Thanks for your replies dalen7. It's probably a mixture of things, the problem is always that you can't keep everyone happy. There are people who would be more likely to stay if that class was tougher, faster and if we focussed more on 'street application', but that would lose us some gentler members who like that fact they can do a martial art where they're not feeling like they could get hurt at any moment. I have noticed a slight lilt in the direction of 'real application' training recently, so sensei's probably thinking along the lines you mentioned.
Other aikidoka definitely have that idea. At another dojo I visited, after class some of the students got together for a secret don't-tell-sensei "experiment" with more realistic attacks. There was a lot of energetic round house kicks to the face, knees to the groin etc. Was great fun to see! (and no one got hurt!)
I've had a think and am less bothered about it now, I'll just chill out, keep training and eventually we'll all creep up the grades. The ones who stay, stay and the ones who don't, well, don't! When I think of it in terms of doing aikido for 20+ years, that there's not loads of sempai for me to pester right this very minute isn't a big deal.
Besides, there's no such thing as 'too much of the basics'
*A content aikidoka*