In January this year my wife came up with the idea to set up a Facebook page for the village where we live and those villages surrounding us. I decided to add a couple more and so the community group COPS was born (covering Clapham, Oakley, Pavenham and Stevington).
We are now nearing 500 members in only 4 months. We certainly tapped into a gap in the market and a clear need for an online community for everyone.
This week someone posted a comment about the dangers facing kids on their way to school between Oakley and Clapham. This drew many responses including a direct intervention from a Borough Councillor. A promise was made to take up the issue after the election. This has got to be a brilliant example of how an online community can influence local policies.
I am a member of one or two other Facebook groups and there is a fierce determination to keep them politics-free. After making a comment I was reprimanded by people keen to keep their groups free from local political intervention even though the subjects they are discussing are directly related to local politics. It is naive to believe that life can be separated so simplistically.
One example was disabled parking. I said that increasing the number of disabled parking spaces is a political issue; when I was berated for making this statement with cries of ‘nonsense’ I knew I would have a challenge to convince these people about the world of realpolitik. Of course, if they were a little more wise they would realise that they need to lobby councillors to make sure their views are represented properly in the Borough Council. Alienating councillors is never going to further their cause.
So how can we start to change people’s minds over this issue and begin to break down the cynicism towards politicians in general?
It’s got to be one of the hardest and most important questions in our time.