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.

Jon also mentions David Runciman’s ‘How Democracy Ends’. Runciman has no solutions, but points towards democracy in a midlife crisis rather than its death throes. That was the tone of his Radio 4 series ‘‘Rethinking Representation’ too – which included my thoughts on the farce of today that I started this piece with. Having set the scene for really radical change, the series fades a bit towards the end, proposing tweaks rather than a Guy Fawkes approach.

Personally, I’d like to see the momentum of Extinction Rebellion’s third demand – for a Citizen’s Assembly – catapult us into mass participation, starting with how to implement a response to the climate emergency, followed by taking on other key intractables that our current political system cannot possibly deal with. While engineering Citizen’s Assemblies may start expensive and daunting, if they start to be used more and more, the cost and challenges will quickly reduce. We might even get to a point where decisions are made based on information and expertise! Or am I just trying to cheer myself up?

About the author

Peter Macfadyen

Social activist, ex Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, author, public speaker, undertaker, grandfather.

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  • I have just returned from a 5 week break walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain joining hundreds of others from Europe and around the world. Inevitably the walking talk often turned to Brexit which seems all the more insane when the places and people of Europe offer us such riches.

    It occurred to me that the seemingly irreconcilable split in our community, almost exactly 50/50, reflects a split in our minds. Half clinging to the idea that we need to be separate and seeing the world outside as a threat; the other half wanting to reach out and celebrate our commonality. This is a struggle between fear and love.

    The institutions, of which I include the church and government as well as the large corporations and landowners are of course the most fearful because their power has always resided in control and they see they have the most to lose. Their empires are however crumbling.

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