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Pete Lawrence - 21 Mar 2017


This movement won't be about opposite sides in the house, about rivals who swap and chop and fight each other, about playing to the gallery at Punch 'n' Judy PMQs, about monolithic, impenetrable ideological party constitutions.


The new politics is about being much more unconventional than even Corbyn's Labour.

Unfortunately, despite all the momentum built up by Corbyn's astonishing ascendancy to power, it is beginning to come home to roost that, unless there is a dramatic change in public opinion,  the rise of Corbynism should never have been seen as much more than a process set in motion. That's not to underplay it in any way. At a stroke, it turned politics upside down in the UK.

But close to two years on, Labour is still besieged by power struggles. At a time when there seemed to a real sense of hope for widespread change, fuelled by half a million new party members, Labour seemed to implode, stymied by the refusal of the party's old guard to accept a democratically elected leader, all because his politics wasn't in line with the neoliberal consensus. Meanwhile the real enemy, the Tories, continue to get away with murder, backed by a mainstream media intent on switching the narrative and keeping their guns firmly focussed on Corbyn and his many outrages. He was, it seemed, to blame for almost everything.

Enough is enough. Those half a million new cheerleaders, myself included, aren't going to go away in a hurry, re-energised and full of hope for real and radical change as we all are. 

We're looking for a more pluralistic, more inclusive, less divisive way forward and it seems that it is now down to the independents to seize the moment, to grasp the energy of a Corbyn-inspired paradigm shift and to move forward and take control. And move forward they will, mark my words. This politics won't be savaged by bitter divisions by those supposedly on the same side, it won't be at the mercy of its own members' shameless coups and briefings, by a handful of retired grandees intent on instilling their paranoid 'project fear' siege mentality on those with the will and the aspirations to get out there and make it happen. 

The new landscape might just mean that isn't even a political party that will make the running. It can be a movement, one much harder to pick holes in, to locate to a central office, to pin down. It will be a loose alliance of independents.

Just as white-suited Martin Bell overthrew the old order and showed that energy for real change can be garnered, we are now entering an era where the independent model is poised to happen on a much more widespread scale. It's a new era where allegiance to one political party might well look cumbersome, clumsy, old fashioned and riven with in-fighting born of a lust for power at all costs.

The opposition we're looking for isn't about George Osborne as some warped turncoast figureherd of the poor, downtrodden metropolitan remoaning elite, forever squeezed out by those rampant populists and their put-downs of political correctness and altruistic ideology and now limbering up to spend  some of his spare time hours flexing journalistic muscle via a free trash rag that ends up littering many a tube station and train on a daily basis. Osborne is another distraction - arguably a buffoon who failed at his political jobs and is now picking a 'tit for tat' bone with the people who sidelined him. No, it's way beyond the logic of Polly Toynbee or even Zoe Williams in the Guardian, arguing that Osborne's appointment might have positives.  The great British public will either grasp the simplicity and popular local appeal of the Independents movement or be faced with a decade - maybe two - of unchallenged right wing Tory rule. Time for radical solutions for desperate times.

This movement won't be about opposite sides in the house, about rivals who swap and chop and fight each other, about playing to the gallery at Punch 'n' Judy PMQs, about monolithic, impenetrable ideological party constitutions. In the new landscape, anyone trying to make a career out of politics is likely to be shown up for the rapscallions they all are. 


This is about pluralistic values, re-connection of grass roots in direct politics, about rising up and making "that lot" irrelevant. And it goes much deeper than petitions, good causes though they may be. 100, 000 people signed up to Make Votes Matter - it will be debated, but will not make a jot of difference to our so-called democracy.

Peter Macfayden is a good example of the new breed of politician - a no-nonsense ex gardner and undertaker, who demonstrates without a fuss how politics can be changed from the inside, by working at local level and showing people that their engagement matters and can make a difference. 

His town council in Frome, Somerset are now made up entirely of independents. He talks here about the blueprint, how it happened and how it can now happen elsewhere. In his landscape, there are no policies stated in advance, (“we don’t know until we work together”), their meetings are not shackled by party ideology, their open meeting format is just as likely to include councillors dotted around the room. They are not afraid to borrow money to invest, especially when it is available at historically low interest rates. £500,000 was borrowed and invested in local venue, The Cheese and Grain which has gone from strength to strength since. The 'indies' first task was to "abolish all committees and change all the rules" 

Peter's Lewes speech :

There is an overt attempt to redefine the sort of 'localism' espoused by David Cameron's erroneous “we must take power away from the political elite and give it to the man and woman on the street” mantra, which no-one really connected with. Their manifesto embraces the uncertainty of u-turns and is about having the balls to admit mistakes, whilst aiming at actively reducing the status of councils. "If parish and town councils don’t get their act together, lots of stuff not going to happen" says Macfadyen, with ongoing 35% cuts year on year, Somerset council is "technically bankrupt, only doing what they have to do by law" with no money for mental health or children-related services.

So where do we go from here?  Do we organise through some central hub (Campfire's Projects could be useful) and take local town and district councils on? Or do we set our sights wider and look to find independent representatives, all movers and shakers in their community, to take this to the highest level?

Peter's advice is encouraging  "This can be done, it’s not that clever. None of us had been councillors before, we are a bunch of very ordinary people with a great age range - half men, half women.  In the 2015 elections, we thought no one would stand against us, but no less than 46 people stood, 27 independents in Frome. We won all of the seats. In 65% district and town councils there are no elections.. not enough people to stand. This lowest level is in a real state, but it's chicken and egg, you won't get good people in unless they can do things."

What else in important? "We must be able to have fun! And to really go out and engage and support community organisations. We brought money in through working with the community, people pitched for funding  (like Dragons Den)"

The Frome initiative is as good an example of true people's democracy in action as there is right now in the fractured UK. It's certainly an inviting alternative viewed alongside the hogwash being served up by the likes of Nigel Farage, dressed up as 'people's politics with a pint' but which changes little and ultimately reinforces the old order.

The 'flatpack' model increases engagement and does politics a new way, which sidesteps confusing politics with party politics  "Many local projects, groups and clubs are already doing politics people trying to get what they want. Many people have put party politics on a pedestal and expect them to do things - they won't!"

It's time to reclaim politics from politicians for communities.

Watch this space...





Jenny Barrett

AhA!!! I get it now - this is great Pete. It definitely makes a fantastic introduction of all you/we are trying to achieve and gives a clear, understandable, relatable framework - I hope ALL CAMPFIRE folk take the time to read this article:)

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