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).
Meanwhile, over on Waterloo Bridge hundreds of people from the South West of England formed the core of protesters who turned it into a focus of a positive future for over a week. Amongst them, Annabelle (my partner in all things) was amongst the many arrested from Frome. This comes as no surprise and I am now inordinately proud that amongst Frome’s new councillors there were five arrests.
Not much time to breathe after XR before my focus moved to the local elections. Frome elected 17 Independents for Frome (ifF) with a Putinesque 79.4% of votes cast. I am not one of them as I’d always intended to stand for two terms only and am delighted that position was shared by all ifF’s origional councillors – there proved to be a great pool of talent to choose replacement candidates from. (Another now non councillor is the ex leader of our District– defeated in the District and also in his City of Wells by the Wells Independents who were all elected – a poignant end given his endless undermining of our efforts.)
Almost more gratifying for me was the election of a very large number of Independent councillors intending to operate with agreed Ways of Working and real ambition for action in the places they live. The Alternative UK cover this well in The Wave is Building and with an initial analysis of where the Independent groups with potential to operate in a new paradigm have emerged. Here I want only to emphasise that many people voted for what they wanted in these elections. The story of a ‘Brexit referendum’ insults those that put themselves forward as groups of Independents and those who voted for them.
These two areas of my recent life – XR and Local Politics – are of course totally linked. The climate crisis is a crisis of democracy – and as much as anything else Extinction Rebellion is a rebellion against the way crucial voices are systematically shut out of our politics. I entered local politics after finding a horrendous lack of attention to environmental issues in the place I live and climate concerns have been the focus of much of my council work for 8 years. As the reality of the environmental crisis is hammered home daily, it becomes obvious that the systems we have enabled for representative government has failed. Those we have elected cannot possibly make the complex decisions we require of them in relation to the climate (as Brexit so painfully demonstrates).
Hence my support for XR’s third demand for a Citizen’s Assembly on climate and ecological justice, with People’s Assemblies running in parallel. As more and more people come to understand the reality of the crisis we face on so many fronts, we will all need to relearn how to do discussion, conversation, disagreement and listening because we all need to take responsibility for what happens next.
The chant often running through my head is a call and response from Waterloo Bridge:
The people got the power…. THE PEOPLE GOT THE POWER
In Buckfastleigh; Brixham; Frome; Bideford; Bovey Tracey; Chudleigh; Cuxton; Ecclesfield; Hadleigh; Minehead; Portishead; Shaftesbury; Sidmouth; Tavistock; Totnes; and Whitehill & Bordon, to name but a few, they have now!
First published on the Flatpack Democracy website https://www.flatpackdemocracy.co.uk/people-power-2/