At points in British history, we have been known worldwide for our community spirit, it’s pulled the county through some dark times to a better place. However in recent times places don’t feel like a community, they feel like a collection of houses and flats where people live.
Times have changed from when people’s friends lived down the street or next door, with the accessibility of transport and different ways to communicate we can now have friends spanning far and wide. But this has come at a cost of people not knowing the people who live locally to them.
Now there is no real quick fix solution to rebuilding the local communities around us all as if you went round knocking on your neighbours doors just to say hello I am sure you would get a few odd reactions. But there are some things I think people could do, to help rebuild some community spirit.
At the last general election David Cameron launched the “Big Society” unfortunately this is something that has gotten lost with the problems that the coalition government have had to face. But the principle of getting people to volunteer to help out in their local community is a great one.
Just think if 50% of the adult population of the UK gave just 4 hours a week to do something in their local community that would be 60 million hours a week. With these hours poured in to our “communities” they would start to feel like a proper community again. We could even take it further people on benefits are allowed to work up to 16 hours a week before it affects their benefits so why not encourage these people to put something back in to their communities.
If we had proper communities where everyone knew each other then there would be less chance that Mr Smith at number 39 would die alone and not be noticed for three weeks. If the kids felt a sense of pride in where they lived they would be less likely to cause trouble and hang around in gangs. It’s an obvious and relatively simple solution to the problem, it won’t happen overnight and it will require people to give something in return for a better world, an odd concept today but as the old adage goes “you can’t get something for nothing.”
There has been a fair bit of talk of late of major constitutional reform of the House of Lords. Now we all know why Tony Blair did what he did to the Lords, it was to remove what was a permanent Conservative majority from the Lords so he could pass laws a bit easier.
However the current plans I find a little unsettling. As it is at the moment the Lords is there to provide a series of balance and checks to the government, and it works. The Lord’s knows it’s not the senior house and it knows that sovereignty lies with the House of Commons. Also the Lord’s also has another wonderful property that only exists in there; in that there are a lot of specialist’s who sit as peers such as Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses ect…
If we move to an elected House of Lords I fear all this will be lost, and we will be faced with a second version of the House of Commons. We will be in a situation where both houses have a mandate from the people and could well argue over which chamber has the stronger mandate. Which then moves away from government working for the good of the people while they sort out some constitutional argument.
It will also bring in just more party politics to the legislative process, although they say that by having one fifteen year term the people can stay somewhat partisan with regards to political views, I don’t see that happening. What I see if you have an elected second chamber is it getting used as a possible training ground for MP’s. If that happens then we will see very strict adherence to party policy.
I am not saying we don’t need to do something with the Lords, as we are rapidly increasing the size of it every year. However I do think that we need to keep the process and systems that we have in place. Instead of having peers allowed to sit in the Lords for life, why not limit the time they can sit in the Lords to 15 years, that way we keep the system that works and address the growth issue.