On Friday 15th July, I went to a conversation between Ben Okri and Jeremy Corbyn at the Southbank.

The auditorium was packed. The majority were young. They clapped, whistled and cheered. Most of the rest of us got infected and began to do likewise – I can’t whistle or I would have done. It was w…

Source: On Friday 15th July, I went to a conversation between Ben Okri and Jeremy Corbyn at the Southbank.

We need a revolution in how we do politics: Getting the whole system into the room


We have a dysfunctional democracy. This adversely affects almost every aspect of our lives. We are failing to respond to the most important and urgent challenges facing us: the environmental crisis, economic and social injustice and a stagnant, unbalanced economy. We are a divided nation terms of prosperity, wellbeing and health. There is a huge gap between the City and South East and the rest of the country. Nor are we playing an effective part in the challenges facing the world: the environmental crisis, poverty, violent conflict and mass migration that can only grow. Failure could lead to human extinction. Dysfunctional democracy prevails in Europe and throughout the world. The biggest lesson is that we need to embrace difference.

And now we are confronted with the disastrous consequences of an irresponsible decision to hold a hurried and flawed referendum on Britain’s mebership of the EU.

We have a unique opportunity to create a new democracy that could a model for the world. We are in situation of creative chaos. At the end of WW 2, exceptionally gifted leaders created an astonishingly enlightened post-war settlement and institutions, not only for Britain but for the World. Amongst these leaders were Clement Attlee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George C. Marshall, John Maynard Keynes and Winston Churchill. The challenge facing the World today is even greater: the possibility of human extinction. In the UK, we need a new kind of leadership, new a ways of involving people and a new constitution. This article offers proposals.

Brexit was a huge protest vote. The message is clear: Westminster needs to listen. Neither of the two main parties listened to the diverse concerns of people in different parts of the country. The result was a huge protest vote. There are similar messages from people all over Europe and the USA. Ultimately if people feel unheard and unrepresented, it can lead to violence as we see in Syria with appalling consequences and recently in Turkey. Brexit will be a huge distraction and diversion of resources from far more important and urgent issues. This flawed referendum was the wrong process for dealing with such a vitally important and complex issue (the decision to hold it was partly motivated by party as opposed to national interests). Prospect Magazine articles on Brexit are especially illuminating, including Welcome to New Britain – The referendum was the start of a national re-alignment of British politics http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/features/welcome-to-new-britain-rachel-sylvester-eu-referendum and the articles that follow.


People want a different kind of politics. Our antiquated politics is adversarial when collaboration is needed. Parties focus on winning elections and pander to the ill-informed rather than providing far- sighted leadership. Parties put self-interest before national interests.


Both Labour and Tory parties are riven by conflict. Neither is effectively responding to or uniting their diverse membership. Labour, tearing itself apart, is unable to fulfil its role as the official Opposition. Both parties need to respond to what the public, especially younger and more progressive people are telling them.  Such people dislike an adversarial, often abusive, approach. Jeremy Corbyn who has attracted huge numbers of new members has been trying to respond to that. Sadly this behaviour continues: Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn are in conflict.  And “Trot” and “looney left” do not go down well. Whoever wins in the leadership election is unlikely to satisfy all members. If Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected, probably by an even larger margin, a split between the crusading and restraining forces is likely. That will not be win/win for Labour, but might benefit the nation?


The first past the post voting system and belief in so-called majority rule led to a government, backed by less than 24 percent of those eligible to vote, inflicting extreme Neoliberal policies on the nation. Osborne’s harsh austerity would not have been possible but for this deficiency. Austerity continues to delay economic recovery, harms almost everyone except the very rich and damages every aspect of our society. Majority rule results in bad decisions and leaves at least half the public angry, frustrated and disengaged.


The first and most important requirement is to end first past the post and replace it with proportional representation. (Alternative Vote was not PR – a senseless proposal that was rightly rejected).  Already there are moves to bring this about through an alliance of MPs: Labour, Lib/Dem, SNP and Green, even some Tories. As Katie Ghose says in a new book, The Alternative: Towards a New Progressive Politics, https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/the-alternative Britain is not just the only country in Europe to use First Past the Post for national elections. England is now the only nation of the UK to use it for its main elections. She also points out that Proportional Representation would enable the main strands of public opinion to be represented throughout the country.


