This time last week I was at the first meeting of Devon United in Newton Abbot. The meeting was called primarily to gauge interest in a new approach to politics ahead of the 2017 County elections in Devon.
It was also an opportunity to refine the possible way in which this might work: Devon United is seen not as a political party in itself, but as a grouping of citizens supporting candidates who commit to a new way of working. Information was provided on the core values, ways of working and approaches of others.
All good so far and there was a great turnout in numbers (though not in age range!). We heard great talks from Pam Barret mayor of Buckfastleigh (a place in danger of overtaking Frome in its radical new council meetings); Paul Hilder, founder of Open Demnocracy.net and Indra Adnan of Soft Power and Compass. They offered us inspiring comments on why and how real alternative is both essential and possible.
Then a bit of warming up and we broke into tables for a range of discussions….. at which point something happened which I find intriguing, depressing and fascinating. By far the largest group centred on existing local politicians, intent not on forging new paradigms of doing politics, but on stitching up deals for the next election in an anti-Tory pact.
I ask myself: ‘Would a new bunch of non-Tories – operating in the same highly confrontational ways, without shared values or ways of working, be that much better than the current lot?’ And I answer myself ‘probably not’. Until we realise that the current system is rotten from roots to branches and back again – not the political parties per se and certainly not the individuals – then we are trapped in a politics which few care about and which has little hope of taking the big decision we need.
What’s more, that vortex of irrelevance is a perfect place for someone to dive into and pick up on the anger and rejection of increasing numbers of people. I see I am back to Mr Trump.