How do we get rid of you?

walk the plank

I’ve asked six people if they have heard of the Gladstone Library now.    The score is 6-0 against.  I went there last weekend for DemFest – a festival of Democracy run by the Democratic Society.  Both the library and the festival were magnificent.  The former is an extraordinary legacy by Mr Gladstone, who personally wheel barrowed his 30,000+ book collection to the residential library he established.

For 364 days a year the silence or study and contemplation reigns – but for one night sound is allowed.  Last Friday this took the form of 21 democratic readings.  First up was a really moving set of extracts from the Declaration of Human Rights….humankind is certainly doing well at shredding them.  My ignorance cascaded around me as we ventured into Paul Larfrage’s 1883 essay on ‘The Right to be Lazy’.…readings from the Levellers and Marx; James Connolly’s last statement from Dublin Castle before his execution and 16 others, including Tony Benn’s five questions that he believed those in positions of economic, social and political power should always be asked.

“What power have you got?”

“Where did you get it from?”

“In whose interests do you use it?”

“To whom are you accountable?”

“How do we get rid of you?”

Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system,” Benn explained….  Great questions from a small part of a highly stimulating event,  in a truly great venue.


About the author

Peter Macfadyen

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


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  • Great question. I’m not so sure about the illustration at the top. The electorate might sometimes seem to behave like mutineers on the Bounty but perhaps we shouldn’t encourage them. Maybe you could find some pictures of the Leipzig demonstrations which contributed to the collapse of the DDR (East Germany)? Or even just a ballot box?

    • Good point…..or something from Iceland where the pot banging masses seem to have worked out an especially productive way to inflict democracy.

  • Hallo Peter, we met at the How2DoIt seminars in April. I’ve been telling everyone about the book and just getting round to buying it myself. These 5 Qs from TB have been following me around this year. It’s fascinating how many people from different political ideologies are using them. Glad to see that the Frome project is still thriving.
    Rebecca Manson Jones
    Women’s Equality Party

    • Rebecca….sorry to pick this up so late. I am really interested in Ego and how mine has developed as a politician! How to better understand what power does, even at the most local of levels seems crucial… Mr Benn probably had a pretty good idea of all this gained over the years by watching others implode and explode!

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