Sunday, June 08, 2008
It's not just Henley that needs Stephen Kearney as their next MP...Its the Country!
Greetings from Henley, where, along with fellow bloggers Millenium Elephant, Alex Wilcock and Helen Duffett, I have just had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Kearney.
Any one who knows me that there is one sure fire way to my heart........talk about young people and youth work.....did someone tell him?!
I got to ask the first question which was to ask Stephen what motivated him to get involved in politics. His answer was inspiring and, it has to be said, music to my ears!!!
Stephen told the story of how as a teenager he had got involved with a project called Focus. He and other young people had been hanging around on the streets and got to meet a youth worker, one committed to experiential learning - who worked with the young people to develop a Cafe and Theatre and other groups from a building they took over. He reflected that the young people themselves were empowered to run everything, they became directors, managers, developing a huge range of skills in the process. And then as the youth club fell into disrepair the youth worker worked with them to reflect about what had gone wrong and what they needed to do to resolve the problems - linking what we do to the impact it has and making the link between personal growth and actions. This learning had influenced the rest of the course of his life. Learning how you influence policy, support communities and encourage them to take action.
Through the work he was doing through Regenerate and his contact with politicians like Alex Carlile, Simon Hughes and Lembit Opik, he came to the conclusion that the Lib Dems were the party that listened most. Following a meeting with Peter Luff in Henley in 2002 he made a commitment to put his heart into politics and devote the next 20-25 years of his life to seeing the Lib Dems move from a third force in politics, to government.
Stephen's commitment to young people shone through, his understanding of their needs and our responsibility to take those needs seriously as a key to dealing with many of the underlying problems in our society was a breath of fresh air.
The other theme that ran through what Stephen said, was his understanding of and commitment to, listening to and empowering communities. Apparently he was trained in the 90's by the same people who trained Barack Obama and has clearly put a lot of that learning into practice in the way he has developed his charity and also, impressively, has a clear route map of how he would do the same in politics.
His challenge was that politicians had to up their game and that as Lib Dems we could head the way through not only listening to what people and communities were saying but also by creating networks of people within communities to help us deliver. One of his first priorities after being elected would be to create his own listening team within the constituency who would work with him to explore concerns and implement solutions. His first task on a Friday morning after returning to the constituency would be to meet with this team to report back on what he had been doing in parliament and to get feedback from them about what they were doing, reflecting on concerns and deciding on actions.
He said a lot more and I will drip feed some of the specifics, for example on policy, later. But to start with I wanted to get the message across very clearly that here is someone we absolutely MUST GET INTO PARLIAMENT!!!!! Seriously guys, if you were feeling demoralised after Crewe and Nantwich......now is the time to get your pecker up, dust down your walkin boots, polish up your Lib Dem rosette.........AND GET DOWN HERE - ASAP. Or if it is too far, pick up some of the telecanvassing. I am absolutely convinced Stephen can win this, he has the style, personality, drive......and above all a proven deep commitment to making life better for everyone. If elected he will be a breath of fresh air for our parliamentary party, but far more importantly a breath of fresh air for our country. In a climate where politics is stale, people are disillusioned and have lost faith, here is someone who can inspire them and show very clearly........it can be different!