General Election 2017 - Your Views: ‘We must put the people back into politics’ says Leeds social entrepreneur and mum

Community led play with Emma Bearman's mobile 'playbox'
Community led play with Emma Bearman's mobile 'playbox'
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Emma Bearman is chief executive of Playful Anywhere Limited, a social enterprise which uses its travelling ‘Playbox’ and other projects to engage with communities. She is a mum of two, and lives in Armley, Leeds.

We tend to think of politics with a big ‘P’ and which party we are voting for.

Emma Bearman

Emma Bearman

But I’m not a big fan of the party political system, where we are being asked to make really binary choices.

In a way, I think we are due a complete overhaul of how we do democracy in the UK. I would love to see proportional representation, a pick and mix approach to politics. But I can’t see it happening soon.

There’s been a massive upswell in people registering in the last few days. That’s great. But what do we really do daily beyond voting? What more can and should we do to participate fully in society and the democratic process?

There are plenty of opportunities to do this. It’s not about ‘Big Society’ necessarily. You can do little things daily to participate, to make a change where you live. Not all of those will change something structural or systemic. But if more people do something where they live, then bigger things can happen.

My vote will go to a party that creates hopeful, positive narratives that we can all aspire to.

A lot of politicians talk about ‘community’. But community isn’t something that happens just because you will it. It’s a long term development process of one-to-one relationships.

What we have done in the past is throw money at problems, rather than really listening to what’s going on at ground level. What we really need is a bit of interrogating of the process, and asking people what they really want.

With our Playbox project, for example, people come because it’s fun, not because they think it’s political. But it makes them re-appraise where they live. People start talking to each other and the little things start to change. It’s about listening to people, and then connecting them to each other (and potentially funding it if necessary). Isn’t that what politics could and should be?

One of the key election issues for me is education, and specifically how we are educating both our children and families to be able to adapt and evolve in the uncertain global economic, automated world that we are living in. I believe we are at least 20 years behind other European nations and the USA when it comes to automation, robotics, and our underinvestment has been chronic.

We need something really progressive but I don’t think the British public would be comfortable with that yet. We should not be teaching kids how to learn things by rote, but actually giving them skills and confidence to be able to be curious, inquisitive, make things, break things, put them back together again. I don’t think we’re doing that on a national level.

The creative industries are amazing in the UK. But we need to do a far better job of amplifying what we are really good at - and not dwell in the past.

We have got amazing strengths, and knowledge, and history, and culturally we are phenomenal. But we could become like the Madam Tussaud’s of the world if we continue down that route and only focus on the past.

When it comes to national and global politics, I sometimes think politicians are not talking in hopeful, optimistic ways. They assume the worst of us as an electorate, that we are not collaborative, not caring about our communities, whereas that’s actually not true.

My vote will go to a party that creates hopeful, positive narratives that we can all aspire to.

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