Being an elected representative means you have to front up to everybody. Its nice when you’re in a room filled with people who agree with you. Then there are the days it feels like everyone is against you. That’s the job and we should all be ready to ride the highs and lows of public life. That’s what we get paid for.
It’s fair to say that over the three events I’ve experienced the complete set of responses from enthusiastic support to nods of unexcited approval to forthright opposition. I’ve been told it’s great to have someone like me in Parliament. I’ve been told our policy needs more punch. I’ve been told I’m stupid and don’t know what I’m talking about.
But while I’ve been fronting up to the diverse audiences ready to discuss policy and listen to alternative points of view not a single National MP has showed up at any of these events. Not one. They were invited. They were given plenty of time to find a replacement if the appropriate MP couldn’t be there but none had the guts to show up.
These are difficult subjects where the evidence is often at odds with public opinion. The issues are challenging. Opinions are strongly held and hard to change. People don’t hold back if they think you’re doing it wrong. But that doesn’t mean we should hide away. It’s our job to listen to everyone. I find it invigorating talking to people who disagree with me. It tests my knowledge, my experience and my opinion. If I can’t provide a strong argument in favour of my position I need to think about why that is. Even when I broadly disagree with someone there might be something in what they say that I can learn from.
But I’d never know if I didn’t show up.
By being too scared to face people who hold strong views on challenging issues, National is ignoring anyone who disagrees with their point of view. Only hanging out with sycophants makes for good photo-ops but it makes you out-of-touch with the rest of the population.
My message to National: Harden up and start listening.
Iain Lees-Galloway – Labour Party MP
Originally published on Iain’s blog.