Inviting a powerful and influential person to be guest speaker at an Annual General Meeting or to open a Spring Fair or Harvest Supper is a well tried template for improving the profile of your organisation. People on the fringes of the group will come when they may have stayed away and also people unconnected to the organisation who want to hear the speaker. The positive buzz from the larger gathering may then entice people to join or reconnect with the organisation. There are of course many organisations that do not need big speakers to gain attendance and build their profile. One of these is the Charity Commission which is at something of a crossroads as it grapples with the idea of who should fund it. The taxpayer so it can remain a regulator of all charities, or else the charities themselves which will change the dynamic and put the Commission into a different place. However despite this and despite the complaints in Parliament that the Chairman of the Commission, William Shawcross and most of the board are too right wing, too privileged, too old and too Southern orientated, the Board invited Theresa May to come and speak to their AGM on the 9th January. Rather than attract attendance, one suspects this would have changed the idea in peoples minds that this was for their benefit, and instead was about bringing party politics into a place where Mrs May and her colleagues have voted it should not be part of. Part two of the Lobbying Bill despite a great deal of resistance from charities was passed barring charities from supporting anything that had the merest hint of being party political. William Shawcross had supported the Bill and so it was somewhat of an offence from this man who is desperately out of touch, to bring the leader of a political party to speak to people who lead charities. Despite this the speech had some significant elements.
If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. The injustice you feel may be less obvious, but it burns inside you just the same…..over recent years these people have felt locked out of the political and social discourse in Britain. If they voiced their concerns, their views were shut down. Decisions made in faraway places didn’t always seem to be the right decisions for them. They saw their community changing, but didn’t remember being consulted – or agreeing to – that change. They looked at the changing world – the onset of globalisation and the advances in technology – and worried about what the future held for their children and grandchildren. It is clear to me – and I believe that last year’s vote to leave the European Union partially revealed this to be true – that there are growing numbers of people in every part of our country – in our cities, suburbs, towns, countryside and coastal areas – for whom this is the reality of life.
It seems that Mrs May was revealing a great deal about herself and her colleagues as well as the work she does as a Politician. Probably quite a bit about the work of the Charity Commission too in their quest to ask Charities to fund their work. Society is no longer separated by boundaries that can be explained by class or even geography which is not to suggest that some people don’t hold on to such things. There is as much disconnect from society for people who might be defined as middle class as those who might be defined as working class. The same can be seen in the way in which poverty impacts parts of Kent or East and West Sussex as it does in the North East or North West. It is true that some parts of our society feel different to other parts. There may be a sense felt in some communities that those who take to the Streets and an March for change are different to them. That is part of a problem we all face. No one would have accused the Jarrow Marchers as part of a Metropolitan Liberal Elite and frankly many of the public events that take place today involve and are organised by people that Mrs May would class as ordinary, working class families.
If Mrs May meant a single word that she spoke on 9th January she would not have ignored the concerns and questions that many from all parts of society have about issues such as the basis of our departure from the EU and the impact this will have on our farming community and the NHS. She would also not have sneaked out an announcement on the provision of care for the children who were living in camps in Calais up until a few weeks ago. The truth is that these actions of the Government showed in all its glory how the they act in manner that is isolated from all people apart the most privileged who share their political connections such as William Shawcross or who control the media such as Murdoch and Dacre. The debate that took place in Westminster Hall on Tuesday for one and a half hours about Seagulls show how desperately out of touch these people really are.