The Heart Of Politics Should Be In The Local Community

Making my ten pence on weighing in on political structures – before the election. My latest column for The Leopard. 

Last time I checked – politicians weren’t doing anything to impact the local communities they’re elected to represent. That is other than making lives that are already taxing in austerity Britain, more so by breaking up cultural programmes, removing local support and increasing the cost of day-to-day provisions.

What we’ve been missing is a politics of care, a politics that takes the position of representing the people, not just the global elite who fuel the fire under which a huge majority of the population suffers. It’s partly this reason that José Mujica, the self-styled president of the people, recently made headlines for his leadership in Uruguay.

“He rode to parliament on a battered Vespa, wore everyday clothes and peppered his speech with slang” (Journalist, Gilles Tremlett on José Mujica)

Mujica did much more than just put himself in a position that was relatable. He defended the rights of locals, ciphered 90 per cent of his yearly salary to charity and other good causes, and chose to live a simple life rather than one bankrolled by the Uruguay taxpayers. Which drives a point home – why are today’s politicians so detached from their local communities? Considering they’re elected through their constituents, why are local issues never fully represented? Instead, constituents are cherry picked at random for whatever political story matches that day.

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All this got me thinking, what if there was a different option, a democratic decision making council, elected from a broad spectre of local residents, who defended and represented the position of their peer group?

It strikes me that the local community has always been a fine of source of fully-fledged democracy – one far better than that upheld by today’s politicians. Think about it – when austerity bites hard, it’s the members of the local community who are fixing reparations to hold up those struggling – not politicians. And in times of tension, it’s local members of our society who find themselves on the frontline; acting as troubadours of peace to whatever prevailing argument has ensued. This has been proven time and time again – in the case of the riots, widespread flooding, and racial abuse.

Communities are brought together by their varying opinions – but they still mire a collective consciousness. It’s through this, I believe, that we could find a new political strategy.

For me – Notting Hill Carnival tells us the perfect story of the unique power of communities. It’s a story that prises together issues of local tension, racial divisions, and community segregation – working as a cause to combat these issues. Born out of the tension between the different ethnic populations – Carnival was about fixing the tension between the different communities on the Portobello Road.  Starting as a march between two different adventure playgrounds – Carnival helped bring together the community through sharing food, music, culture and traditions.

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It’s these subtle nuances that keep a community connected, as culture is shared through citizens from all different backgrounds. It’s these kind of stories, like that of Carnival, that empower communities.

Politicians today are too distant from the realities of the real world, that it’s impossible for them to understand the tension experienced in communities. Ultimately – it’s the position of local peer groups that fix things – and so too, is it the position of local people to swing the politics of place into a certain political favour. Communities are brought together by their varying opinions – but they still mire a collective consciousness. It’s through this, I believe, that we could find a new political strategy.

Part of the problem with politics today, is that it’s a system that sets out to cater for everyone, when in reality politics  right now favours a small class of the wealthy. It’s shied away from making the tensions its point of interest, instead investing in areas of economic benefit over social benefit.

It’s time we turned face and respected our local hubs for what they are – cohorts of knowledge, passion and power.

What I’m appealing for is a system of local democratic representation. A local council, made up of a dedicated board of local residents, that represent the diverse range of ethnic and social backgrounds found in a community. Instead of a council chaired by elected leaders, it’s an open assembly structure where residents offer their opinions on issues in a democratic and understanding way. Imagine it – a council chaired by a shared community of residents – the students, the recent migrants, the office worker and the new mum – each given their say, and being represented in a system involves citizens in the deciding of local issues.

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