President's Message April 2015
In March it was my privilege to assume the Chamber Presidency from Peter Goodman and in my address to the chamber membership present at the AGM it was fabulous to have the opportunity to thank Peter for his dedication and hard work during his tenure. I thoroughly enjoyed moderating the St Albans Question Time event which followed thereafter and in amongst trying to ensure balanced input from the five candidates whilst seeking to stimulate a good quality debate. I got to thinking about the democratic process and how remarkably fortunate we are to possess the freedom and the right to vote to determine who governs us both at a national and a local level.
Whilst I have always taken a keen interest in politics and the cut and thrust of political debate, rarely have I stopped to dwell on the privilege this system of governing affords us as citizens and how incredibly important it is that we choose to participate in what is after all our democracy. Indeed, not only do we possess the right to vote at such elections, each and every one of us has the right to participate as a candidate and put ourselves up for scrutiny by the electorate who in turn will have the right to decide whether they believe we are the person they are prepared to entrust with their vote and to represent them at a local or national level. And yet, incredulously, notwithstanding our important role in this democratic process which is woven in to the fabric of our society and core to the freedoms of action and expression we possess as citizens of the United kingdom, so many of us choose to play a passive role with the majority not participating in local elections and a sizeable minority not voting in the general election.
Moreover, it is common place with in our modern political environment dominated by 24 hour rolling news and numerous social media platforms to seek to catch out and criticise our political representatives, depicting them as being out of touch with everyday issues faced by the electorate. While it would be easy to be drawn in to this line of argument, I must say that it is one I wholeheartedly reject. I personally admire those who are prepared to raise their head above the parapet and play a role in a system which has and will continue to be absolutely fundamental to our lives whatever our circumstances. Indeed, whilst our political representatives must leave no stone unturned in seeking to engage the entire electorate in our democracy and galvanise many more of our citizens to participate positively and actively in the electoral and government systems we hold so dear, we too as individuals must work hard to protect our democracy by standing up for a system we believe in and ensure that our political representatives have their feet planted firmly in reality.
In essence, this means taking every opportunity we have to engage with our political representatives, use our vote on every occasion we are afforded the privilege and encourage others whenever the opportunity arises to fully engage with the process and to cast their vote. While I am proud that our political freedom allows people the right to pass up on their right to vote, it seems much more logical and appropriate to me that being part of an engaged electorate influencing and shaping our future is a far better alternative to ringing our hands outside the process and disassociating ourselves from those empowered to implement policies and make decisions on our behalf.
At a local level we enjoy very strong relationships with our local councillors and their officers and the question time event held with our five parliamentary candidates served to reiterate how willing they are to engage with us as residence, business owners and employees to learn about the key issues we face and what solutions can be implemented to improve the situation.
In conclusion, I suspect, like me, you may not have paused to reflect on the upcoming election and the significance of the freedoms and rights we possess represented in that folded sheet of paper bearing your mark as you slide it in to the sealed ballot box. If you haven't paused in the way I have described, then I do encourage you to take time out to give it a little thought as you might find like me that the right to vote in what can be a troubled world is something to cherish and a privilege we should never take for granted.