On Tuesday I spent most of the day in London, attending a mass assembly for children from North London schools to raise their awareness of whom they could seek help from and talk to if they were being mentally or physically abused. Quite an eye-opener again, in all honesty, and really of much more importance than a local election campaign.
The assembly was held at a football stadium, and, walking back to the Tube station after the assembly, through bustling streets, past terraced houses and past new flash offices where terraced houses had once been, I was taken back to my childhood when I lived in just such a street in Doncaster, albeit in a semi, just five minutes walk away from Doncaster Rovers' football ground (Belle Vue in those days). Back then, there was a sense of community, even in the northern urbanity of one of South Yorkshire's biggest towns. We played football in the street, left our doors unlocked, flocked to the park in the summer to play cricket against the West Indian lads who lived on the other side of the park. And when we went to football matches at Belle Vue we always turned up an hour early so we'd have time to chat with the mates we'd probably last seen at school the day before, or, as we got a little older, whom we'd not seen since the last home game because they were working now (while some of us were wasting our time with A levels or university).
This set me to asking myself about the sense of community in Stradbroke. My feeling is that the village is now more fragmented than it ever has been since I moved here in 2006. Although some people were telling me, even then, that the village was made up of 3 discrete communities, I must admit that I didn't see it quite like that, although there did seem to be groups of people who very rarely communicated with each other. The sense of fragmentation I get now comes from the very real division between what could be described as the haves and the have-nots. And from the conversations I have had during the past two or three weeks I get the message that the people of Stradbroke consider the majority of current parish councillors to belong to the first group, not the second. I think that view comes from the fact that there has not been an election for the parish council since 1999 and that there is a perception that the parish council has been self-selecting in all that time.
This is why it's refreshing that there is now an election, when the people of Stradbroke will hopefully flock in their hundreds to the polling station on 7th May and choose those people they wish to represent them. And maybe the new parish council will be one that is united, and one which will send a message of hope and healing to the community and say to them "Look, we stand shoulder to shoulder, all of us here in the village, and we want what's best for the young, the middle-aged, the old; we want what's best for those who have been so badly hit by the politics of austerity; we want us all to be equal, with an equal voice and an equal say in the affairs of this our home." I certainly hope so.
Please make the effort to vote on 7th May.
I continue to strongly support the candidacies of Caroline Barnes, George Chaplin, Oliver Coles, Lynda Ellison-Rose, Brian Goffee, James Hargrave, Maureen John, Velda Lummis, and Ellie Wharton.
Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.