“I don’t do politics,” is a common response when I knock on doors.
But it’s often followed with a concern about something. Worries about an infirm dad who’s not getting good enough care, a daughter who can’t get a house, or pay that’s too low to make ends meet. Sometimes it’s an issue like the failure to tackle climate change or deal with the refugee crisis.
And that’s what politics is all about. The decisions made in Parliament make a difference to people’s lives – for better or worse. Changes to tax credits will slash the incomes of 27,000 families across Sheffield. Aggressive benefit sanctions are the biggest reason for the growth of local food banks. Cutting back on support for solar power and wind farms will make it harder to stop global warming. What happens in Westminster affects everyone.
Politics matters. I’m in the middle of my Big Conversation, an annual consultation involving events across Sheffield to listen to people’s concerns. Last year, over three weeks, nearly 2,000 people came along to 61 events and they raised a huge range of issues, from local transport to the bedroom tax, mental health services to foxhunting. These conversations made a difference because I took the issues raised to Westminster.
When people told me about the problems they were facing with the rip-off practices of payday lenders, I raised their voice in Parliament and made the case for change. Since new rules were introduced, complaints have halved. I pressed the Government on child and adolescent mental health after young people told me their concerns last year.
I can only respond to concerns if they’re raised with me. I know, for example, that there are strong views on anti-social behaviour. So tonight I’m holding an event on Building Safer Communities with Dr Alan Billings, the Police and Crime Commissioner at the Broomhall Centre, at 7pm.
On Saturday I’ve an event on human rights and on Monday I’ll be in Manor and Walkley.
What you tell me tonight, and in other Big Conversation events, will help me do my job as your representative. Westminster might seem remote, but what goes on there changes people’s lives. Politics isn’t just for politicians, it’s for everyone. So tell me how I can make a difference for you.
To find out more about The Big Conversation ring me on 2722882, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Paul Blomfield, The Big Conversation