Community is inherent to survival. We constantly look to surround ourselves with others, we want love and companionship and someone to look after us. At its core this is community. Community comes in many different forms and on varying scales but perhaps the most prevalent in the political landscape is the communities that are founded by location. Neighbourhoods of people who connect because they share a post code or street name, or importantly for politicians, a constituency.
My personal experience of community is diverse but limited. I’ve lived in two places in my life. One being a small market town around 45 minutes outside of London and the other being its polar opposite: London. In the small town I grew up in you would expect to see at least 5 people you knew on any given visit to the town centre. In London it’s felt like some miracle feat the 3 times I’ve bumped into someone I know. In this small town there was a sense of community but it wasn’t exactly friendly. It was built on superficiality and judgement of what car you were driving; what you were wearing; even what time your neighbours saw you open your curtains at. It’s so weird but I have very vivid memories of being maybe 6 years old and my mum or dad setting an alarm at 8am to get out of bed, go downstairs and open the curtains, only to then return to bed and sleep until 11am. This epitomises the town I grew up in. It’s predominately white, middle-class and rightwing and I never felt comfortable of everyone being so critical of everybody else. London, however, is the complete opposite. I could walk to the shops in my pyjamas and no one would care. Yet, because of this, London can feel really lonely at times- mainly because the reason no one is judging you is because they don’t care about you and we, as humans, like to be cared about. This is why healthy, safe communities are so important and I believe politics and politicians are at the heart of shaping them.
Gentrification, crime and ‘politics of fear’ are 3 major causes why communities are fracturing at the moment. Gentrification sees the import of wealthy foreign investors who force house prices up and displace the current residents; crime causes residents to distrust their neighbours; and the ‘politics of fear’ mentality that has been spread (especially since Brexit) has led to a huge increase in hate crimes in communities of different cultures. I think all of these causes must be fixed by politicians to avoid the continued dispersion of communities and I will voice my opinions on how to fix them specifically in later blog posts.
However, at the core of all of these reasons is the fact communities are fracturing because of differences.
Frequently people are quick to judge and ignore anyone who thinks or is different to them. But look at the role models we have. Too often in parliament we see politicians refusing to listen and admit when they are wrong. We see two sides of politics divided and we, as a public, begin to reflect those differences in our society. Politicians must be the ones to change this. Politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn try to bring a kinder, fairer politics into the House of Commons and while I admire him for doing so it must be utilized further. How can we expect to create tolerant, understanding and diverse communities without politicians demonstrating this themselves. Even looking internally into political parties I see fractions. Politicians looking to sabotage and degrade other politicians when we should be showing the world of politics parties which have wide, varied ranges of people and views that can work harmoniously and can unite. This is what the political parties and communities in London and beyond absolutely must have in common: people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, political leanings, who unite over the basic impulse to create a better, fairer, more united society. In the EU referendum, massive divides were seen between rich and poor and young and old. Only by showing communities that we are similar can we begin to unite them. Every human wants affordable rent and public transport; every human wants access to free healthcare; every human wants to live in a safe, secure community. Yet only by highlighting these similarities can we begin to achieve this and unite communities.
And yet there is still a miscommunication between politicians and communities. We see politicians only involving in our communities for photo opportunities and to gain support or on the other hand, we don’t see them at all. Not only do we need politicians to show us examples of community within their own environments, we need them to extend this into their constituencies. I want to see my local MP in my local Nandos. I want to talk to my local MP in the queue at Sainsbury’s. I want to feel like I live in the same community as my MP. This is crucial to making a lonely city or a judgemental town feel welcoming, safe and like home. Once this example is set we can encourage residents to be proud and to care about their neighbourhood, we can create neighbours who watch out for potential intrusions instead of judging the time some curtains are opened. We can create communities. Our MP’s must be supportive and modelling of this though, after all, we are them.
 Lord Ashcroft Polls. 2016. How Britain Voted. [ONLINE] Available at: http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/LR-by-demographics.jpg. [Accessed 15 September 2016].