Onwards to 6 may elections
Virtual Pub Quiz at the Flatpack Arms
Flatpack2021 – off to a flying start
Flatpack2021 and an opportunity for our communities to thrive
Trust the People
Time to take over?
Doing what seems the right thing to be doing.
Flatpack Democracy 2.0
Flatpack Democracy on Radio 5
Keeping it local

Onwards to 6 may elections

Dear Flatpackers

I expect you have already noticed that these coming elections will be very different from anything that has gone before and we think the main difference will be the increase in postal votes. So if you want a postal vote for yourself or think your family, friends and neighbours would prefer to vote by post you need to get a move on and register now. It’s very simple just go here and follow the simple instructions. It helps if you have your National Insurance number to hand but it is not essential.

A whole variety of Flatpack related groups will be standing around the country so to find out who they are go to the Flatpack2021 website. As ever if you know someone who lives in the parish/town/district where they are standing please forward their details so they can check them out.

We have also issued a press release which you can read here – it would help us no end if you could pass it onto to your friendly news outlet.

And before I go take a look at this picture of the Bude-Stratton Community Alliance candidates for the Bude and Hele ward – what do you notice is different about this fine band of local hopefuls from the usual fare at local elections? Answers on a postcard to any of your main political parties?

Bude & Hele ward candidates

Bude & Hele ward candidates

Onwards to a democratic revival

Peter (the other one)


Virtual Pub Quiz at the Flatpack Arms

A packed January hurtles to a climactic close with the Flatpack 2021 Summit, more of which later. 

 But, before it does, and to prove that we at Flatpack Towers are not just about dealing with manifestoes and overcoming mindless bureaucracy, the Flatpack Arms throws open its doors on Thursday 28 January at 7.00pm for our first-ever Virtual Pub Quiz 

The quiz has been put together by renowned quizmaster Peter Barden; there are no teams and it is open to all. So pull up a comfy chair, fire up the laptop, pour a relaxing drink and pit your wits against our renowned questioneers. For your entertainment we have rounds hosted by comedians Heydon Prowse and Miles Jupp, poet Iona Lee and John Harris of the Guardian as well as our own Flatpack 2021 team. Spoiler alert – you might expect a little politics to creep into the questions asked.

It’s absolutely free to take part but you need to register at Eventbrite to get all the Zoom link details etc – as soon as possible please – just follow this link. And, just like the Flatpack 2021 campaign, it is inclusive and open to all who care about local democracy – so feel free to tell your friends, colleagues and neighbours and send them the link. You could even create a WhatsApp group and work together to answer the questions.

 As mentioned earlier Flatpack2021 rounds off the year with the Flatpack 2021 Summit. This is an event for groups or individuals, working together, who expect to stand as an independent group in May 2021.

 The latest word from Robert Jenrick the minister in so-called charge of these things is that elections will go ahead in May as planned. However with this current government’s habit of switching direction and policy to suit themselves and their general incompetence, who knows. But whenever elections are called we need to be ready and the Flatpack Summit, bursting with brilliant workshops, will help you plan your campaign. 

 It is free to attend but you need to register, as early as possible please, so we can tailor the summit so you get the most out of it. Follow this link to sign up.

Meanwhile Peter Macfadyen has been attending meetings with groups heading off down the Flatpack Democracy route. He has virtually visited, to name but a few, the good people of Cambridge, Isle of Wight, Hull and Hexham. Think of all that carbon saved. More details of what’s happening, when, where and how you can join in the fun as local communities reclaim local democracy, can always be found on the Flatpack 2021 website.

So until Thursday 28 January, when we look forward to meeting you at the Flatpack Arms, for the Virtual Pub Quiz and what should be a great evening, stay safe. 

Peter Andrews


Flatpack2021 – off to a flying start

Flatpack 2021In an earlier blog and newsletters Peter M introduced the Flatpack2021 campaign .

The idea behind the campaign is to support people to reclaim local politics from the systems and political parties that are currently failing them. Flatpack2021 will support communities to take back power by winning local elections, of which there are thousands in May 2021.

The campaign will work with groups who want to stand for election and, once elected, collaborate to make their parish, town or district councils ambitious, effective and responsive to their local community’s needs.

There is a meeting to launch the Flatpack2021 campaign in the South West this Thursday evening and you can sign up here:

I know it’s short notice but things are really starting to move quickly and you will have to be organised if you want to take over your council in the May 2021 elections. If you can’t make the meeting we will hopefully be recording it and it will be available on the Flatpack2021 website.

Next up is the launch for the North on Saturday 21 November and again on Tuesday 24 November for more details and to sign follow this link

These events are for folks who either want to work with others to stand for election and take over their council or offer support to others.

If you are not in the South West or the North of England and know of a group of people who want to take on the inertia and incompetence of their local council contact us at the Flatpack2021 campaign.

