As Scotland votes ‘no’ to becoming an independent country, the inadequacies of our national and local political systems are exposed for all in Bermondsey to see. Perhaps the most corrupt element is the concept of giving things to the electorate in exchange for votes.
The idea that voters can be bought is not a new one, but Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party took the practise to new heights: no university tuition fees, free prescriptions and votes for sixteen year-olds purchased over one and a half million pro-independence votes. But Bermondsey need only look on its own doorstep to see that vote buying is alive and well, with local Conservatives promising £530 cashback, more free childcare from the Lib Dems and Labour paying off middle class parents with free school meals, as well as dangling the free gyms and swimming carrots in front of us. It seems that demanding duty and responsibility instead of offering political presents and narrow rights-based self-interest is no longer deemed a vote winner.
Even more striking is the hypocrisy that exists around the individual's right to express love for their country, its history and its flag. A fiercely proud people, patriotism is fine it seems for the Scots. Similar expressions in England are met with accusations of racism – it’s as if anyone in Bermondsey who loves Britain is a member of the BNP. Local politicians should remember that its core working class Bermondsey vote clings country and flag close to its heart.
Since the Labour-led devolution revolution of the nineties, the trend has been towards greater local governance. However, only Scotland has been granted truly meaningful powers. The white elephant in the UK's living room is the urgent need for an English parliament, and the removal of the voting rights from Scottish and Welsh MPs on English matters.
For Bermondsey, the key lesson to learn from the Scottish vote is that local people should manage local services. Why not give the electorate something they really need: it’s time to bring back the pioneering Bermondsey Borough Council and devolve to it key powers including education, housing and planning. The old metropolitan borough’s policies, such as local homes for local people, underpinned by civic pride, passion and personal responsibility, demonstrated a radical dedication to improving lives in Bermondsey. As an interim measure, the immediate separation of the unwieldy Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council must take place to give Bermondsey people a louder local voice.
|Bermondsey Town Hall|
None of the political parties really understands the needs of Bermondsey, primarily because its candidates don't on the whole originate from Bermondsey. A Bermondsey independence referendum, offering a simple in/out of Southwark vote, would remind those at Southwark Council Towers that our needs and priorities are very different from the Camberwell, Dulwich and Peckham sets. Love Bermondsey? Vote yes.
|Bermondsey Coat of Arms|
|Flags of the UK nations|