Two letters to my MP in the same month - does that make me a political activist? OK, the first one was an e-mail, but the response I received (on thick cream House-of-Commons-headed paper) was so obviously a form letter that I had to write again. I'd never done it before - it's one of those things, you know you have a democratic right to send them letters, but I've never really wanted to bother them, or interrupt their busy bench-sitting schedule or anyting.
In reply to a succinct email asking for support on an issue (OK, greyhounds), I got a page of recycled propaganda. Maybe I was unreasonable to expect anything else, after all, don't all MPs go off to Tuscany at this time of year? (Except for the one idiot trundling their caravan about in everyone's way, definitely something I would be keeping quiet about if I were an MP.) Ooh, I feel a new issue coming on - the compulsory seizure and destruction of all caravans towed annoyingly and/or dangerously. Maybe there'd be a bit more support for that than for acting against the mass destruction of greyhounds.
I've always been politically apathetic, always looked on politicians as incapable of changing anything other than their own bank balances, and believed that they can do that without my help. Now, I've found a cause (no, not caravans, not yet, anyway, I still mean greyhounds) that's worth fighting for, but faced with a weedy government stance of "ooh, no, why don't we let the industry that kills them supervise things" I suddenly realise why there's a crisis in political engagement. The politicians themselves won't, or don't, engage with issues that people are genuinely interested in. I've seen any number of regulations being issued about where you can bury sheep (not something I tend to do much) but faced with something that causes a moral outcry, such as the killings at Seaham, the official response is "it's not illegal".
The trouble is, there can be a vast gulf between things that are morally wrong, and things that are illegal. When politicians concern themselves with "wrong" and how to right it, then people will concern themselves with politicians. Until then, they're merely a (well-paid compared to me) cog in a marginal bureaucracy. Who can't even think up their own replies to letters.
So, maybe I'm as useless as they are, writing letters to people who don't care and won't do anything. This is the point where activists are born... now what do I do? Suffragettes threw themselves under the King's horse, but I really don't fancy throwing myself onto an electric hare. Not worried about the dogs, I'm worried about being electrocuted by a mankily-maintained piece of kit. There must be some railings I can chain myself to... or a caravan. That's what we need. More people chaining themselves to Minister's caravans. Perhaps if I stood in a tartan shopping trolley, so even if they drove off I'd still be there...
Hmm. I have a cunning plan, my Lord.