Frustrations and hopes.

Independents for Frome has had two electoral periods of controlling the town council.  The first started in 2011 (when we had an initial 10/17 seats) and the second in 2017 (when we started with all 17).  In each period we have faced a bye-election just before the final year.  In each case the ward with the bye-election already has at least one councillor – so people are represented – and the new councillor will make no difference to the balance of power.  But the Political Parties seek power and – at a cost to the town of £6,000 – demand an election.

I respect their right to contest elections and that of the electorate to vote. What I am so disappointed by is the tired old crap that gets wheeled out which encourages the electorate to stay in the status quo we know is so corrosive.  Already leaflets are being delivered focussing on one unfinished project of the current council and listing a set of lies and half truths to demonstrate……. well what?  Presumably, that this group of councillors makes bad decisions. 

The logic of this ‘slagging off’ approach is that the ideology that one Party has (and all members adhere to) should be replaced by another ideology.  But this fails to understand the model of Independents for Frome, which is that a set of individuals with a range of views, skills and experience work together as a group for the betterment of the town.  This sits in a different paradigm, which the Political Parties are unable to engage with, or choose not to.  This is a great frustration for me.

We will now trudge through a period in which three or four Parties will tell a disinterested electorate what their national manifesto says while also slagging off the work of a group which has hugely benefitted them as individuals.  (As ifF we will put forward a candidate who will put Frome first and bring something to the mix of experience we already have – and we’ll look for someone who will stand again in 2019 if elected.)  But what all this does is add to the cynicism of most people who either wade through the negativity, or bin it on sight…..

Ideally, at this level, the people would choose from a set of individuals without the confusion of Party ideology.  But given that the Political Parties will forever remain in the only model they know of putting up candidates (however poor they are), the next logical step for ifF would be to enable the people to choose the ifF candidate.  This could be through ‘primaries’ or – way better – using sortition as espoused by Patrick Chalmers in his new set of films.  Unfortunately we don’t yet have the time or energy to orchestrate this, but it should be an aspiration of groups like ifF.

There is another reason why the farce of this immanent bye-election annoys me.  It reminds me of a parallel on another stage:  ‘Trump… not just a dysfunctional aberration within an otherwise functional political order, nor does he alone constitute an existential threat to the survival of American democracy. Rather, he is a morbid symptom of a system entering into an advanced state of decay’ (from Jerome Roos writing in ROAR).  The Lib Dem approach is also a symptom of a system that fails to serve us well. Humankind does not have time thrashing about in a sea of hopeless ways to find the leadership we need to tackle the impact global issues are having both internationally and locally.

I want to move on and not be hauled back by individual egos and power seekers whose actions ensure the suicidal systems stagger on.  I believe our natural state is one of cooperation and I enter 2018 with a sense of urgency which does not have space for manufactured conflict.  The challenge is that most of us struggle with change – we need to be braver.








About the author

Peter Macfadyen

Social activist, ex Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, author, public speaker, undertaker, grandfather.


Leave a comment
  • Thanks Peter. You are completely right with one big but. You suggest politicians are leaders. It is my experience that few real leaders become politicians and whilst many politicians wish to become leaders few are. Most are followers.
    Real ideas; innovation; inspiration are almost always born at grass roots. A politicians primary role should therefore be to make the ground more fertile… (and collect taxes!)

    • Spot on, very good point. I guess I am looking for inspiration that gets somewhere! and my frustration about thos who are in leadership positions is rooted in many ways in your comment.

  • As you say, old systems are failing and the effort required to maintain them or justify them increases day by day. The nations increasing indifference to the old political paradigms is part of this story-line. Frome is showing us something different and an attempt by the old elite to disrupt this by deploying the old tools is really laughable.

    P.S. I highly recommend a book “reinventing organisations” by Frederic Laloux.

  • Town/Parish/Community councils need not go to the expense of having by-elections mid-term in order to fill casual vacancies. Instead, they can advertise in the local media for candidates for co-option. The community council of which I’m a member follows the latter- cheaper! – procedure.
    All candidates are invited to attend the next meeting of the council and give a short spoken resume of themselves. Each one is then individually interviewed/questioned by all members present, who then vote after all candidates have left the room. All candidates are then called back in and the winner is announced. He or she is then co-opted until the next council election.
    No expense incurred, apart from the cost of an advertisement in the local press!

    • Sadly, here in Frome, it seems that if 10 registered electors demand an election then we have to advertise it, and if anyone wants to stand then (given another 10 supporters) they can…. and if anyone wants to stand against them then it’s the £6k and election route…… and that’s what’s happening. Your way sounds much better!

  • One of the biggest problems with politics is confusion of opinions over facts. Look at the Referendum – few real facts, just lies and half promises. All a candidate or party in power has to do is to cut the crap, speak plain English and advise the voters WHAT THEY HAVE ACHIEVED rather than just rhetoric. Then apathy might be replaced by empathy. So, let’s start right now by explaining what Independents For Frome has done for the community – and I’m not being either obtuse or cynical, I just want to see some evidence and you’ve got my vote

    • Pity you missed the Gaia Foundatin talk Annabelle and I gave – along with Susanna rustin of Queen’s Park (London’t only Parish) last night….. 3 areas of real gains in redesigning the community/council relationship and what these have led to. It was filmed – remind me in a few weeks and I’ll see if there is link. Otherwise my top things done recently would be:
      1) After 25 years engineered a situation where development of 5ha site in Frome will start soon 2) Continued to support FTC initiated Fair Frome which distributes food parcels and campaigns on poverty issues 3) similar for Frome Fair Housing – now moving on housing and accomodation issues in many ways 4) a raft of wellbeing issues like mental health and literacy up and running 5) volunteer car scheme alongisde 2 car clubs helping with rural transport problems 6) community fridge distributing >4000 fresh food items a month 7) 100 new allotemnts destroying the waiting list 8) 4 rangers out and about in the community all day looking after parks and land – much of which we have reclaimed from the District Council…… there is much more – and we only have to manage the allotments and have one meeting a year (about what the previous council managed).

  • Hi Peter and thanks for the mention of my work.

    I wrote a brief blog post about this for the site Equality by Lot. The readers are generally very well-versed in all things random selection and deliberation. Maybe they’ll come up with some suggestions as to where you might go with this.

    As for frustrations and hopes – that pretty much sums up this process.

    You can read the Equality by Lot post here –

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