Archive - April 2016

Mind the gap
How to Do It

Mind the gap

mind the gap


I spent Friday evening in the company of students from Frome Community College and Mohammed Nasheed.  A surprising mix especially given he is in the UK for only a short while courtesy of the Maldivian government and will return to prison to serve the remains of a 13 year sentence for terrorism.

The students made a series of presentations on human rights; gender equality; democracy and climate change – following research on the Maldives.  With support from Bath University students, they’d put together a mass of information and views which were refreshing in their frank analysis of the poverty of democracy not just in the Maldives but the UK; and in the perversity of Cherie Blaire being funded by an impoverished government to support their case against  Mohammed Nasheed.

The Ex President (winner of innumerable major awards including UN Champion of the Earth (and slighly weirdly one of David Cameron’s top five people for his stag weekend)) took us through some of the human rights abuses he’s been subjected to.  In a gloriously simple way he showed how conviction and sticking to ideals and principles places him in a totally different league from most current politicians.

What struck me most was the powerful clarity of the young college students (mostly women)…. and the poignant gap between their engagement in politics now and the lack of engagement and interest most people retain in later life.  The college’s hope – and mine – is that the simple and very moving principles espoused by Nasheed will stay with at least some of the students and audience, encouraging them to join the dots between the lifestyles we lead and the impact this has on others.

How to Do It


Heading home from ‘How to Do it’ – Creating Bottom up Political Participation, a couple of days that brought together academics, political activists and community organisers to contribute to the working out of a question central to the current political climate: ‘how can we create progressive and effective political participation?’

Like most such events, I find a range from ‘kind of useful’ to ‘totally inspiring’ and the last two sessions (and allied lunchtime conversation) were certainly the latter.  These were on how to organise political parties and urban assemblies, taking inspiration from Podemos and Take Back the City (as well as Frome) and for me raising one fundamental question:  Given that the prevailing political system is so manifestly unfit for purpose, are we brave and strong enough to replace it with one based on how we will work together?  Putting how we will work together to make decision and what our ethics will be above promoting what we will do when in power?  I was deeply struck by how many of the core aspects in these areas that we have found effective in Frome are shared by Podemos in Spain and are the aspirations for Take Back the City.

The lunchtime conversations inspired me because Florin – now heading home to Transylvania to take on the corrupt old-guard in local elections in May and Eleanor, the Women’s Equality Party Lambeth leader – full of the energy of new radical politics (each now armed with their copy of Flatpack) are less than half my age.  Indeed, the majority of those at the weekend will have enough years left to make a difference and on a weekend when a significant number of people hauled themselves off the sofa to protest at the hypocrisy epitomized by Cameron’s dodgy investments.


Copyright © Peter Macfadyen 2019