Tuesday, 04 April 2006

Celebrating prosocial neighbourhood action On the 10 Downing Street website tonight: A couple from Yorkshire met Tony Blair before being honoured for their bravery in taking action against nuisance neighbours. Joe and Alison Bednall suffered three years of abuse from a neighbouring family that included threats of violence, dumping rubbish and spitting. The couple refused to be intimidated and helped secure anti-social behaviour orders against the family responsible. Their actions were later recognised at the Respect "Taking a Stand" Awards in London, where other winners were also honoured. Mr Blair gave the couple a guided tour of Number 10 Downing Street and praised them for their hard work in helping him bring "respect" back to Britain's communities. "He just said congratulations and well done and carry on doing what you're doing," Mr Bednall said. After visiting Mr Blair, the couple were named as one of four gold Respect Award winners to receive £6,000 for their community group. They established the group during the struggle with their own nuisance neighbours so residents could work together to improve the area. Mr Bednall added: "Since the group started going people are more friendly. They want to get things done now. They want to make the area a nicer place to live in." I think some people will be reading that and asking themselves why they are not quite at ease with it. Surely the action these people took is laudable, and should be celebrated? This is an example of ordinary people resisting intimidation and overcoming the fear of retaliation, to assert their right to respect in the neighbourhood. But we're not at ease, not because of the action, but because we can't help suspecting the motives behind its celebration. That's politics I'm afraid, but we shouldn't let it diminish the significance of what we are hearing here. Under any previous government, we'd have been quite surprised at such a press release, at national publicity given to such a theme: today, it's almost routine and we're suspicious. So I'm just pausing a moment and reflecting that I'm pleased for Joe and Alison.

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