A National Constitutional Convention Green MEP Molly Scott Cato says one of the ideas being talked about is a National Constitutional Convention to bring citizens and politicians together to discuss the democratic future of the UK. Given the time it will take to agree a new relationship with the EU, now seems the ideal time for communities to discuss our future outside, or indeed inside, the EU. Such a process could genuinely help to heal the deep and painful divisions that were created and exacerbated during the referendum campaign. We need to create opportunities to introduce fully participatory processes to inform and decide on the many important and far-reaching decisions about our post-Brexit shared future with the rest of Europe.


A new kind of leadership is needed in the 21st Century, a transformative, enabling leadership that embraces the full diversity of the nation. We also need to adopt the principle of involving all stakeholders in bringing about change. Surely the lesson of the past thirty years is clear: Imposed change does not work.  Many initiatives imposed by successive governments failed because people “on the ground” were not properly involved from the start. Dedicated people have become alienated and exhausted. Many chosen other work, adding to existing shortages of skilled people and the pressures on overburdened and underfunded organisations. The latest example is Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to impose a seven day week on junior doctors.


From Hero to Host Our concept of leadership needs to move From Hero to Host – a leadership that enables people to empower themselves, releasing their creative energy and, by resolving conflict, the power of love. Love is a powerful force: love of one’s work and love of colleagues. Servant Leadership Margaret Wheatley describes this in her article From Hero to Host http://margaretwheatley.com/library/articles/leadership-in-age-of-complexity/ . We need to embed servant leadership throughout society, in place of greed. Excessive consumption is driving us towards extinction.


Get the whole system into the room and involve all stakeholders. This is an essential principle for creating change that enables people to build consensus and create solutions that work and meet everyone’s needs. Likewise, leaders of political parties and members need to value difference and recognise the importance of “getting the whole system into the room”. Future Search https://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Search-Getting-System-Commitment/dp/1605094285 is an excellent approach for building consensus on the best way forward.


Consensus Design Another approach is Christopher Day’s Consensus Design  http://www.christopherday.eu/consensus-design. In essence this enables people to listen to each other with respect and reach consensus. They come “into the room” with one view of what needs to be done and by listening with respect, instead of trying to win the argument, they come to a different and far better solution.


Many of these approaches are described my book Making a Difference: Strategies and Tools for Transforming Your Organisation  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Difference-Strategies-Transforming-Ornisation/dp/1852523727

So, what can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Lobby all parties demanding their commitment to comprehensive constitutional reform in the next Parliament.
  • Support the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy, The Citizens Assembly Project, Assemblies for Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 5050 Parliament and Voice4 Change.
  • Support Polly Higgins’s campaign for the UN Ecocide law – the fifth crime against peace.
  • Subscribe to the New Economics Foundation, Compass, Positive Money, Global Justice Now and Jubilee Debt Campaign, James Robertson’s inspiring Newsletter http://jamesrobertson.com/newsletter.htm . Visit Robert Greenleaf Servant Leadership http://www.greenleaf.org.uk/about.php .
  • Use 38 Degrees, Change.org and Avaaz to petition and lobby.

Bruce Nixon is an author, writer and speaker. He gives participative talks in communities, universities schools and at conferences. There is more about transforming politics in Chapter 9 Transforming democracy in his recent book The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness   http://www.brucenixon.com/21stCenturyRevolution.html  



On Friday 15th July, I went to a conversation between Ben Okri and Jeremy Corbyn at the Southbank.

The auditorium was packed. The majority were young. They clapped, whistled and cheered. Most of the rest of us got infected and began to do likewise – I can’t whistle or I would have done. It was wonderful to be in that packed, huge auditorium, listening to these two men in such sane, intelligent, loving, respectful and profound conversation about the things that most matter.


The two of them expressed much of what I stand for, profoundly believe in and hope for. The event restored my sanity, hope, and belief that things can be better and humanity is on a long walk to a better world despite all the fallings to the wayside and almost daily horror of mass killings.


