Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Third Sector Hustings!

We are in a surfeit of party leader speeches and it is still 80 days to go before the election. Will all this debating help or hinder? I was having dinner with Andrew Barnett, the dynamic and charming (no he’s not giving me money!) CEO of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and we were both agreeing it is all a bit tedious. Even though we know it's important. 

I was interested in Ed Miliband's speech yesterday on Labour’s ‘Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity’. The plan builds on the feedback and ideas that many  in the business community have given Labour and sets out “how the next Labour Government will chart a path to higher productivity in all parts of the economy as the basis of a renewed and inclusive prosperity. Central to Labour’s plan is an understanding that Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.”
And David Cameron spoke recently on the Tory plan for the economy. Clearly both parties are vying for the business vote and both are setting out their alternative visions for the economy. What is striking is how little they both have to say about society and the role of citizens and communities. Although we know Big Society is not a feature of the current 6 Tory themes, last election there was at least a debate on society. At present it’s completely absent. What role social action? What role the third sector in public service reform? What role in building social cohesion through volunteering or promoting giving? 
And yet when you think about it, a prosperous Britain depends on a strong society where there is social cohesion and communities are strengthened through citizens’ social action and volunteering. When society is fragmented there are serious consequences – as we have seen with past riots and social unrest. So business needs to be underpinned by a society that is at ease with itself. The role that our third sector plays in building a strong economy is usually overlooked and yet it is important. 
This is why ACEVO and the Charities Aid Foundation are holding a our 2015 Gathering: The Social Leaders’ Debate. We are challenging the main political parties, as well as those who aim to hold a balance of power, to a hustings to debate their party positions with the third sector. It will be fun. And who knows, it may even be illuminating…

The hustings are at Church House in Westminster, in the evening of Tuesday 24 March. If you fancy coming along, do book your place soon!

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