Archive - May 2016

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How do we get rid of you?
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AnywhereButWestminster

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.

 

AnywhereButWestminster

guy fawkes

I once bicycled to a room with a projector, computer and screen to show a film that had been quite widely advertised by Sustainable Frome.  One person turned up.  She was really keen to watch it so we did…. she went on to be a key member of the group and I’m really glad I hung on in there.

I have something of the same feeling this week as relatively few ordinary individuals, who have decided enough is enough and are standing as local councillors in tomorrow’s elections, have been in touch.  In Sutton Coldfield – Britain’s newest and largest Parish Council – Independents are contesting every seat; in Winchester City there is a solid core in the City itself.  In Uttlesford and Wivenhoe there are different ways of doing things, but the same basic message that while Localism and Party Politics are patently failing to provide at community level, there are people prepared to give a bit of time to change things.  There are others – and plenty I am not in touch with of course – and as we know “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Meade).

John Harris perfectly captures the essence of what motivates this very British ‘revolution’ in his third Anywhere but Westminster film: it’s a mix of frustration, anger and the recognition that change is possible.  Those that are elected may well find themselves one of a few independents in a council firmly stuck in the dark ages, which can be a depressing place – Independents for Frome have had the luxury of majority rule.  My hope is that enough independents will be able to persuade enough of the old guard to enter the 21st century and that starts to inspire more capable people to join them in engaging with this crucial lowest level of our democracy.

 

Copyright © Peter Macfadyen 2019