Friday 8 May 2015

After the election, what now for civil society?

What a night. It was strange to be watching the results rolling in, sitting in David Cameron's constituency. Indeed I even saw his car – and the accompanying helicopter – pass as he went from his house up the road to the count in Witney.

To Cameron’s credit, he was the only party leader who spoke about volunteering and the third sector during the campaign. He made a radical proposal on volunteering rights in new legislation, which we strongly supported. His support for charities and social enterprise – and specially his emphasis on volutneering – will have been noted all over the country. I look forward to seeing it take shape in government.

Andrew Marr made a perceptive remark about Labour’s stance on the voluntary and community sector, when he said the party need to fundamentally rethink their approach, to think less of public sector workers and more about the role of charities and the community. I was shocked that Ed Miliband, who was our first third sector minister, made no comment in this election about charities and social enterprise or our role in society. Labour needs a radical rethink of its stance on the third sector. They were silly to ignore civil society and its role in building stronger communities. Let's hope the  Labour leadership contenders will put this right.

So, while these are early days, I am pleased by David Cameron's pledge, made in his speech in Downing Street, to build One Nation. This must not be only about Scottish devolution but also about bridging the gulf between the haves and have-nots, accelerating the public service reform agenda to give the poorest in our society real choice and care and supporting our world-leading third sector. One Nation means working with charities, campaign groups and social enterprises that bring people together, listening to them and supporting their leaders to make change happen. Our voluntary and community organisations must be unmuzzled and unleashed, for the good of our country.

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