Every ward is different and every community in our ward is different. We are facing different issues and have different needs that may require different solutions and interventions. These cannot be designed from above – they must be built by the people living in the ward. Complex problems cannot be resolved overnight – it takes hard work over the long term.
And yet, every election, politicians return to communities with cheap gifts and wild promises that they cannot keep. They jump onto initiatives they have not started and take the credit. They look to be seen and heard rather than listening to what others are doing and saying. They come up with an answer for everything. It is a game of power alone. And we fall for it – because we don’t have any alternative.
Generally, political parties publish one manifesto for the whole country when what we need are specific commitments and practical solutions for local problems. It’s simply not clear what they will achieve in the ward in the coming years because they are not a result of local deliberation and democratic decision making.
If we are going to democratise the nomination process for the ballot, and democratise how we make decisions, then we also need to democratise what issues we need to focus on. Manifestos should be local documents developed by and with residents living in the ward.
A ward platform should help compile a manifesto of ordinary ideas – that is the practical issues that need to be addressed and the projects that are achievable. A manifesto of ordinary ideas is not a promise, it is a roadmap for how the ward will come together to solve its pressing problems.
People’s Manifesto, Take Back the City – London, United Kingdom
In 2015, before the local elections in the City of London, a group of teachers and young people set up “Take Back the City” in order to draw up a People’s Manifesto and shift the conversation during the elections. They consulted with 75 groups of people across London asking “What do you want from London? What does a fair and just London look like?”.
About 2000 submissions contributed to the Manifesto, which identified seven urgently needed changes in the city including rent control, a compulsory London Minimum Wage, and reducing transport prices by 20%.