Friday, December 13, 2019

GUEST POST Political parties must be rooted in their communities once again

Mike Gayler points a way forward for the Liberal Democrats - and any other party that will listen.

I'm not a Liberal Democrat. I'm not a member of any political party, although I was a Labour Party member sometime in the early 1980s.

My leanings are Green, and in 2019 I voted for my local Liberal Democrat candidate in Charnwood, as I believed that she had a good chance of giving the safe sitting Conservative a bit of a fright. It was not to be.

I think you can see that although I'm not a natural Lib Dem supporter, that I'm sympathetic to the party as serious contenders for - if not power - at least to hold a government to account.

My thoughts on where next for the Liberal Democrats could, I suppose, be transposed into almost any other movement, but only the Liberal Democrats (and possibly the Greens) seem to have the motivation to consider a different way of doing politics and take on the established duopoly of Labour and Conservative.

What I hear repeatedly is "politics has nothing to do with me," "politicians don't listen to us," "they don't know what it's like for ordinary people" - and I think those things too.

But I understand that politics affects every corner of mt life, and I know how to contact my councillors and my MP, and I can appreciate that local politicians have jobs and mortgages, and that MPs must be tempted to live in the Westminster bubble. But does it have to be like that?

I've recently read a BBC article about one town's Labour, Conservative and Liberal clubs and how they are no longer affiliated to the organisations that gave them their name.

And this is the failure of every political party: how it has become divorced from the communities that they serve. No longer are political parties part of the community in any real sense. They have become 'other'.

The opportunity to redress this is the window between now and the next major election. It won't be easy and it won't be popular with every activist. Ordinary people - the ones disengaged from politics - need to see people like themselves volunteering at food banks, picking litter, challenging antisocial behaviour and identifying themselves as Liberal Democrats making a difference in their area.

Liberal Democrats need to be at school gates asking what the issues affecting parents are, at mosques and churches to understand the troubles of minorities, and talking to the homeless and dispossessed.

They need to do these things to prove that politics is about the everyday, to show that 'politicians' are everyday people like themselves, and are listening to the ordinary people.

A Liberal Democratic food bank - why not? A Lib Dem community minibus - why not? Lib Dem litter picking - why not? Lib Dems are on your street corner ever first Saturday - why wouldn't they be? Lib Dems taking food parcels to the tents of the homeless in our park - why wouldn't they?

Why not, and why wouldn't they be? Because it's too much effort! Because it would cost too much! Because the Liberal Democrats don't believe in community and the people in those communities? Prove me wrong!

Mike Gayler is a volunteer lock keeper and retired healthcare scientist.

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