and can usually arrange to take time off when she needs to. Candidates for council need to make themselves available to all kinds of special interest groups who want to hear their policies. They need to attend endless meetings. They need the kind of day and evening schedule flexibility that Jill the service station attendant and Bob the builder are unlikely to be able to achieve. Which makes me wonder: How representative is local politics, actually? Most of our councillors seem to be business owners or non-wage earners who can control their own schedules. I don't think any are otherwise unemployed, or working eight hour day jobs. It seems to me that those who are able to participate in local politics must come from a fairly small pool. Is this correct? Does it need to change?