A striking omission from this election has been that of Foreign Policy. It’s not cropped up in any of the debates, party broadcasts or policy statements. This is perhaps not surprising as it’s all got so hideously complex trying to work out who is our friend and who is our enemy, the Foreign Office sound very much like the side-switching Ministry of Peace in 1984.
Take Syria: not so long ago we were ready to ally ourselves with the ‘rebels’ against Assad. Soubry voted for this, but was blocked when Cameron was humiliated in the Commons. Now, the rebels are ‘insurgents’, members of ISIS, IS or whatever branding they’ve gone for this week. Two years ago, people travelling to fight Assad were seen as akin to Laurie Lee crossing the Pyrenees to take on Franco, now they’re seen as bigger traitors then Lord Haw-Haw. It’s all very confusing.
As such, our worldly influence is diminished to the point where William Hague seems unobtainable with awe on meeting Angeline Jolie, and I’m struggling to think of anything else he’s done in his role. That’s not necessarily a complaint: like a child in a gun shop, it’s generally best if they don’t touch anything.
Before you point out that Europe and Scotland are hot topics at the moment, these don’t really count. Scotland is not actually a foreign country as yet, despite the close shave last year, and the question of Europe lacks any nuance, generally just a little more subtle than the subtext on how you feel about Johnny Foreigner.
Is there something else though? Are we contracting?
Has globalisation been a real disappointment, and while we can talk to anyone round the world and buy a lychee from a Guangdong farmer, we prefer to have a blather down the pub and pick up a clutch of local rhubarb from Hallams? We were warned that the ‘Global Village’ would atomise us, the geographic submitting to the like-mindness, and perhaps it did for a while. But now chain stores are suffering while indies flourish. People are looking round themselves more, and wanting to be a part of it. We’re reconnecting with our environment after a flirtation with cyberland.
Which is ace for me, of course, writing about all things Beeston. Hyperlocalism is the name some idiot dreamed up for it, and despite the ugly portmanteau it does the trick. The magazine I edit is going from strength to strength, with our Facebook site recently topping 2,000 Likes. The Civic Society is having a purple patch, as people join up to have a say in the local area. Whatever your opinion on the tram and the Square development, one bonus is how it has given people an imperative to care about their locale. I was part of the judging team that drew up a short-list for the forthcoming ‘We Love Beeston’ awards yesterday. Mike Sassi, editor of the Nottingham Post (who are running the awards) was amazed by the amount of entries. Well over 500, some whole essays on why a certain institution or individual deserved honoring.
This focus is something that we must keep. I’ve been working with Beeston Continuum / Beeston New Deal to keep this up, and it’s had great support. After years of being buffeted by tram lines, redevelopments and so much hi-vis Beeston is visible from space we must keep the momentum to shape this town into something WE want. The council have been listening, and recent meetings showed they were willing to put cash where it’s needed.
Except there is a problem. We’ve had all our money nicked.
It’s not the council’s fault as such. Broxtowe’s Chief Executive, Ruth Hyde, has kept budgets in check for years; and a general policy of holding onto assets such as leisure centres and social housing has paid off. Council tax has been froze for several years. Yet this prudent management has been rewarded with a serious kick to the balls.
Broxtowe has been awarded the worst Local Government Settlement in the UK. The impact of this is serious. To protect front line services, money earmarked to make this place for purpose in years to come; to help us recover after the tram works, to help us push for redevelopment done our way, and generally make the place look nice, we need this renegotiating. There were promising noises from the Lib Dem’s David Watts recently, after he stated that their might have been an error in the calculation. Credit due for him taking this on.
We must keep demanding we have this settlement renegotiated. We don’t know who our MP will be in a month’s time, let alone what sort of government they’ll be for them to be part of / in opposition of, but we must demand that they get this renegotiated the moment they step into their Westminster office.
I have drawn up a petition for anybody to sign. This is not party-political: I call on all Beestonians / Broxtownians to demand we get a fair hearing and a better settlement. I call on all candidates, local and PPC, to sign and support. We need this petition going as wide as possible, so please share it around.
Politics isn’t something removed, something global and untouchable. It should be local, collective and accountable. Sign and make it so: