Author - Peter Macfadyen

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Flatpack Democracy 2.0
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Flatpack Democracy on Radio 5
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Keeping it local
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Wishful thinking?
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People Power
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Rights of Spring
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Did it work?
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‘If at first….’ Robert the Bruce
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Extinction Rebellion 2
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Extinction Rebellion

Flatpack Democracy 2.0

After a gestation period of five years and a great deal of help and input from independents all over the country Flatpack Democracy 2.0 is finally published. It should be available from a good local bookshop near you or you can buy it direct from our publisher eco-logic books at the special price of £7.99 which includes free postage and packing.

Advert over – I am proud to have been part of Frome Town Council, one of the most impactful groups to have been elected at this level.  I am also delighted that Flatpack Democracy (written in 2014) has played a role in encouraging and supporting other groups to find ways to achieve real change at a local level.  After not standing as a councillor this May, I finished Flatpack Democracy 2.0 which aims to further support those already elected as local councillors and encourage others down that route.  With Peter Andrews’ interviews of those already on the path adding considerably to its depth, we hope the story will take this idea further towards becoming a movement for real democratic change which, I would suggest, is needed!

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Flatpack Democracy on Radio 5

Thanks to Chris Warburton on BBC 5 Live for his well-researched interview on Independent Politics. First mention of my new book, Flatpack Democracy 2.0! Out in a few weeks to provide Power Tools for Reclaiming Local Democracy.

Listen to my interview with Chris here

The piece starts at 11:00 minutes in.

Keeping it local

As the crew of good ship Boris settle into cabinet by waving wads of notes at the rest of us through the portholes, it slowly dawns that a fully blown coup has just occurred while most to the nation was looking for ice creams. Possibly even the crew and captain have not yet realised the ship is owned by Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Arron Banks, who are firmly in charge of the sat nav.

The trail of obscenity that got us to this place looks like this: Around a quarter of available voters make the decision to leave Europe; even fewer give us a minority government propped up by a Northern Irish minority party who’s views make Rees Mogg look modern; and finally less than half of one percent give us Boris. Read More

Wishful thinking?

As the final feeble pretence of democracy dissolves, with the selection process of a new prime minister exposing the sick joke we are obliged to accept, it has been good to see and hear alternatives. John Harris’s ‘Any new prime minister is doomed if they don’t fix Britain’s democracy’ says much of what I might have, but better.

His article refers to an earlier one which describes some of the revolt at a local level that has built on Frome’s Independent Movement. I hugely enjoyed spending time with the Devon Quintet of towns recently, where unexpected people have chosen to try and radically up the game in their communities (unexpected by themselves as much as anyone). Perhaps I should not have been surprised at the extent to which the old guard have tried to hang on, and the twists and turns (especially at a District level), which have enabled the Party faithful to retain power. Too often we resist change, even when everything possible is screaming out that we need to.

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People Power

Over the last few weeks I have started to write a short blog dozens of times.  Usually there has been too much to say, often someone else says it just as well before I get there. Last month my focus was very much on the groups organising themselves to stand in May 2nd local elections as Independents.

That was swept to one side by the extraordinary activity of Extinction Rebellion (XR) focussed on London.  They had three demands and it was the third that surprised and interested me most from the start: That the ‘Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice’.  My involvement led to speaking in Parliament Square and Marble Arch to introduce this demand, before very large numbers of people engaged in impromptu People’s Assemblies (these underpin XR’s decision making process and will be used to inform future strategy). Read More

Rights of Spring

As comedians Laurel and Hardy said: “Well , here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into “….. Why so many? Why endless dead-ends and unanswerable conundrums? If we’d written fiction to demonstrate that the Party political, system with elected ‘representatives’, is totally unfit for purpose, it could never have been as well put together as the farce we see before us.

Elsewhere that mashup of fact and fiction is becoming reality as 41-year-old Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays a president in a popular Ukranian TV series, gained twice the vote of his nearest rival in the first round of Presidential elections. He’s following in the footsteps of M55 Five Star Movement in Italy, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, which gained more votes than any other party in 2018 elections.
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Did it work?

I’ve been poor at writing in this blog space for the last few months.  This has mainly because all my writing brain has been putting together Flatpack Democracy 2.0. This will be the story of what happened after the 2015 elections including how Independents for Frome (IfF) made a clean sweep of the Council getting all 17 elected members. While Flatpack 1 covers how to get elected, the sequel will ask ‘was it worth it’, covering the whole 8 year IfF experiment.

Peter Andrews and I hope to get Flatpack Democracy 2.0 published within the next three months. However with the upcoming local elections on 2 May, we thought those of you who have bravely chosen to go down the ‘independents together’ route would be interested in my observations on what made the 2015 IfF campaign such a success. So, if you want a sneak preview of Flatpack Democracy 2 we would be delighted to send you, free of charge, what will probably be Chapter 5 – the one that deals with getting elected.  All you need to do is go to the eco-logic books website and send us an email by way of the ‘contact us’ tab.

I’m in touch with people from 15 communities who will be putting forward a group of Independents in those May elections.  If you are another one, or know of others, I’d love to hear.  Please do this either through the Flatpack Democracy Facebook page, or the contacts tab on the Flatpack site.

There has never been a more important time to reclaim politics!

‘If at first….’ Robert the Bruce

I’m delighted to hear that Rachel Jupp has been elected as a Town Councillor in Monmouth.  It is 18 months since she first stood as an Independent for Indy Monmouth, failing narrowly then and repeating that in a first by-election later, before yesterday’s victory.

I have fairly frequent conversations with people who have attempted to enter these ‘lowest’ layers of our political system and initially failed.  Most recently, these have been with Belgians who put a huge amount of energy into creating groups standing with a set of values, in their recent local elections and failed to see anyone elected.  There, although their proportional representation system is much fairer than ours, it is still incredibly hard to get your first person elected.

What they have done, though, is up the game.  They have forced people to take notice and – in some cases – to take ideas from the new groups, especially around a more participative democracy.  It may feel poor consolation to someone who has tried so hard (and failed) to be fobbed off with what sound like platitudes of ‘things will never be the same because you stood’.  But it’s true.   Equally, there are places where one or two councillors are really making a difference despite their lack of obvious power.  The Cynon Valley’s one successful candidate continues to do a great job and the Alternative Party in Denmark may only have nine MPs but they continue to attract a disproportionate amount of interest and coverage for ideas that constantly challenge…..and so on.

Rachel joins a group of Independents in Monmouth who have sometimes struggled to impose in world that can find change tricky.  I’d argue that now is the time when local and global really comes into its own.  Town councils must step up to fill the chasms of need created by austerity at a local level – and also add their voice to the global issues that affect their citizens by, for example, declaring a climate emergency.  What next for Monmouth?

 

Extinction Rebellion 2

I am very aware of not having written here for a while.  Mainly this is because I am busy writing Flatpack 2 (This Time it’s Personal) but also because I’ve been frantically busy communicating in other ways.  This has involved events with George Monbiot in Bristol; at the Economics of Happiness; the Tree Conference in Frome and most recently with Forum 21 in Minehead.  The most impressive thing about all of these has been the appetite for conversation, information and engagement.  This is equally true in the ones with ‘big names’ as those brought together from within their communities.

Perhaps two things are converging?  After the debacle of the Brexit referendum, is there an unconscious desire to be better informed, should anyone ever ask us for an opinion again?  And, as we are bombarded daily with information regarding the future (or lack of it) of a human presence on the planet, a sense that we need to really engage?

As I type, a posse of people from Frome are making their way to the kick off of Extinction Rebellion in London.  Their website starts ‘TELL THE TRUTH….  CLIMATE CHANGE = MASS MURDER’.  The Frome group are going as a result of the meeting held in Frome Town Hall as part of our Uprising series.  They did indeed tell the truth – and mighty uncomfortable it was (see my previous blog).

Many of this initial party have been engaged with conversations, workshops, meetings and events in Frome for over a decade.  Working on themselves and others in the slow unravelling of the stories we’ve been told about growth, happiness through consumption and the possibility that we can continue to live as we have done for decades.  This work has often been linked Joanna Macy’s ‘work that reconnects‘ that forces engagement with humankind’s insane distruction of our biosphere.  And to that of the Transition Town Movement.  Transition has focussed minds on climate change, peak oil and the limits to growth all over the world – perhaps in doing so it has helped create foundations from which the dedicated action of Extinction Rebellion will really take hold in the next few weeks….. and perhaps that will force a government which continues to demonstrate a complete and utter contempt for their moral duty towards future generations, to turn and face the catastrophe approaching.

Extinction Rebellion

Last night’s talk from Extinction Rebellion was never going to be an easy ride.  Part two in Frome’s trio of uprising events to try and raise the stakes a bit in climate awareness.  Extinction Rebellion’s presentation is based on research which shows that telling the climate truth will indeed alienate some people (why the Green Party hangs back from this), but it also brings some to a much more active and engaged position.

And the truth is not good.  In fact it’s deeply shocking. I’ve said before that Brexit is a picnic compared to the changes, actions and decisions that need to be made around climate action – and of course Brexit is a massive distraction in that respect.  So Extinction Rebellion plan mass non-violent protest later this year against what effectively amounts to the premeditated extinction of…. well, everything. Their case is that once we know and don’t do enough, we are complicit in the continued act of poisoning our planet.

In the context of these short blogs, I was especially interested in the second of their demands (the first is actions to reach zero carbon by 2025).  In order to arrive at decisions which meet the needs of life on earth – rather than those of the paymasters of the Political system – they want to see a People’s Assembly.  This would involve sortition to ensure something close to actual democracy and a body capable of making decisions and recommendations based on evidence.  This is the first time I’ve seen climate activism looking at links changes in decision making systems and I agree, the two must meet.

Will all this work?  Roger Hallam’s view is ‘it’s the only thing that might’ and I’m strongly inclined to agree.

Copyright © Peter Macfadyen 2019