Reclaiming our democratic voice
Aisha Munro-Collins, Wormley and Turnford Big Local, reflects on why her community, rich in pride and volunteer activity, seems disconnected from the democratic process
“I had never visited the Houses of Parliament before. I’d only seen it on TV or gone past it when I was in London. When our Big Local gave me the opportunity to see the building in person and spend time talking with our local MP, I thought; this is a chance to be part of our country’s history, its past, present and future.
Bridging the voting gap
Our Big Local are trying to bridge a disconnection between Broxbourne residents and the democratic process. A council report says less than 25% of us voted in the last local election.
I know Wormley and Turnford has some real gems, people that have pride in their area, really care about it and want to improve it. So, this community disconnection is at odds with what I know about the people here.
Michal, our community development manager who organised this trip, thinks it's about priorities. When times are as hard, as they are for so many people, and you’re struggling to put food on the table, the last thing on your mind is going to be finding the time to vote. Michal talks about mistrust of the voting process too. He thinks some people are of the mindset, nothing will actually change, even if they do vote.
"And what about if you don’t know who your MP is? If you’ve never met them, why would you vote when you don’t know who or what you’re voting for?"
Ellie Austen, a resident who came on the trip, said she can’t remember an MP ever visiting her at home. This trip was the first time in 22 years that she got to meet her MP face to face.
MP face to face time
More than 30 of us went, including 13 children. We started with a tour of beautiful Westminster Hall, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
We loved having the opportunity to grill our local MP! We asked him quite a few challenging questions and we covered so many issues: from mental health, transport, to a lack of youth provision in Broxbourne.
I'm only upset that I didn't have my daughter with me too, so we both could share the experience and to help her understand when she votes, action does take place, and this is where it happens. Maybe it could inspire her own career path.
Budding community activists
I think by organising trips like this, our Big Local are encouraging us to realise we have a voice. We can use it to influence what happens in our area and shape our futures. They want to inspire community activism and conversation between our community and decision makers.
It’s already working! Since grilling our MP, he’s approached us to ask for regular meetings. He's booked in to attend our partnership meetings in the new year.
Another great outcome is our budding bunch of young community activists. Some of the children who came to the Houses of Parliament are now helping to serve refreshments as part of a different Big Local project with Age UK to address loneliness and isolation in Broxbourne."