One of my friends was delivering election leaflets recently – the ones you may have seen with lots of orange and my face in the top corner, which hopefully carry something of interest about what’s happening in our community. When he’d finished, he told me how he enjoyed it (it had been throwing it down with rain that day too). As well as a good walk, he said he saw parts of his town rarely noticed. He’d known they were there, the streets and houses he could point to on a map or direct a visitor to, but had never properly acknowledged them.
It left him wondering how many people in his community, living in his neighbourhood but that he’d never met, were maybe feeling isolated, silently facing personal challenges, every day. How many were struggling to make ends meet, find a job, working long hours under stress, dealing with disability, raising a young family, caring for elderly relatives, or some combination of these at the same time. Behind all the letterboxes and doors, there were lives he didn’t know about, and maybe never would.
It also brought home to him, how over thirteen long years, our government has torn apart our sense of community and compounded these struggles. We all accept life can be difficult, that it will have its challenges, and we can live with that reality and carry on. What we find hard to accept is when things could be different. This government has made life harder for working people and for the unemployed (somehow managing to achieve both). It has made life harder for carers and those in care. It has left our emergency responders and our health care professionals and educators to struggle on, holding everything together purely through their dedication. It has neglected our environment, ignoring the sewage pumped into our waterways and turned its back on our efforts to tackle climate change. It has left farmers and small businesses to face uncertainty.
This is a government that seems unconcerned with all the lives behind the letterboxes.
It is a government with a narrow mind and a closed heart.
It is a government whose values are the opposite of Christmas.
I hope that, like Scrooge in a Christmas Carol, this government has a change of heart. That it is somehow visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to show them the error of their ways, to show them visions of family and community and how things could be. But unfortunately, I find it hard to believe. Thirteen years’ experience has shown we cannot rely on them. So, I hope, not just at the Christmas just gone, but throughout 2024, we can come together as a community to support each other (even if our government does not). I hope we can open our minds and hearts. I hope, amid our struggles, that we can find time to say “Hi” to our neighbours and check they’re ok, or if we have the means perhaps donate to a charity or a foodbank. If you are one of those struggling, perhaps feeling isolated behind your letterbox, maybe 2024 will be the time you reach out for help. Peoples’ kindness can be overwhelming.
Happy New Year and all the best for 2024.
Ed: West England Bylines does not support any particular organisation or political party. We do however give space to those who promote progressive and sustainable goals.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the North Cotswolds
Ed. note: The views expressed are those of the author.
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