This blog has been written by the monkey (Peter A) not the organ grinder (Peter M) who is recovering after injuring his back falling off a ladder – nice one Peter M – get better very soon.

Onwards to a truly democratic future – Peter Andrews

Flatpack2021 and an opportunity for our communities to thrive

The Coronavirus has taught us much about what is really valuable, both as individuals and communities. At a local level, the response to the pandemic has enabled some people, who have never done so before, to come forward and shine. Some will have identified and enjoyed using their new skills and gained recognition within their communities, while others will want to return to “normality” as quickly as possible.

The State is moving fast to ensure that it gives just enough to satisfy those who have recognised their own capacity and the dire limitations of the political system. Eventually, some new bike lanes will emerge, but not enough to dent the power of the car; some grass will not be cut, so we feel better about insects, but where are the initiatives to build on this burgeoning community engagement?

The pandemic has highlighted how some local organisations can play key roles in their society, while others have failed to respond in ways that are fit for purpose. With Mutual Aid and other groups emerging to provide crucial support throughout the UK, the last few months have clearly illustrated the need for a massive change in the way local councils operate. Many councils have proven to be totally inadequate during the pandemic. More than ever, at the town and parish level, it is crucial for a well-functioning council to work in genuine partnership with these community groups.

Now is the time when these newly engaged and empowered people, who have come to know where they live and what is needed, can step forward. Not just to prop up the creaking structures and systems of local government, but to get elected and to fundamentally change them to bring about a truly participative democracy. This means changing the way most local councils and the councilors operate. They can and must be constantly looking for how to truly engage and involve the people they serve – exactly as has happened independently in the past few months.

Change has to come from below. Central government has never really been interested in community – as has been proven over the last months. In any community there will be groups working together for their common good.  If these people (and they could be you) insert themselves into the arcane structures that are local councils and rebuild them for this century, not just in one town and parish, but in every town and parish, then we will have a movement, free from the poison of Party Politics that is fit for the needs of 21st century.

Possibly with great naivety, certainly with great optimism, a group of us have just launched Flatpack2021. Its purpose is to encourage and support groups to take over their local councils in the May elections next year.  If you can see the potential for this where you live, or know of others for whom this is true, please direct them to the new website.  We need to grab the best things that have come out of working together during the pandemic and find real alternatives to the disaster that is the national government.

You can make a start now by, passing on this blog link to friends and colleagues and visiting our website.

(The picture is of a Bufo Bufo, the common toad…. now almost as rare as any semblance of democracy)

Trust the People





The COVID-19 crisis and the magnificent response of the public has proved yet again that local people know what is best for themselves. They also know the actions that need to be taken to make where they live a better, vibrant and more caring place.  During this strange time it has been obvious in many, many areas that it is the local people who have taken the lead and organised themselves to support their towns, villages and communities.

So as Coronavirus starts to move on do we want to revert to the old ways? The national government has been doing what governments do at times like this: centralise and control.  Their attempts to engage and orchestrate volunteers, make and distribute protective equipment or to fund initiatives have often not only failed but undermined local actions.  Local government at the middle level, which has been trying to care for more people with less money for over a decade, has also struggled: on top of austerity it now faces crippling extra costs which will have a devastating impact on services. Do we want to let Party politicians guided only by their Westminster central office and Party ideology, organise our lives for us? Or can we nurture some of the shoots that have emerged in these past few months?

In 2019 many more people elected new independent councils which had one common aim – to make things better for people where they live. From The Haswells in the north to Buckfastleigh in the west local people are now being properly engaged to make the decisions that affect their everyday lives.  (With Buckfastleigh recently nationally recognised as a Democracy Pioneer by the innovation foundation Nesta for their work to support and network other local rural councils.)

Of course I am not alone in hoping we can grasp this opportunity for change. The world over people are saying ‘No Return to Normal, Normal Wasn’t Working’ backed up with brilliant articles by the likes of Arundhati Roy. They seek to learn so we are better prepared for what comes next. My route into local politics came with a growing realisation that climate change posed a threat greater than all others, and this remains the case.  National governments are in a system that will never allow them to respond to climate change fast enough, but just as people in their communities have responded to Covid 19, so they are making good decisions on how to respond to the climate emergency.

At the core of Flatpack Democracy’s success is the idea that people know best.  I’ve been working with the Future Democracy Hub and their new initiative Trust the People (described here in the Alternative UK’s excellent article). One of their strands is to support local people who have ‘come out’ and now provide leadership and inspiration to their communities.  I believe these can be the people who will reclaim politics from those who are currently failing us, with fatal consequences.

