As a parish councillor, I represent the most local level of public representation. Obvious, I know, but important to bear in mind. And yet, I never have anyone come up to me and ask me for help or advice on anything. Given my relative lack of power or influence, that perhaps doesn't come as a surprise, or at least it didn't until now.
As I wander around Stowupland and Creeting St Peter, leaflets in hand, I run into local residents in their front gardens or wherever. Being a polite soul, I say hello and introduce myself - I am the candidate, after all, and residents have had half a dozen pieces of paper with my name and face on them, so there is a degree of recognition.
Occasionally, they mention something that annoys them, or causes concern, or that they just feel would be a good thing to do, and I ask them, "Have you spoken to X about that?". The answer is often a negative one, which makes me wonder whether more direct interaction between our political representatives and those they purport to represent would make for a healthier community.
Those Liberal Democrat campaigners of long standing would describe this as 'community politics', and they would be right. However, community politics is intended as a means of building support for a future candidate in, presumably, a contested election. As a parish councillor, I wouldn't really expect to have to fight any of those, thus removing the obvious justification for doing it.
On the other hand, I can connect up village residents to the various tiers of government, and perhaps encourage them to engage with their local community. At the same time, I get to learn more about the village, its residents and its day-to-day issues. I may even be inspired to develop ideas for simple improvements to service delivery from the District or the County councils.
All of this may make me a better parish councillor. It surely can't make me a worse one...