We thought you might like to read, in its entirety, the speech with which Rachel Jupp launched Indy Monmouth just a few short weeks ago. From a standing start – to a full slate of prospective councilors today – Indy Monmouth is the latest in a string of new independent, Flatpack, groups aiming to take over their local council.
Wish them luck in their elections on 4 May. Please tell everyone you know, who knows someone in Monmouth, to check them out.
Indy Monmouth, all at Flatpack Towers say ‘May the Fourth be with You’
Rachel Jupp’s speech to launch Indy Monmouth
I’m here this evening because of a book. Flatpack Democracy and its author, Peter Macfadyen.
A little bit about myself:
I’m a mother of five. I have absolutely no time for doing this… but I figure that if we all say ‘I’m too busy’ what we’re all saying is just ‘I don’t think this is a priority’
And if the environment you live in and the town you live in isn’t high on your list of priorities, what is?
I’m from Monmouth – I grew up here, went to the Comp, returned here to bring up my children, and by a lucky coincidence (because they like it here too) I’m surrounded by family.
I got involved in local politics because of my local playground on Chippy. Now I don’t mind where you stand on this issue, the fact is when I went to the Town Council I was defeated. Not, I think, because of what I was saying in particular, but because of the way I was going about it. In retrospect I should have joined the Conservative party and started bribing the public with M&S vouchers in the time-honoured tradition, to get my way.
Instead, First of all, I went to them. Big mistake! No-one from the public ever goes to town council meetings, what was I doing there? A few councillors even deigned to look around at me, a member of the public, in the public gallery!
Second, I told them …
… politely – that they might have made the wrong decision. And I asked them to look again at it. Mistake number two: Monmouth Town Council never makes a bad decision, especially seeing as it’s usually a white male of a certain age (or prematurely aged) proposing the motion, and we have to agree they never get anything wrong. Especially what with being experts in playgrounds.
I got nowhere. The room wasn’t set up for listening. It was set up for lots of other things: deference, defensiveness, ceremony, secrecy… but it didn’t want to deal with a member of the public. I have never felt more unwelcome.
One whole year later (this January) we had managed to get the playground high enough on the agenda that a public meeting was called. A public meeting over spending public money – I know, its revolutionary. And there were many of us, and we spoke from all corners of the room. But when the public’s allotted time for speaking was over, you’d be amazed if they’d ever heard us at all. Ten of those councillors shut their eyes, closed their ears and voted again, for the same thing they’d voted for four years previously.
Now you might think I was miffed because the vote didn’t go my way. But for a start I know that that’s not the final word on the playground – the town council has very few actual powers, and in this case they were only making a recommendation to a higher committee – and besides, I know you can’t win ’em all and that sometimes others know better. So it wasn’t the decision which offended my sense of justice: it was the way they went about it.
I’d hazard a guess that most of you in this room don’t turn up to regular town council meetings. Why would you? Paint drying is more entertaining. But it strikes me as plain mad that we don’t involve ourselves in these things: they affect us all. If we’re not happy with them, we have to change them.
We need people to stand with us. Unlike the big parties, which will probably survive however bad the local pool of talent, Indy Monmouth will live or die depending on who decides to participate. If you’re wavering and hoping that someone else will step up, my advice to you is to screw up your courage and go for it. Take part. Join in. We’re all responsible for what happens next.