The approaching General Election creates the need for all parties to decide how to woo potential voters and also what to include in their manifestos. Both of these causes are a reflection of a very poor form of democracy, which allows those in power to spend 80% of each Parliament ignoring people who they suddenly become anxious to speak to in the remaining 20% of the Parliament. Sadly it usually takes only days or at best a few weeks after the General Election before once again these people who nominally represent our views, turn their focus to what colleagues and the party itself is concerned about. There is an alternative, but it is one that none of the major parties are prepared to contemplate. That is for all of these parties and for the individual MPs to retain an ongoing close link to the various networks and parts of society which they usually turn to for only a few weeks every 5 years.
According to this website, “Labour has launched a consultation with the third sector to review and strengthen the relationship between Labour and charities, and to hear and understand what their priorities are for after 2015. The consultation asks the third sector’s views on seven key issues: volunteering; people in the voluntary sector; supporting charities to grow; charities and procurement; the Big Lottery Fund; charity campaigns; and the Charity Commission. The consultation will involve a number of events and meetings with charities and will be led by the Shadow Minister for Civil Society, Lisa Nandy MP, and Michael Dugher MP, the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office. You can make a submission to this consultation using the input on the right, or by email to email@example.com – the closing date for the consultation will be 15 September 2014.”
It seems harsh to judge the Labour Party of 2014 based on the actions of the Labour Government that preceded the coalition, but we know from that experience that the relationship on offer is almost entirely one sided, and usually less a relationship and more a sense of old fashioned paternalism. However that is a bit more optimistic than the current discourse coming out of the Conservative Party which has shown that it only wants a relationship with charities that will do what the party considers to be good work, and they certainly don’t want to listen to any charities that have opinions that are counter to their own. Indeed they are actually prepared to use regulations and laws to silence charities that have the temerity to get speak up for the poor and the disadvantaged in the year before a General Election.
Sadly all Political Parties seem to act in a manner that in matters of policy recognises their own members as a priority, and then grudgingly members of other parties, whose views they disagree with, but at least they are people who understand the nature of politics. The rest of us are simply the people who they are forced to be nice to, once every 4 or 5 years. If that seems a bit harsh and cynical, one only has to look at the behaviour of all of the parties at the end of last week. After 65 days of silence following discussions in early April, they suddenly produced the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) from a top hat, announcing that they were all prepared to support it and it had to be passed within the week! Their lack of explanation to you and I despite their access to all sorts of publicity machines simply compounds the truth that they may want to hear from us when it suits them, but please don’t expect any two way engagement when it matters to us!