At the start of last week, I had to go and say my piece to the Boundary Commission who were on tour at Merton Civic Centre. My comments were about the proposals for MPs’ constituencies in South West London. After a weekend fretting about the war in Ukraine and working with Polish Family Association and the local MP to plan a fundraiser for refugees from Ukraine at the end of the following week, I found myself slightly frustrated at having to focus on the minutiae of local ward boundaries at that moment. Goodness! There was a war on and there were donations to shift!
But, when I gave it a little more thought I realised that my ten minute slot in front of the Boundary Commission panel was actually the other end of the same telescope on democracy. I spoke about how disenfranchised urban geography can make some people, how a lack of clarity might leave the South London Jewish Cemetery exposed to lack of care, and how spending time trying to work out which elected politician represented whom for which services – was part and parcel of the same discussion. In times of strife, people have the right to know to whom they can turn and whom they can trust to protect them. ‘Who has my back?’
I mentioned this in my Boundary Commission slot, and the chair of the panel said at the end that the difference between discussing boundary changes in Ukraine and SW London was that I did have the right, and it was relatively easy, for me to come and make my points. And so it was. He was absolutely right.
Reflecting further on in later, I found myself thinking ‘if the people of Luhansk and Donetsk had been able to scrutinise at the same level of detail the geographical boundaries and the questions of who represents whom in 2013 then perhaps there would not be a war today’.
Profound, and perhaps a little grandiose from me. Later in the same week, I was being gently and repeatedly nudged to sort out a picky little bit of on-line booking and payment for our Pollards PASS football project. It was an exercise using an on-line and not very user-friendly system that was infuriating and opaque. BUT, as my friendly colleague in police force who runs these sessions kept reminding me, if I didn’t achieve absolute and incontrovertible confirmation that the booking had been made, confirmed and paid for by the end of Friday, it didn’t matter how big a speech I would be making the next day about refugees, around forty local young people, young people whom we are training and encouraging to be the next generation of leaders and ambassadors for East Mitcham, would get the message that they somehow weren’t important enough to receive timely and clear information about where their training sessions were going to be for the next ten weeks. So, I gritted my teeth and wrestled with the booking and payment system until it rolled over and gave us what we wanted.
These things kept me at least a little bit humble, and I am glad of that. The small things are also the big things.