What is the point?

“What is the point of it all anyway?” was the question posed by a woman in Kennington, Templeogue this afternoon. “Nothing ever changes”.

Politicians in search of a vote don’t readily look for an argument at the doorstep. But there are times when a point is hard to pass over. The woman was – is – very frustrated. She feels there is nothing anyone can do to change things – housing, the health service, she mentioned climate change too. I replied that we have to strive to make the changes we want to see. Even if it’s slow and frustrating (and from experience I can say it is both) we cannot give up on the promise of a better world. She wasn’t convinced. “Get rid of the whole lot of you – all parties” she argued, politely but indignantly. Then who would represent us, I asked, who would make the decisions about public services, taxation and the rest? She felt that there should be some kind of management system, but wouldn’t be drawn on how these managers would be chosen.

There is huge and widespread frustration about our politics and about decisions made by governments. The Children’s Hospital comes up a lot. I think it may be the lightning rod – or one of them – in these elections. But this only masks a deeper problem that goes to the heart of our democracy: trust, or its absence. How can we restore and rebuild trust in our politics and in our political system? We can replace completely our entire crop of politicians. In most elections nowadays we throw out the government. But the problems and the challenges that must be addressed don’t go away. The rallying cry of populists – on the left and the right – is to sweep away the “elites” in the interest of the people.  But then what? I don’t think I persuaded the woman in Kennington. She wants change. But it won’t come easily. And it certainly won’t come without politics.

Paul Gordon recording the race results at the Stillorgan-Mount Merrion Community Games.

Labour does local brilliantly. Today I worked with three of the best councillors Dublin has, and with our new candidate in Stillorgan, Paul Gordon. It was Portmarnock station with Brian McDonagh before breakfast; a great lunchtime and afternoon canvass with Pamela Kearns in Templeogue; the Stillorgan-Mount Merrion Community Games at teatime; rounded off by a canvass in Kimmage with Mary Freehill (led by the youthful Cormac O’Braonain, a rising star in the Labour Party).

Quote of the day: the man who praised Pamela by telling her that she knows her “parishioners” and “looks after them well”.

Spiritual as well as temporal welfare – that’s Labour for you.