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Apr 27

What we want for our members in the general election

Policy, Social action, Speaking truth to power

In a surprise to all of us, we’re now in the starting days of a general election, less than two years into what we thought was a five year fixed Parliament.

Locality members become especially influential at times like this, and together our collective voice needs to be as strong as possible to ensure the issues we care about are on the agenda as politicians seek election across the country.

One of our core values is to be fearless, and this is the time to demonstrate that – let’s be bold about the collective impact we have and let’s force politicians to address the issues we care about. It’s our opportunity to shape the agenda of the next Government. Our network of 600 members is supporting communities across England. We have immense economic power. We employ around 11,000 people and mobilise volunteers who contribute £196m of economic value each year. We provide services to 406,300 people EVERY WEEK. Our network has solutions to many of the challenges society is facing and all parties need to hear about our work. It will take all of us working together to get our message heard and why community anchor organisations need to be supported and championed.

We’re taking our manifesto and your success stories to all the major parties nationally, and this will be supported and amplified if you are able to do the same with your local candidates. We’ve put together an Election Pack for members, and have set out our national policy priorities which we hope will be helpful to you throughout the especially extraordinary election campaign we’re now enjoying/enduring. It’s a strange election in many ways. Perhaps Brenda from Bristol truly captured the mood of the nation on the day the election was called, but whatever we might think about the reasons why the election was called, this is an opportunity to use our influence. If you can, we also need to have fun. This will be our third national trip to the polls in two years, so we’ll all need to be creative to keep people and politicians interested.

The sudden election has caught all of the parties unawares, although some have been preparing for this possibility for a while. It’s inevitable that the election will be dominated by Brexit. Although domestic and other international issues will no doubt be hard fought over, it will be difficult to see how the election can escape being overshadowed by this major issue which will impact on so much of our public life.

For the Conservatives, this is Theresa May’s opportunity to increase a shaky Parliamentary majority, and give her a personal mandate. She has said she needs this to get over division at Westminster (“the Country is coming together, but Westminster is not”) blaming opposition parties and the House of Lords for obstructing her approach to the Brexit negotiations. Commentators have equally pointed out the divisions with her own party, and the election is a test for her and the party on whether they can gain substantial numbers of seats. The last time the Conservative party won a majority exceeding 21 seats was in 1987, and no party has increased their number of seats in three successive elections while in Government since universal suffrage was enacted.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is a clear underdog if you believe opinion polls, and the party will need to achieve a record breaking performance to win a majority, without also winning back many seats in Scotland, where the SNP seem to be continuing to dominate. The timing of the election means that much of Labour’s policy platform is still based on policy from the 2015 election, and it will be interesting to see what new policy is included in the manifesto, and whether they are able to prove the polls wrong.

The Liberal Democrats, led by Tim Farron, are eyeing a recovery from their terrible results in 2015, with some of their former MPs standing again to win back seats lost from the Conservatives and Labour. And this will be a big test for UKIP, now that the referendum is over, in defining whether they have an enduring appeal and a wider platform than exiting the EU.

Locality has set out our policy priorities, based on creating a better environment for our members and enabling all neighbourhoods to thrive, and we know that community anchor organisations are vital in many communities in tackling difficult social problems, providing services and playing an important role in economic regeneration. We have set out clear policy priorities based on the work we have been doing nationally for the last few years:

  • Greater community ownership of assets
  • Continued devolution of power
  • Keeping public services local
  • More housing owned or managed by community groups.

We will be raising these issues with politicians and parties throughout the campaign so that we can work with the new Government to make progress on these areas. Alongside Locality’s own work, we are also delighted to be working in partnership with other organisations as part of the Social Economy Alliance. We have agreed a joint statement with more policy calls, some reflecting our own priorities, and some which are wider than our main focus, but which we fully endorse. We will continue to work in partnership with other organisations on this important agenda.

Locality members are hugely important during the campaign. This is a great opportunity to engage with leading candidates in your constituencies, to ask them how they will support your work and help your local areas. You are able to ask them all challenging questions and raise important local issues, and crucially build relationships with candidates as well as sitting MPs so that if seats change hands, you continue to have contact and a relationship with your Parliamentarian. Many of our members have hosted husting events for candidates and this is a great way to build these relationships and give local people and community groups in your area the chance to question candidates directly. Our Election Pack 2017 has some tips for how to operate during the campaign and some of the legislation you need to be aware of as charitable organisations in terms of lobbying and impartiality. These are important, but equally important is the need to remember that you have a voice in this campaign and you can use it provided you work within the rules, which are not onerous.

So while this is a surprise election, let’s make the most of the opportunity and also. Members are a strong part of civil society in each constituency, and sensible candidates will want to get to know you and understand the issues that you face and how they can support you. Make the most of this and then hold them to account on what they say. We will be doing our bit at the national level to try and raise the profile of the issues that are important to us all. Never forget that we represent hundreds of thousands of people who use our services and benefit from our work, let’s use that influence to great effect.

Election Pack cover

Download Locality’s Election Pack 2017.


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