Friday, 26 June 2015

A new democratic society, fit for the 21st century

Westminster palace is crumbling into the Thames and suffering from years of neglect. The lowest estimate for the repair bill is £5.7billion, but we all know how accurate the government have been in estimating costs before, the millennium dome and Olympics being good examples. Some say parliament should move to a more central location while the repairs are being carried out, while others say the move should be more permanent. It has been suggested that the building should be sold and that carries a certain amount of credibility, given our governments appetite for selling off our public assets and the building could be opened as a national museum after the repairs have been carried out. But whatever the outcome, it is not only the home of our politics that is broken. Our entire political system is fundamentally broken and unfit for a 21st century democracy. Lack of trust and confidence in not only our politicians, but also our entire political system have never been higher.

We have now reached a stage where one third of those eligible to vote do not because they simply do not believe it will make any difference. Politicians refuse to tell the electorate anymore than a few sound bites about what their policies are during a general election campaign. Multi national corporations and accountants are writing our tax laws, rather than civil servants. Our tax collector are handing out cushy deals to multi national corporations and cannot be held to account, because they aren’t even accountable to parliament. Our government deny they have an agenda to privatise our NHS, yet another £1billion deal to provide back office services in GP surgeries was handed to a corporation this week. For all but a minority, the dream of owning our own home is now far out of reach due to rising house prices and stagnant wages. In the nation with the sixth richest economy in the world, we have 13.7million people living in poverty and our governments’ plans are to cut in work benefits, which will drive even more families into poverty. An estimated 250,000 people marched the streets of London last weekend, protesting the governments’ austerity program and in response our chancellor announced scant details about his plans to cut a further £12billion from the welfare bill.

The truth is our government are not listening to the people and have no intention of abandoning their ideologically driven agenda. Marching in protest has it’s place, but things have gone too far now and the government are not listening anyway. If we want to make a fairer more democratic society, we need something much more radical. Successive governments’ have proven they are neither willing nor able to deliver the kind of society we all want. What we need is to write the rulebook in a new constitution and one way to achieve that is through a peoples convention on the constitution. In order to stimulate interest we could hold a national event and call it something like crowdsourcing towards a citizens convention on the constitution. Open the event to people from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. A mass get together where there would be keynote speakers in the morning speaking on topics such as what is a constitution? What is the British constitution? Our membership of the EU & democracy, are they compatible? We could have a question and answer session after each keynote speaker. Then in the afternoon we could break up into facilitated workshops, with topics such as What should be in a constitution? What are the different models of democracy? Why do we want a constitution?

The event would be about empowering people with information and knowledge in order to enable them to come together and produce the first ever written British constitution. By the end of the event, people would feel empowered and we would call for a second event, a citizens convention on the new constitution. At the convention, we could have workshops where people would be divided up, with those in each workshop working on writing a specific section of the new constitution. Facilitators would be on hand to help and guide the groups, but it would be the people doing the actual writing. At the end, the different sections would be combined to create the first ever written constitution. It would be real people power in action. Citizens taking control and coming together to design a new British democracy for the 21st century. A fairer, more equal and more democratic society in which we would all want to live. Where we, rather than multi national corporations make decisions that effect our everyday lives. A society where our politicians are truly accountable to us and no longer bow to the wishes of corporations and their lobbyists. The type of society that will ensure we have adequate housing for everyone, that does not allow any one of us to ever fall into poverty. We will decide the rate of tax payable by corporations, as well as the terms and conditions under which they are allowed to trade in Britain. Everyone, regardless of their position in society will be equal in the eyes of the law and face the same consequences of breaking the law.

Assemblies for democracy are already leading that movement and have started making steps towards an international event in 2016. So I call on everyone to check the Assemblies for democracy website and if there is not already an assembly in your local area, contact them and they will help you to start one. Many other attempts at achieving what we want have been made in different ways and have not been successful. I believe it is only through a radical movement of people coming together in order to create what we want, that our dreams will ever be realised. So let us join together and create a better, fairer and more democratic Great Britain.

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