Believe it or not, the political machines that lie underneath each of the political parties in this country have started to whir into action for the May 2015 General Election — the first election in modern times we have known the date for well in advance.
Throughout August, stories began to appear in the press concerning the policies emerging in each party: the Times ran with the Liberal Democrats’ plans to enact a ‘presumption of liability’ on motorists who collide with cyclists, while The Guardian carried a front-page story wherein Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham MP, urged his party leader to put his cards on the table before next spring or risk election defeat!
This means that co-operatives and social enterprises that want to impact the next Government (which would normally run until 2020) need to gear up as soon as possible and think about what they need in terms of a supportive legislative environment. It’s amazing how often a co-operator or social entrepreneur will have a fantastic contribution to make only to find out that each of the political parties have already agreed their election manifestos.
And by the way, don’t believe the hype of a Tory landslide that is being propagated by certain quarters of the media. Nearly every bookmaker in the country currently has a Labour majority down as favourite, followed by ‘no overall majority’ (which is where my money has gone). Of course, Co-operatives UK and the Co-operative Party will be highly active – arguably, they have never been more energetic or impactful. Add to that the growing powerhouse of Social Enterprise UK and you have a lot of activity, but possibly confusion.
It was therefore wonderful to see that Social Enterprise UK, Co-operatives UK and 20 others launched the Social Economy Alliance in June to ensure that a high volume, co-ordinated response was developed for the next general election. The Alliance wants to radically affect the way all political parties formulate social and economic policies in advance of the 2015 General Election. The ultimate aim is to grow the impact of the social economy.
Over the next six to nine months, political parties will be in the market for ideas (be they new or old) and that creates a rare window of opportunity for outsiders to impact policy making. If it’s true that those who don’t vote can’t really moan about the Government that is elected — then it’s equally true that those who don’t engage with policy making can hardly criticise the absence of their thoughts and ideas in manifestos.
Oh, and before the May 7th 2015 General Election there will be the small matters of the 22nd May 2014 EU and Local Elections and the 18th September Scottish Independence Referendum.