What does the General Election tell us about community cohesion? The failure of most smaller parties to win elections might indicate mainstream political debate is completely in the ascendant. However with a post-war record of 12% of voters voting for a range of parties other than the main three, do some communities really feel more cohesive after the elections, despite the actual results this time?
It’s important to recognise that election results are just a snapshot of people’s opinion at the time and that the causes of disaffection and anger that lead to low cohesion are more deep-rooted than the issues raised by politicians seeking votes. In the end those are the symptoms, not the real causes of local disaffection. More crucially some elections may lead to some people now feeling the are completely unrepresented and become even more disengaged. How do those working in public policy tackle that?
The election turnout was also very high at over 65%. Many people voted who would only vote once every five years. An average local election turnout is often in the 30-40% range. If there are a substantial number of disaffected people, will their disaffection manifest itself far more at local level rather than in a General Election?
In other words if the recent General Election leads you to believe a significant number of people are still disaffected and disengaged, this is not something that can be left for later. It requires early engagement now, through greater insight, better language and more involvement of frontline staff and lay people in communicating emotionally resonant cohesion messages.
Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company