The Local View is a new feature, publishing pieces by elected Liberal Democrat councillors on their experiences, concerns and wishes for the future. In this first piece, an anonymous councillor exhorts their colleagues to stand up to their residents rather than being mere vessels for their illiberal views.
Like many Liberal Democrats, I was horrified when some of our representatives started spouting anti-5G rhetoric. 5G has been proven safe by every respected scientist and various international organisations, including the WHO and the European Commission. Despite this abundance of research and scientific evidence, however, a surprisingly large number of people (one UK Facebook group has 19,000 members) have come up with unscientific conspiracies and portrayed these as “legitimate concerns”. The concerns at hand often question the safety of the EMF (electromagnetic fields) technology by which 5G and other wireless communication technologies function. The current evidence on EMF exposure affirms that 5G networks do not cause more electromagnetic emissions than what is healthy. I believe that these conspiracies and the groups that propagate them are dangerous. This is especially the case in the current political climate as these 5G conspiracies proliferate other myths and ideas like that Covid-19 doesn’t exist and is instead a method of controlling us all.
But while I’m shocked, I’m not entirely surprised. As a councillor myself I’ve seen members of my group ask questions and say things in speeches that are entirely the thoughts of their residents. This is where I feel our local councillors and, even more worryingly, our Member of Parliament for Bath fall down a rabbit hole. They will say they are representing the views of the people but sometimes this will go almost entirely against their own beliefs.
This particular style of representation seems also to come up repeatedly with building homes. Building homes is vital right now. The charity Shelter says we need to build 3.1 million homes in the next 20 years to stop housing insecurity. Opposition from local residents is a constant threat to achieving this goal, coming up with any reason, no matter how spurious, to be against more housing being constructed in their area. For instance, a colleague of mine, who always passionately speaks about building more homes, once said in a planning meeting that the entire plan for one development should be thrown out due to the design of the housing plans not “fitting within the local area”. I can understand and respect the importance and necessity of political representation for our constituents. They have placed faith in us to facilitate their voice, after all. But this cannot be without limits. As a democratically elected representatives, we are not empty vessels for every single view that is held by our residents. This is neither realistic nor productive.
This is especially dangerous when it comes into matters of science and health. When people without a polarised view on the subject see someone in a position of power say 5G is dangerous they will be more likely to believe it. It also legitimises an unscientific conspiracy movement and, even more worryingly, will give fresh impetus to them. This will in turn lead to more marches, more demonstrations and more attacks on our infrastructure and workers, such as the 50 reported by Openreach in just one month this year.
This is why I’m calling on all councillors to be brave. When a resident tells you something that you know isn’t true don’t pander to them, and don’t let yourself be used. Talk to them and show them the evidence. We must champion right from wrong and we must stand up for our liberal values.
Image credit: Sky News