Magazine article The Spectator

It's Hard to Build a Big Society If You Don't Know Who Live S Next Door about but Never Properly Defined -

Magazine article The Spectator

It's Hard to Build a Big Society If You Don't Know Who Live S Next Door about but Never Properly Defined -

Article excerpt

Is it important to know your next-door neighbour's name if you're about to send him death threats, hate mail or just post unpleasant allegations about him on a social networking site? My guess is that your campaign of vilification will carry more weight if you can actually give the victim's full name, rather than just saying 'the ginger-headed nonce with the Lexus at No. 32'. And yet increasingly, it seems, we do not know the names of our next-door neighbours. The latest poll, commissioned by some Japanese car manufacturer for reasons of which I am not entirely clear, suggested that 70 per cent of us do not know our neighbours' names. This is a huge problem, I would have thought, if you're going to sue the bastard. The courts are sticklers for stuff like names.

And you may well be about to sue him.

Another survey reported that one in three of us have had some form of dispute with a neighbour, usually because the neighbour has exhibited some form of 'aggressive behaviour'. One in ten people who move do so because they hate their neighbours, although if they are selling a property they are less keen to make this point clear. An estimated 100,000 people have moved house recently as a consequence of neighbourhood disputes.

All of these figures come from various surveys commissioned by commercial organisations which wish to draw attention to themselves. I don't know what sort of methodology they used in each case: perhaps they just guessed. So let's assume that the figures are indicative, rather than definitive. We certainly, anecdotally, seem to have a more fractious relationship with our neighbours these days; there is a very popular website called Problem neighbours which will tell you how to take legal action against your neighbour, or inflict an Asbo on him, or bring down the wrath of the environmental health inspectors.

I found that first figure I quoted politically interesting: the overwhelming majority of us do not know the name(s) of our nextdoor neighbours. This notion of a Big Society, which our Prime Minister kept talking perhaps because almost every action of this government subsequently has been to undermine its supposed ethos - surely begins with a friendly, tolerant and supportive relationship with the ginger-headed nonce with the Lexus next door. The sort of relationship we used to have 30 or so years ago with our neighbours. The same survey suggested that 83 per cent of people felt that the relationship with their neighbours was much more remote than the sort of relationship their parents enjoyed with their neighbours when they were the same age. It is hard to foster a sense of community if you do not know who your neighbour is, or only have a vague idea of who your neighbour is and think he's a prick. …

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