National and Local politics from a Liberal Democrat from Gillingham, Kent
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
The Big Society and New Politics; have they failed?
As London continues to burn and imagery reminiscent of the Luftwaffe raids on London are flashed across the media this morning. Many people are forced to ask if the aims of the Coalition have been proved a failure and that Politicians are too far removed from the situation on the ground that such a reaction was inevitable.
It was a warning that Nick Clegg put forward last year ( http://t.co/XJBAFQL Thanks to Dr Keevil) that austerity measures would lead to this situation. People are angry at the cuts, angry at services being removed - they don't care about the national debt, or the collapse of the eurozone - they want to keep their services. For them Westminster is full of corrupt millionaires who are trying to line their own pockets. There has been no change in Politics in this parliament or in any since 1945.
As for the "Big Society." it could be argued that Society has collapsed if it ever existed in the first place. Local communities are torn down the middle as gangs of youths and criminals are more than happy to rampage through streets breaking and entering homes and setting fire to personal property of neighbours or family friends. Its not just big business like MacDonald's or Sony that are being hit, in Croydon a furniture business that was 150 years old was completely destroyed. Society has failed these people and now they are striking back, they don't feel part of anything, they aren't confined by the law or fear the Police. What have they got to look forward to? Ordered around government that doesn't represent what they want, forced to work long hours for little pay and for what?
Communities have broken down. Big society relies on people working together as neighbours towards a common good and helping out those in need. How many can honestly say that they know their neighbours or name four people on their street these days? How many people stop to help someone who looks obviously lost or looks like they need assistance? Its probably a staggering minority. Most of us put on our Ipods and keep walking as there is always the worry that you will get stabbed or robbed or you just simply don't have time. In the wartime/post war societies that Big Society is trying to recreate this simply wouldn't be the case and community spirit was when for helping each other. People also understood the needs and pressures on the government. Who could blame the cuts or government measures when the Germans were set to roll in and remove their rights?
Politics is changing, it takes time for such changes to come about and the Coalition has only been in power for a year. Certain MPs like David Lammey and Tracey Crouch have visited the disaster scenes and are reassuring the people what is going on. One of our Councillors, Vince Maple, tweeted that he was on the phone to Kent Police at 1am for a status update on his ward and riots in Chatham! Politicians are returning to our streets to help and work with the communities they represent.
As for Austerity, maybe the chancellor does need to look at the situation and see if salves can be applied to the cuts to calm the fraid tensions. People don't understand the need for the damages to their way of life when investment bankers are still unscathed. They also don't understand, nor want to understand why these measures are being made. Its not a physical enemy like the Germans but a theoretical enemy of bankrupcy and all that flows with it, no one has ever seen Britain bankrupt. What is in the Public interest is rarely in the public interest. Things need to be explained more clearly.
Society is rallying around in the way "Big Society" wants. Groups are forming and on Twitter the #riotcleanup has begun and people are returning to damaged areas to help those in need. Already in Gillingham the Socialist party are organising a meeting Thursday night about the Riots and assisting a better future for young people to solve the crisis in the long run. On top of that charitable donations for those who have lost everything are being made. There is also the growing condemnation of those involved and anger at the damage done to this country's capital, major cities and Medway.
Big Society was always going to be difficult to enact, the way of life that David Cameron and Nick Clegg envisioned has slowly dissolved over the last half a century to the point that it is almost an implausible dream but still communities are working together through this hardship and I trust that people know the minority are in the wrong, maybe not in their beliefs about austerity or frustration but in their actions. We also have to look at the way Government works, there are good constituent focused MP's and councillors who are out there trying to help and making themselves accessible but the whole of Government needs to do it and take part. It is seriously time for one of David Cameron's "Stop, listen and think again" moments before a permanent schism occurs in society.