Archive - June 2016

Beech trees and Brexit
Can ‘No’ be positive?

Beech trees and Brexit

temp beech

What has a beech tree to do with Brexit and Trump?  I’ll tell you:  There is a huge and very ancient beech tree in Frome.  It is not well and over the last few years has become increasingly dangerous to the point where it really does need to be felled.  As a Town Council, when we heard this we planned to let people know, explain carefully why and let people do whatever they need to do to respect a living member of our community that has seen much of Frome’s history.

The District Council, which has the responsibility, took a different line and made it known on Friday evening that he tree would be felled on Monday.  No conversation with the neighbours, no significant warning, no explanation and – key to this piece – no taking of the opportunity to engage with people.

It seems completely obvious that when people are consistently crapped on by those in power this builds the distance between the people and those making decisions – the politicians.  Cynicism, disengagement and eventually active animosity grow.

In a State where protest is increasingly difficult – both dangerous and largely ineffective – opportunities to wave two fingers at the headmaster are quite rare.  The referendum in the UK and the rise of Trump in the USA represent just that.  The powers that be are telling us what to do (as usual).  But this time we have power to do the opposite – vote to leave the EU or crown Trump.  Logic and facts go out of the window in the glorious opportunity.

My view is that this starts with relatively small acts of oppression and exclusion.  If the District Council had thought for a few moments about the wider impact of their beech tree decision, they could have paused and taken the opportunity to engage and empower.  Their decision is the right one – it’s the ‘how’ not the ‘what’.  Each time the people are squashed down they remember and sooner or later will play their Trump card.




Can ‘No’ be positive?


I’ve just been looking at the website of the No Party.  Essentially they support independent candidates just like I do…..  And it is a protest movement against Party politics – something I have ranted against too.  But then our paths start to diverge.  I feel unnerved by that word ‘Party’ which led me to read their website more carefully.   And as reading goes on I realise I am unnerved too by connections to my early upbringing in Ulster and memories of Ian Paisley who found an extraordinary number of ways to say “NO”.

The No Party’s Ideas and Pledges page is a magnificent list of 23 NOs (with more being added).  These include ‘NO – to Europe’ and ‘NO – High taxes on fuel’.  This becomes a NONefesto created by someone somewhere and which, presumably, candidates sign up to, which I suggest removes their independence?

This is an important issue for groups of independents : How to be a group but not a Party.  But yet it seems to be essential to work together to have any chance of challenging the well funded political Party machines.  Our answer in Frome has been to develop Ways of Working which describe how we will operate and how we will behave once elected, rather than attempt the impossible task of achieving agreement on what we’ll do in a given situation.  This seems a much more honest approach to me, as well as being based on the principle of ongoing participatory democracy, rather than seeking a mandate every 4 or 5 years then doing what you like.

I shall continue to watch the No Party because they are one of a fascinating bunch of initiatives fed up with the status quo.  I don’t know yet if they are closer to the Alternative Party in Denmark – which strikes me as an exciting initiative…… or Donald Trump, who strikes me as exactly what to expect when a  dysfunctional system  goes into meltdown.

Copyright © Peter Macfadyen 2019