In 2010, when David Cameron launched his “big society” project in Liverpool, has spoken of the empowerment of the community. The idea, he said, was “a deep, serious reform agenda to take power away from politicians and give it to people”. But then, austerity has had the great society, the government, the definition of the idea, and the phrase disappeared from the literature. Was dismissed as a “huge mistake”.
In the seven years since its launch, an afternoon in the sun 100 miles south of Liverpool, Cameron great idea it is, reluctantly, to be heated in a Labour heartland. Today, “the power of community”, like Cameron, are the leaders and volunteers of the many churches and mosques in Erdington, a suburb of Birmingham. You might want to they don’t have, but are able to meet the needs of some of the poorest in society.
Rev Jez Dearing of the Oikos church and coffee making facilities. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
Musicians from all over the city and from a range of backgrounds, the hustle and bustle in the cafe, local and others who came from further afield, and settle in for a night of music and poetry. During a break in between a rap solo and the ecstasy of a ukulele performance, teacher Dan Mandley, 35, reflects on the political moment.
Mandley, whose wife runs the English classes at the coffee, reddens slightly, and moves uncomfortable in his seat when asked who will vote. There is a long pause. At the end it said that it will vote Tory, for the second time since he was 18 years old.
“I voted to stay because the Polish immigration to this area has been one of the best things that could have happened,” he says. But unlike most of the people in the area, his vision is more local and national. “We are now, where we are, and as painful as it is you probably vote Tory. I am traditionally a voter of the Work, but I feel like Theresa May, who is more of a steady hand for Brexit negotiations.”
An open mic night at the Oikos church and café, organised by the Birmingham branch of Mind. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
In 2015, Dromey won Erdington with a 5,129 majority. The optimists see this as a good safety margin – but there are those that believe Dromey is “the fight of his life”.
The district is located between Edgbaston and Northfield, who have become battle-fields for the two main political parties. Further clarification of the battle, Ukip has announced that it will not put a candidate in Erdington this time: even if you have got a healthy 6,040 votes during the last general election, asked voters in the area to vote tactically and support the Conservatives to keep out a government Job, 8 June.
Even if the options are reduced, the choice remains difficult. In a neighborhood torn over his political affiliation, and in which the voluntary sector is having to take up the slack caused by austerity, immigration and low wages, do not know what will happen: blame the national government, or to make the local MP to pay the price?
Goshawk vocalizations, and the difficult choice: “What we have here is part of the essential role of any religious organization, but the danger is that in the end, doing the dirty work for the government.
“I don’t see it as a conquest, it is a tragedy and a shame that we’re having to do. In general, there is a social need to provide for each other. For me, it is a sign of failure that we have to do this. Where the blame of what is presented is a complicated one somewhere like Erdington where we have a Conservative government, a Labour council, and Labour MP.”
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