Taking the P out of politics

Over the last month I’ve been variously involved in an inspiring set of activities outside of everyday Frome Town Council engagements.  I have conversations with (r)evolutionaries from towns and parishes on  an almost daily basis, but recently these have been augmented by a set of events .  At the core of all these has been a desire to find better ways to move on from the political systems that are so patently and alarmingly failing us.

In Denmark Annabelle played central roles in a series of workshops and talks with Fandenivoldsk Forandring (a new consultancy working with the link between the people and politics);  Folke Traeffet (a coming together of Transition Town and similar movements) and Sagerdersamler (supporters of radical activists).  The common theme of them all was seeking inspiration for reducing an increasing gap between political activists, citizens and their political representatives.  My feeling is that the extraordinary Danish achievements of the last 70 years – leading to top ratings for overall wellbeing/ happiness and ways of doing things that are the envy of the world – are at great risk of erosion.  Left to government ideology, much that is so special could disappear almost overnight.

My main gain from being at the Alternative UK’s unique experiment with democracy, being piloted in Plymouth,  was being in on the initial stages.  Alternative’s ‘friendly’ saw a great mix of people with professional skills and the experience of life – the whole experiment is about ensuring both can be heard and operate together in a common direction.  The friendly now leads on to ‘inquiry’ then ‘action’.  This weekend’s Somerset Convergence in Wells, reinforced my view that our society is packed with experience and skills that people are desperate to share, but are unable to do so in our current system.  The Somerset Convergence comes just after similar events in Devon and a much larger regional one – CTRLshift – held in Wigan.

What these two events have done been bring  together a group of people doing stuff despite it all, coming together to inspire each other and see where common direction might push aside the increasing hopelessness of Politics (with a capital P for Party).  I’m constantly grateful to Our Democracy for their ‘Act as if you Own the Place’ strap line which must surely become a principle for those whose patience is running out.

My second top phrase of the summer  – ‘If you are not at the table you’re on the menu’ – comes from an improbable five days with The Rules and an extraordinary bunch of young activists. ‘The Rules exists to ensure a more level playing field for activists seeking to better understand narratives and what to do when our messages are swamped by those of the well funded growth merchants who’s activities drive us inexorably towards the edge (where have all the insects gone?).

At the Convergence event I had the pleasure of a number of wise people in an Open Space group  called ‘Taking the P out of politics’.  A title that started as asking how to get Party Politics out of the way so that the 98% can reclaim the space…. but is clearly ambiguous.  That flexibility led us to a conclusion that what we really need is to change the P of Party into a p of ‘participation’.  At the community level, where my politics through the town council sits, two things are crucial:  That Party Politics is firmly moved aside and this allows in the engaged and skilled masses who are supported into new ways of running our lives.

Looking back over the last month, all of our engagements have essentially shared this same core theme of a vibrant desire to reclaim politics.  But does it need reclaiming, or will ‘acting as if we own the space’ lead to finding we actually do?

About the author

Peter Macfadyen

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

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