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Large party leaders

Can’t decide who to vote for? Here’s a thought to help you decide…

I’ve spent the morning reading the three main parties plans as I wanted to know how they expect to strengthen communities.

I didn’t focus on where the parties sit on the two traditional dimensions – the market or the state – although that is important. What I wanted to know was what role they think communities can play. Why? Because, many of the trickiest problems we face cannot be solely tackled by the market or the state – or any mix of the two. People-problems are best people. Neighbours helping each other, local community groups lending a hand, people showing love and care for those around them.

To take one personal example, my recently bereaved elderly neighbour can be helped by daily visits from a stateemployed care-worker, funded by a strong economy – but it’s the web of family and neighbourly relationships that can help her life be, not just tolerable, but meaningful and rich. It’s these relationships that will help her create a renewed life having given the last two years caring for her sick husband.

So what did the parties have to say about strengthening communities? The short answer is not a huge amount. There were plenty of references to communities – at least an acknowledgement that individuals and families are not the only unit of society - but few plans or funding that would truly foster stronger communities. To me this is a missed opportunity.

I’d finish by suggesting two things. Firstly, look out for any mention that your local MP makes on strengthening communities. Secondly, while the focus might be on the health service or the economy or education, we can still ask ourselves how will these plans indirectly impact – not the individual – but our community. Viewing the campaign through this lens might lead us to surprising conclusions.

P.S. The read more about this subject I highly recommend The Social Integration Commission’s recent report “Kingdom United”. It analyses the extent to which we mix with people who are different to us, whether it matters and then outlines 13 steps that would help. Very briefly it finds that we are still strikingly poor at mixing with people who are different ages, ethnicities and social class, that this matters in all kinds of ways including costing the economy £6bn a year and makes recommendations such as every school should provide opportunities for their pupils to interact with children belonging to different ethnic groups and income backgrounds and retired people should be supported to invest their time and the benefits of their life experience in their communities.


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on May 8 2016 Bren Roberts said:

Has Jeremy resigned and Ed taken over the leadership of the Labour Party again? Poor selection of photograph or wishful thinking by the editor.

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on July 4 2015 James McLauchlan said:

As Streetbank is an international site it might be worth including ‘UK’ in the title of the article. I’m in Canada. We have elections coming up… other than the photo and the reference to M Thatcher, one could be forgiven for initially thinking the article was referring to Canadian politics or any other country for that matter. There is a green party in Canada also.

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on May 2 2015 mike hoyle said:

radical liberalism = green party

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on April 30 2015 Claude Werner said:

Actually, the Green Party talks a lot about community…

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on April 29 2015 Terry Richter said:

Parties are fiercely competing about how many new houses they are promising to build, but what about building communities instead? How about ensuring EVERY new housing estate comes with its own schools (of a human size, not education factories), shops, youth facilities, community centre…. And streets and a transport system to allow the new inhabitants to get around safely, get to know lots of their neighbours and feel happy in their new environment. Just a thought.

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on April 29 2015 Catrina Flynn said:

I seem to recall one politician, M Thatcher, saying “There is no such thing as society” – an epitaph for the Eighties. Let’s not return to the values of that era.
Ghandi once said that “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. Let’s remember that as we cast our votes next week.

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on April 28 2015 Fay Belham said:

Christian Peoples Alliance covers this in their Youth Policy. “The ethos of loving our neighbour has almost become outdated whereby we may not even know who are living on our streets. If young people are engaged with their community then it encourages safer neighbourhoods and involvement with the elderly so they feel supported.We need more community spirit and less division.”