On a sunny bank holiday Monday, 4 May, three days before the General Election in the UK, over 2,200 people, including 1,000 from marginal constituencies across the UK, gathered in Methodist Central Hall in London to put a series of questions from the Citizens UK People’s Manifesto to the parties that made up the government (Conservative and Liberal Democrat) and the official opposition (Labour).
The General Election Assembly was the culmination of 5 years’ work on the part of Citizens UK organisers, and brought together groups from London, Birmingham, Wales, Newcastle and the South West. Citizens group representatives from around the country were meeting, by arrangement, leaders of the three major UK parties, as they were then, to hold them to account on the issues they had raised with them at the last Election Assembly in 2010. These issues included implementing a Living Wage, sanctuary (stopping the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees), Dignified Social Care and minimising personal debt.
The Assembly was a festive occasion with a range of fantastic choirs and musicians, a history pageant reflecting the history of organising, spoken word poetry and dancing, well in the aisles anyway.
A national newspaper the next day said of the event:
“This exceptional event places politicians a few feet away from people at the very sharpest end of their policies, who deliver testimony as raw as it is powerful. Community organising groups across the UK have spent 18 months working out four commitments they seek from party leaders – this time on ending indefinite detention of asylum seekers, paying the living wage, improving social care, and using 1% of banking fines to start a credit union foundation.”
New Europeans are collaborating with Citizens UK on a transnational project. Together in Europe (TIE), to empower EU citizens who live outside their home Member States in London, Warsaw and Berlin. Twenty members of the TIE project came to this extraordinary event.
The project was launched in March this year, aiming to engage with Europeans exercising their mobility rights, living, studying and working in other Member States. It invites them to discover how communities organise in the various partner countries. Equally the project is designed to help us to identify common issues facing New Europeans to be taken to the European Commission at a seminar in the autumn of 2015.
The twenty project members, including New Europeans volunteers, Italian, French Polish and Irish, were brought together from Berlin, Warsaw and London to witness how some citizens are succeeding in making their voices heard in the UK.
“This is how politics used to be done,” declared an organiser, “and we wish it could be done like this more.”
We look forward to the events in Berlin and Warsaw.