#MyManifesto- Power brokers and activators reporting for duty!
Now is the time to start making a noise ahead of the general election. The battle lines have not been drawn quite yet: the parties are still trying out sound bites – just listen to how any Tory MP answering questions pivots back to economic recovery. Nothing is set in stone, as you will have heard from my video on our trip to Downing Street; the manifestos have not been signed off, and politicians are still looking to woo us to their cause (they just want to know what our cause is so they can make it theirs!)
A quick look at our Together in Service site where social action projects are listed gives a glimpse of the work that faith-based organisations are doing every week throughout the UK. Whether it’s
- voice, or
- advocacy, or
- providers of solutions
– faith organisations are an important facet of civil society, the very glue of communities. ‘Voice’ relates to the size and scope of the population of faith in the UK: the vast majority of people adhere to faith. ‘Advocacy’ goes some way to describing the role that faith groups play in reaching and magnifying the voices of those who are seldom heard or who are furthest from the levers of power and influence. ‘Providers of solutions’ describes the dynamic in many faith communities, whereby people don’t stand on the outskirts of a problem, sniping about what should be done, but roll up their sleeves and provide solutions and services. This practical edge to faith is what we wanted to emphasise when we launched the book Faith with its Sleeves Rolled Up.
As members of this growing, vibrant part of British society, people of faith are not just passers-by, but potential power brokers and activators for civil society. In the post-Scottish referendum United Kingdom, with the growth of UKIP and other new or fringe political expressions (the Whig party was re-launched this year), every commentator talks of the pending bankruptcy of the current political establishment. Whatever happens in May 2015, all recognise that there has to be a devolution of power, localism with teeth and a legitimising of the apparatus of representation and political expression. Who better than faith communities, with congregations and a trusted position that political parties can only dream of?
Far too often the state, whether that be national or local government, comes to the voluntary sector – and faith in particular – only when it is out of money, ideas or willpower. It requests aid too little, too late. This is ridiculous when again and again, faith communities have proved to be the ‘first in and last out’ of difficult situations, with longevity and commitment that is second to none.
With our work at the party conferences this year, our own conference on 19 November at Church House, Westminster – ‘Faith too significant to ignore’ – and the Twitter hashtag #MyManifesto, we want to support and magnify the voice and challenge of faith in our nation. Let’s challenge our political representatives to say how they view faith as a part of society. What part do they want to see faith play? What commitments will local parliamentary candidates put in their local manifestos? How will they be held to account on their promises around faith?
Jon Cruddas MP, among others, will be joining us on 19 November. He is leading Labour’s policy review and worth hearing – we expect a lively Q&A.
One thing that can serve MPs and local councillors who want to work with their communities is the Faith Covenant, which has been developed by the APPG on Faith and Society. This is a set of key principles which local authorities and faith groups can sign up to to show their commitment to working well together.
So, if we agree that faith is too significant to ignore – what should we do about it?
- Campaign – sign the campaign wall and say why you think faith is significant.
- Join us at the conference on 19 November (some discounts still available for members).
- Get ready to articulate what your faith community and others contribute to your local area. Watch out for the Cinnamon Faith Action Audits, or do a quick review of your own group’s impact with our Local Impact Assessment (you can also email us for your copy: [email protected]).
- Tell your MP, and other candidates – ask them to make pledges in their constituency manifesto about how they plan to recognise faith as a vital part of the local community and how this will be demonstrated in their first 100 days in office.
Lastly, tell me how you are getting on!