As I refilled my local cafe's dishwasher nearing the end of my nine hour shift I mulled over my summer's work in customer service and, unexpectedly, the lessons it had taught me. I maintain that working for, and with, the general public in the service sector is necessary for every civil servant and politician.
Working for the public takes you down a notch or two. Having spent my life in private education and living a mostly sheltered life much like that of our political representatives I can tell you that the first benefit of such work is the humbling effect is has. The more demanding the customer, the better. "This tomato sauce tastes different to when I had it yesterday" has stuck in my mind. "My granola doesn't have enough sunflower seeds."
Reading The Guardian does not make you in touch with your ordinary voter. Working with the public is perhaps even more valuable than working for the public, your co-workers are people you probably won't have grown up with. A lot of them have led tough lives, many fleeing conflict. A woman I worked with this summer fled Turkey and is taking English lessons so she can teach Ancient History like she did back home. She needs this job to pay her rent and feed her children, not as a subsidy to her summer allowance.
Would I have met her in any other circumstance? Probably not. They're interesting people and understanding their experiences and the way they perceive society to operate is necessary for every politician and aspiring politics student. They share almost nothing in common with those who claim to represent them, and getting alongside people you have little in common with is incredibly important.
Britain, and indeed much of the world is not satisfied with the ruling class. In the USA we see Donald Trump's appeal to many Americans as the anti-establishment candidate ready to take down Washington's network of cronies. In Britain, the election of Jeremy Corbyn and decisive Brexit outcome oddly share the same characteristics. Across Europe we further see extreme parties gaining large numbers of votes as alternatives to the traditional establishment parties.
All of these dramatic political changes are symptoms of a wider problem: we do not want to be ruled by the same out of touch elite. While the establishment are turning a blind eye to the obvious message Brexit sent them, and the sanctimonious condemning of Trump continues, it seems the ruling class are ignoring the obvious.
Democracy is rooted in the will and character of the people; thousands of years ago Cleisthenes’ demokratia abolished the political distinctions between Athenian aristocrats who had long monopolized the political decision-making process and the middle- and working-class people.
The will and character of the people. Not politicians. Not the monarchy. Ordinary people, who buy bread and drink coffee with their loyalty cards.
Sophia Bryant is a member of the Bow Group and Co-Founder of Generation Conservative