Now that many of the local elections scheduled for 2020 have been cancelled, we have been given longer to prepare for 2021.  And as many vibrant local organisations set up during the pandemic, including the many thousands of Mutual Aid groups, start to move on, this is the time to build on those foundations. We must not return to a ‘normal’ that just wasn’t working.  Now is the time to get together with like-minded people where you live to build a local democracy. There are many roads to independent politics but the Flatpack Democracy route offers a tried, tested and successful way to start that journey.


You can hear more from me about the Flatpack Democracy movement and how it is rebuilding democracy from the ground up, on The Spark on Radio 4 Monday 25 May at 11.00, repeated on 27 May at 16.00 and then on BBC Sounds.


Time to take over?

Taking over your local council this May to get better representation and climate action.

This May, there are over 800 elections around the UK.  These are at many levels including for local council. Elections a rare chance to improve democracy and participation in your local area. And it’s a chance that people rarely use: every year, nobody even stands in hundreds of local council elections. And where there are elections, only a few hundred votes are cast for each seat at most! This makes it relatively easy to reclaim your local council as independent councillors and make real changes for and with your community.

Why is this important? Town, Parish and Community councils are often not as effective as they might be. Most don’t have elections as no one wants the job; many are stuck in the dark ages in terms of how they operate; most councils could do far far more in relation to the climate emergency and developing a new politics ‘of the people’ not ‘for the people’. We know this because a handful of pioneering councils around the country – like Frome, Buckfastleigh, Newham, Portishead, and Torridge – are now run by local people, or have significant ways to engage, and have made real transformations to their local area.

They are meeting austerity, climate change and social inequality head on. Many use participatory democracy to engage the local communities in council decisions and activities. A stark contrast to most councillors who take the power from individuals and then operate on their behalf!

There is a strong case to be made that this is the best level of politics to get things done, creating a movement of local people who want to reclaim decisions that affect their lives and their towns. And it’s often not difficult, due to the lack of votes in council elections. Successful campaigns have begun months and even weeks before elections.

So… could your council be next? It depends! Here are some important questions to ask:

What sort of council do you have?

If you don’t know, ask about, check your council tax bill, or internet search. What political parties do your councilors belong to (if any)? Do they use any processes to invite local participation and engagement? Have they declared a climate and ecological emergency, and if so, are they taking sensible action?

Is there an election or by-election coming up?

The District or Unitary will run elections for their own councillors as well as the towns, parishes and community councils. Search their website for ‘electoral services’, or ring and ask. Or simply search for your town/parish and ‘elections’. If there is an election in 2020, or a by-election, you need to answer question 4 below sooner rather than later!

What’s going on in the council at the moment?

There will be a public notice board somewhere with minutes and agendas on it! But you can also search online. Search for the last council election and see what happened. Go to a meeting and see what’s up. There will be a slot for public engagement at which you can ask about what they do in terms of significantly involving the public in decisions. You can also ask about action or plans related to the climate emergency.  (To ask questions you may need to have booked in – which is one of the rules a new style council can immediately dispense with!).
Have a look at Buckfastleigh or Frome for inspiration.

Is there an appetite for stirring things up or taking over?

You need to decide whether you want to take action. It’s worth talking to people in your local community, at clubs and local groups, as well as your friends, family and colleagues about this. Discuss and decide if you can get what you want by lobbying the existing councillors.

If you cannot, and there is an election in May 2020 you need to move fast.  (Elections are in May, last moments to register as candidates will be early April.)  The first step is to bring together a group who are up for action.  You can email  [email protected] to seek guidance on timing and ‘what next’ or join the Flatpack Democracy UK Group on facebook for discussion and links to others who can provide mentoring and experience.

You can register to stand as individual councillor as late as early April. A group of you may do this together, and use the text on the election ballot to name your local independents group, e.g. “Independents for Yourtown”.  The government advice is here.

If there is not an election for a while, you may want to go for a longer approach, as Portishead did (described in this training event Future democracy hub).


Flatpack Democracy: a how-to guide on reclaiming local politics provides useful guidance providing more information on how to take over the council.  (With Flatpack 2.0 looking at how a range of councils have used their new powers and what they have achieved)  Both are available from Eco-logic Books, as are revolutionary packs at a discount rate.



Doing what seems the right thing to be doing.

The end of January is apparently an especially depressing time.  Blimey – it gets worse? Too many things already contribute to the plethora of reason to keep my head under the pillow. Environmentally I now know a lot about what Australia has been facing, but also ask why I’ve only just clocked the worst drought in Zimbabwe for 100 years? (see Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders” failing to thunder, above). While the good people of Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries have done virtually nothing to contribute to these catastrophes, the same cannot be said of Australia’s decision makers, who now surely have reached a pinnacle of ineptitude? These tragedies for life on earth (with an estimated billion dead animals in Australia’s fires so far) come from a lethal mix of far right politics and climate denial.

Read More

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!

Read More

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

Copyright © Peter Macfadyen 2019