Three weeks after the EU Referendum during which I – like many people – have heard a lot, read a lot and thought a bit. I’ve also had two sets of inspiring and engaging interactions with groups of people bringing some really different perspectives.
The first brought Helle Engelbrechtsen and Brian Fradsen (key players in Denmark’s Alternativet Party) to Frome for 10 days including 24 hours of workshop with some top people both thinking and doing democracy. The Alternatives proved to be a blast of fresh air in bringing real integrity to everything they did with us, wrapped in humour and goodwill.
The second 24hour stint was with Compass on their annual away weekend (Compass is ‘a home for those who want to build and be part of a Good Society; one where equality sustainability and democracy are not mere aspirations, but a living reality’). Fifty people bringing many different experiences to discussions on how to take advantage of the brief moment upheaval of this nature creates.
Inevitably both gatherings had had the raw feelings associated with the Brexit vote – overlapping with those I meet as an undertaker dealing with unexpected death – anger, denial and a going over the detail of what might and should have been. But in both cases we were also able to also focus at what opportunities there are for a real change in the way we do politics and ‘democracy’.
For me the core of our work in Frome remains absolutely essential: We have to find ways to reclaim politics. To enable real engagement and decision making to involve a far far more people. To build a literacy of political discussion whereby the conversations most of us have all the time are linked in to decisions. I worry that even a Progressive Alliance will simply rearrange the deckchairs and unless a fundamental movement to values based decision making, built from the bottom up, is nurtured then what really matters won’t really change.
Much of the post Brexit analysis looks at the disempowerment of the vast majority of the population – yet we continue to focus on a political parties of which 99% of us are not members. Without a huge concerted effort to change the way we do business nothing really changes. And that lets a more right wing Tory government steam ahead with idle promises of supporting those most in need – just like David Cameron’s 2009 promise to ‘…take the power from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman on the street….’.