“Democracy in action” in Welwyn Garden City

Frustrated. Bored. Tired. Disengaged. I wondered quite a bit whether being involved in the Parliament Week, for the 9th year running, made any sense. As a Cllr, I’ve had countless conversations with residents about the UK Parliament and it is and was clear that many people still feel disillusioned and angry with the way our democratic institution works, but more importantly with the conduct and behaviour of some of our MP’s and “Parliamentarian chaos” of the last 2-3 years.

However, after a bit of “intellectual effort”, I managed to convince myself that every step and every simple initiative can help to restore our faith in democracy. Every moment or conversation, even in passing, can bring back at least some political hope for us and people in our communities up and down the country.

I was absolutely delighted that in Welwyn Hatfield, we marked the Parliament Week by inviting Ukrainian refugees to the Council Chamber. The meeting, which was hosted by the Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield, brought democracy closer to our friends, colleagues and neighbours from Ukraine. During the meeting, we had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues and challenges faced by the Ukrainian community, which include: housing, private rented sector or employment. It really is important that as a result of these meetings and a number of previous conversations, a few ideas arose, which might help to “galvanise” the Ukrainian community and create a network for its members.

Saturday, 18th November, felt particularly busy. First of all, it was fantastic to be invited back, for the 3rd year in a row, to the Polish Saturday School in Welwyn Garden City and talk to older students in Y.5 and Y.6, in Polish, about the role and functions of the UK Parliament. Two “heated” debates at the end of the workshop encouraged a really lively discussion about the importance of wearing uniforms or attending classes at the Polish Saturday School.

The culmination of the Parliament Week in Welwyn Garden City in our Town Centre, which was getting ready for the Christmas lights switch-on! I was delighted to be joined by my fellow Cllr, Gemma Moore. A few sweets and a nice quiz proved to be fabulous ice-breakers! It was lovely to see some friendly faces and meet a few new people. Comments? Although not all were positive, it was important to create a platform for a political dialogue and inspire those who attended, to talk about the ways in which Parliament affects their lives and more importantly, to explore what each one of us can do to actively support the democratic process e.g. by volunteering for a cause that is close to our heart, writing a letter to a local newspaper, signing a petition of standing in any of the elections.

I hope, maybe naively, that I will never give up trying to encourage people to take an interest in politics. I hope that, wherever we stand on the political spectrum, we will continue to build opportunities for real dialogue, seek solutions to address some of the issues that affect us all. I finally hope that each one of us will never take democracy for granted. It is not only our right, but more importantly our responsibility to support a process, which gives us freedom to choose and select our representatives, which then shape policies at the local and national level. Let’s not waste it but use it well!

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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One Comment

  • Michael Falchikov 21st Nov '22 - 11:44am

    Always enjoy your messages from WGC. I was brought up there and my first ever vote 60+ years ago was in a local election in Handside ward. Keep up the good work!

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