GE17: hung parliament can work in third sector’s favour

Jeremy corbyn cropped

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at his party's HQ following his successful election campaign.

​After the election, charities can provide the stability that political parties can't

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9th June 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The uncertainty surrounding the general election result could provide an opportunity for the third sector to push forward its agenda.

With Prime Minister Theresa May’s gamble of going to the country to secure a mandate for her premiership having so badly backfired, there is all to play for as the UK’s political geology became convulsed.

Far from a cementing “strong and stable” leadership, May lost her majority in the face of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour surge and was, at time of writing, looking to form a government with support from Nothern Irish unionists.

This uncertainty surrounding the hung parliament could work in the third sector’s interests said Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the country’s charity sector umbrella group.

He said: “While we can only speculate at this point about what a hung parliament will mean for Scotland’s third sector, we do believe this could create an opportunity for more participative governance, which in turn would mean more opportunities for people, charities and voluntary organisations to get involved and help influence and shape the future.

“This is a unique opportunity for politicians to listen and engage with those their policies affect and focus on finding some common ground and not just their own political ends.”

Sime also said there were positive developments arising from the campaign around grassroots participation.

He said: “There has been some interesting analysis around the election results this morning, and while there have been a few surprises, perhaps the most welcome outcomes so far have been that the turnout of young voters has been higher than expected, and the UK now has more women in parliament than ever before.”

Whoever forms the next government will be plunged straight into Brexit negotiations. This also creates opportunities for shaping the sort of society we want to see.

Sime said: “There are real opportunities to change the trajectory of Brexit negotiations – in our recent membership survey 68% felt that EU policy has been good for the voluntary sector in Scotland – so there is hope that this result will open up the debate further, meaning greater participation for devolved nations and civil society, and thus greater scrutiny and transparency of the process.”

This was echoed by SCVO’s director of public affairs John Downie, who said: “There now appears an opportunity to embark on a new direction, following a decade of stifling and damaging austerity.

“With the prime minister’s vision of a hard Brexit soundly rejected by the population at large, it is clear that assumptions about our relationship with the EU also have to be re-visited.

“While the situation remains up in the air, what is clear is that the third sector in Scotland needs to instigate and lead a discussion about the type of society we want to build and assess what powers should sit at what level to best achieve our goals. Only when this is behind us can we get on with the day job of creating and more equitable and prosperous country.”

Meanwhile, John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said amidst the post-election chaos, politicians might want to stand back, reflect – and learn from the third sector.

He said: “This astonishing election result shows how divided our country is on a huge range of issues. What is good is these tumultuous times have inspired more people to get involved in politics. More people are turning out to vote, and we know from our own research that more people are becoming engaged in campaigns and issues.  

“In such uncertain times, politicians and all of us should remember the huge forces that hold us together. Political parties should do what we in charities would do: bring people together and find ways to work together on behalf of the people they represent and everyone in our society.

“It is worth remembering that charities continue to enjoy greater support than any political party. It’s charities that are strong and stable, working for the many not the few.

“The MPs and ministers reeling from last night’s results should remember that, and listen. Elections might be brutal, but whatever happens to politicians, charities still remain relevant the morning after.”

Mary Taylor, the chief executive of the Svottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said the results reflect “some degree” of recognition of the damage caused to vulnerable people by the Conservatives’ welfare policies.

She said: “Before the election, the SFHA released a five-point plan which aims to reduce the damaging impact of recent welfare‘reforms. We want to see a system that is more humane and compassionate – a system that isn’t too quick to punish but too slow to support. We want to see those who can, supported and helped into work – not punished for being part of the process.

“Negating the impact of welfare reforms will be a priority for SFHA as will other reserved matters, and we look forward to working with elected members.”