MP Anthony Mangnall: We must create new network based on ‘loving your local Torbay businesses’

Anthony Magnall, MP for Totnes

Anthony Magnall, MP for Totnes - Credit: Archant

Last year, I was invited to visit South Devon College. I was fortunate to be given a tour of its world-class facilities by teachers who inspired and impressed beyond measure.

I was able to speak to the A-level politics and history students about my work and what I was hoping to achieve.

Their questions, in turn, were of such variety, calibre and brilliance they would have made even the most seasoned Question Time panellist nervous.

One of those students asked me as I was leaving what I was reading and why I felt it was important.

I responded that I was reading 'The Third Pillar, The Revival of Community in a Polarised World', by Raghuram Rajan and that it was of huge importance because it offered an answer to globalisation – localisation.

Our day-to-day existence has irreversibly changed and even when we do go back to relative normality things will be different.

Because of this crisis, Rajan's book has only become more essential and prescient.

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For in it he explores the relationship between 'the state', 'the markets' (Pillars One and Two) and 'the community' (the Third Pillar) and argues for why they must be brought into a better balance.

This week's video conference call with the members of Torbay Together discussed the many issues we are facing as a community, the impact on our local markets and the role of the state.

It was welcome to hear the resounding agreement that we must all work together as a group to protect the businesses that are most vulnerable and to shield those individuals who are elderly, isolated or at risk.

As I wrote two weeks ago, crises bear witness to extraordinary acts of cooperation.

Yet, we are facing an uncertain future and one that has no predicted end date.

Every day that passes in lockdown the more individuals and businesses suffer.

So, what can we do to prepare for the eventual release from this purgatorial situation?

First, let us bolster our communities.

This Covid crisis has shown the extreme capabilities of communities and their ability to join together to help those in need. From South Devon College, whose students are making visors for key sector workers, or the many caring groups whose integrated network has become the backbone of support for the elderly.

We can do more to support these examples of ingenuity, enterprise and creativity and it will be down to local leaders to help promote and support these ventures further.

Secondly, let us create our own localised market. We can do this by thinking and acting locally.

That means supporting our local shops, farmers, fishermen, pubs and independent businesses. They have revealed themselves to be the safety net we need and yet only a few months back their future looked in doubt.

We must reverse that thinking and create a new network based on the concept of 'loving your local businesses'.

If achieved correctly we can have our regional infrastructure and ingrain it with that all-important ingredient of resilience.

Thirdly, we must streamline the structure and work of local and national government.

The Chancellor is right to state that we cannot govern by ideology and this crisis will see politics change for good.

That means improving the tax system, increasing the coffers of local government to assist their work on education and social care needs.

If we can start with these three areas then we can move towards that fabled balance, so, that communities can thrive, markets can grow and the state can find it's equilibrium.

In the words of Rajan, 'Let us not let the future shape us. Instead, let us shape it.'