This month’s chunk of Birmingham Post-lite, published Thursday 26th June 2008. Enjoy…

“Here Comes the Summer” and “Love is in the Air” was possibly a once smoothly delivered handover between Simon Bates and Dave Lee Travis (the Hairy Cornflake) during the halcyon days of Radio 1. Believing this makes me feel as though I am a character from Nick Hornby’s novel, ‘High Fidelity’, attributing different songs to different events and times throughout my life. In fact, over the past few weeks I seem to have been doing this more and more.

The first was when Gordon Brown was making one blunder after another. Every time I saw his lurching face I couldn’t help but play on my mental jukebox D:REAM’s “Things can only get better”: the soundtrack to New Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. Despite being at the opposite end of the opinion polls, the message still seemed to be as apt or ironic, you choose.

The second was during a conference I attended in Westminster that considered the impact of the publication of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion’s report, “Our Shared Future” one year ago. Focusing heavily on the role of ‘community cohesion’ I just couldn’t get the Ash song, “Girl from Mars” out of my head. Let me explain why…

Despite it being some seven or so years since the notion of ‘community cohesion’ was first aired – largely as a response (solution?) to the disturbances across various northern towns in the summer of 2001 – few at the conference seemed to know what community cohesion was or indeed how we might get more of it: cohesion that is rather than disturbances.

Because of this, it seems to me that the way in which Government and a few other influential voices are trying to embed community cohesion is destined to fail. Any policy that tells us to better cohese (is ‘cohese’ even a word?) with others is obviously going to get under the skin of the average person in Britain.

It reminds me of when you were at school and the teacher told you that you had to be friends with the new boy/girl. Nobody ever wanted to do it and so would spend the rest of the day desperately trying to offload the latest incumbent. It’s the same at work when someone organises a social event to ‘build team spirit’. I – like many others no doubt – have some paint drying that requires watching at those times. Either way, most of us just don’t want to do what we are told we have to – blame our parents.

Because of this, merely telling people that they have to get on with each other just isn’t going to work. And this is the central failing of community cohesion. We have to want to get on with others for ourselves, not because Government – or indeed anybody else – is telling us that we have to. Give us an issue to rally round and we can all get on swimmingly, for example if the rubbish is not collected in your street, you easily become a cohesive community united against the bin-men and the local authority. Tell us to get on merely for the sake of getting on together and the result will be far, far different. People won’t want to know – especially when some groups and communities believe that community cohesion is about ‘them’ being more cohesive with ‘us’ than the other way round.

And so why the “Girl from Mars”?

Nothing more than because I love the “Girl from Mars” and – to quote Kylie– I can’t get you/ it out of my head.

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