Buried amongst all the material about Tony Blair standing down is something very close to us here in Balsall Heath. The Tory leader David Cameron has been writing on his own blog about spending two days in the neighbourhood.
It’s a place which has always made an impression on the man. He was here before, during and after his own leadership contest and teamed up with the Balsall Heath Forum and the Chamberlain Forum to give a speech (which you can listen to here on Podnosh) about the role of community in future Tory policy. How does he summarise what he is learning:
we’ve got a serious fight on our hands to build a responsible society that is the kind of society people admire and want to be part of. I know we can do it because most people in this country, like the people I’ve met here, are decent, hard-working and committed to their communities. We’ve got to much more to make sure that those are the values that win out.
It’s an act to be admired, not least because it has been built on a growing understanding of the neighbourhood and sufficient trust among the people who live here to be able to pull off so much time away from Westminster.
hmmm, it may well be an act to be admired, but can I just raise a question about the language and what it represents? It’s the language of belligerous confrontation which tries to establish the conditions of some conflict: it’s ‘a serious fight’ which the right kind of values can ‘win’.
If I had seen this paragraph without knowing who wrote/said it, I think I would have glanced back at Blunkett’s ASB white paper or more recent Blair pronouncements. All of which is a way of asking whether Cameron, building his understanding admirably as you say on time spent in real contexts, is likely to help us move away from this confrontational politics in which disapproval is of the person rather than of the behaviour; and which by putting the emphasis on individuals allows politicians to avoid addressing issues of social exclusion?
Hello Kevin, thanks for the comment.
I’m not sure that he is arguing against the person rather than the behaviour. However there is a risk that politicians choose language which implies a greater sense of crisis than many people feel exists in their neighbourhood. This is pandering to misperceptions of our neighbourhoods which are fed by conventional headlnes about crime and anti social behaviour.
It comes back to how far do we have to change behaviour and how far do we simply need to change perceptions to encourage people to believe they live in a neighbourhood worth living in.
By the way I personally think Balsall Heath is a wonderful place to live. Yes there are some problems with drugs, gangs and crime – but my experience is of a place which is relaxed, where people know their neighbours and where you find a community able to tackle it’s own problems.