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Political activity builds social capital

Delivered 4 October 2015. Posted 9 October 2015.

On Sunday 4 October I gave my twenty-seventh "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester.

As it was the opening day of the Conservative Party Conference, I wanted to refer to that, but without promoting any particular political party, since the radio slot is non-political. Accordingly, as you can read below, I enlarged a theme I mentioned before in "Voting unites the country". After explaining the concept of "social capital" I went on to explain how important political activity is for building it.

Thought for the Week

There is an invisible web of relationships that joins together the people of our country. It makes us into one society, and not just a random collection of individuals. Social scientists have a name for it. They call it “Social capital.”

Every time you join any organisation, whether it is the local cricket club or a mosque committee, you are adding to our country’s social capital. The stronger a country’s social capital, the more people trust each other, care for each other, and help each other.

The party conferences season, when political parties gather like tribes, is nearly over. I have been a politics junkie since I was ten years old when I got up early to see if John F Kennedy had beaten Richard Nixon to be President of the United States.

Almost all of the media comment about politics is about who is up, who is down, who is right, who is wrong. Apart from social scientists, almost everyone forgets how important politics is for building social capital.

This May, hundreds of thousands of people gave up their time, completely unpaid, to canvass or deliver leaflets on behalf of the political party they supported. Then tens of millions of us came together in the shared experience of voting for the people we wanted to be elected. All of these activities brought people together. They all built social capital.

I never stop being grateful for living in a country where our disagreements are resolved by debate, persuasion and voting.
Looking at the terrible conflicts we see overseas shows how awful the alternative to politics really is.


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