As the national debate starts to heat up many political questions are being asked at here at the Centre. What separates the parties? Where do they stand on poverty and homelessness? Why should I even participate in the process? To answers these questions and more we welcomed in three highly knowledgeable guest speakers.
Greg Pope, former MP and now head of parliamentary relations at the Catholic Bishops Conference; Liam Allmark, parliamentary and policy manager, Catholic Bishops Conference and Paul Anderson, policy manager at Homeless Link, the national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England, who have written “a manifesto to end homelessness.”
Mr Pope spoke first and addressed the question of why it is important not just to vote, but to engage in the political process on a more long term basis.
“There is a definite correlation between voter turnout and behaviour of the parties,” said Mr Pope. He explained that as the average age of voters gets higher, policies seem to favour older generations much more over the young. He also highlighted that what politicians say before elections doesn’t always match the reality afterwards, so called upon everyone to keep the pressure on whoever gets elected on May 7th.
“It is a combination of US and OUR action, plus parliamentary action that brings about real change,” said Mr Pope. He handed out copies of an open letter to all UK Catholics from the Bishops of England and Wales, which highlighted all the things they feel should be considered when voting.
Liam Allmark showed us just how different the parties are on some key issues to the Cardinal Hume Centre and our clients. He gave a detailed and enlightening insight to the differences between Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.
Paul Anderson has recently written a summary of what the main English party’s manifestos say about homelessness. He said: “I understand why people get cynical about politics. Especially around an election when complex issues get minimised,” but he went on to describe how much worse the plight of the homeless was when he first started working in the field decades ago. He said have been significant improvements in care and treatment, and he puts this down to changes made by politicians when they are under pressure from the electorate.
Anderson was very concerned about the demonisation of people claiming benefits: “The rhetoric by some politicians over the last few years has been some of the most poisonous language I’ve ever heard.” He also revealed a shocking figure: “One third of all [UK] housing benefit is spent in London, which is an astounding figure [considering it’s proportion of the population].”
They certainly gave everyone at the Centre a lot to think about. We encourage all of our supporters to take some time to read up on what the parties have to say about issue that matter to you.