But I often lose my self-belief. I get knocked down by all the “bad news” from a traditional media that is too often sensational, cynical and hostile to what is fresh, hopeful and progressive. Basically it is too challenging for them. Like some of Jeremy’s opponents, “they don’t get it”.


It showed Jeremy at his best. It gave me a fresh insight as to who he is. He is a thought leader, one of the pioneers who generally meet with a hostile reception because they are disruptive. He is not a dangerous old “lefty” whatever that means. People like Jeremy are often decried as unrealistic. But it is people Ben and Jeremy who change the world. That is the lesson of history: idealists transform the world – people like Mary Wolstenholme, Wilberforce, the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King and Keir Hardy who started the Labour party. But it also requires people like Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee.


Jeremy is one of these “progressive or crusading forces”. But is Jeremy able to lead a deeply divided and diverse Labour party that is currently split in so many ways – like the Tory party? Thought leaders are not necessarily: transformative, enabling leaders who can unite people in their diversity. Diversity needs to be welcomed; “restraining forces” or “opposing forces” must be respected and valued. There is a useful phrase: “I go in with one view; I come out with a different one”. Collaboration and consensus needs to be built. That is the task of leadership. Reconciling those two forces is the big issue for Labour – and the nation. Can Jeremy do that that within his own party? That is the challenge confronting him. Also the party must reconcile the difference between its MPs and its members. In the past 48 hours Labour has received more than some 183,541 applications to vote in the party’s forthcoming leadership election.


As I have said elsewhere, progressive politicians need to put aside their party interests and collaborate to bring about a better Britain, a better Europe and a better world.


Bruce Nixon is the author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness Published by Acorn Independent Publishing.


We could be at the beginning of a benign revolution in politics

The result of the EU referendum has further exposed huge flaws in the way we do politics. There is widespread dissatisfaction with how we do politics and desire for radical change – even more so after the referendum. Then there is the question of the validity of a referendum on such a complex issue as our membership of the EU discussed in Richard Dawkins’ Prospect article Brexit Roulette – How dare you entrust such an important decision to ignoramuses like me? This dire situation was brought about by a Government elected with the support of less than 24% of the electorate, arguably for party political reasons, rather than in the interests of the nation.


I go further and challenge our current belief in so-called majority government. I believe in the principle of getting the whole system into the room i.e. all stakeholders in order to create solutions that will have the largest support and be most likely to work. The absence of this approach over the past thirty years has led to conflict and failure to resolve key challenges facing the nation. Recent examples include the alienation of teachers and young doctors many of whom, despite their dedication, are finding their working life intolerable.


Given the great challenges (and opportunities) humanity faces, collaboration and consensus building rather than continuous conflict is required as I argue in my blog post Is Majority Rule fit for the 21st Century?


The EU referendum produced a 72.2 % turnout, a Leave vote of 51.9% and 48.1 % for Remain- a difference of just 2.8%. Furthermore, 28% did not vote. With such a small margin, surely Parliament can decide not to implement the result of a referendum which is only advisory. Brexit loophole? MPs must still vote in order for Britain to leave the EU, say top lawyers . The Leave vote is described as a majority. In detail the results reveal a deeply divided nation. It can also be interpreted as a strong protest against the Westminster establishment, their failure to represent the whole nation or listen to and act on the concerns of many people about many issues. That always leads to trouble. Such worries include the consequences of globalisation and new technology on employment. The internet of things and zero marginal cost may revolutionise work even further The Zero Marginal Cost Society There is also the failure to present an inspiring and positive vision of a radically reformed EU that addresses the major concerns of all member countries. Positive strategies to address all these issues need to be developed and presented to the public.


We could be at the beginning of a benign transformation in British politics. Corbyn calls the 100,000-strong surge in Labour supporters since the EU referendum as evidence of a “political sea change”. Labour supporters now stand at over 500,000 – their highest membership in modern times. Labour could split unless it reconciles the differences between their members and MPs. I agree with Paul Hilder’s article Progressive voters must ditch party differences to gain a voice in Brexit Britain. It’s time for politicians and activists to put aside their tribal loyalties.


Corbynism is an interesting phenomenon – a refreshing force for change, with much in common with emerging leaders in other European countries. I admire him for his strong values and integrity with which many people, especially the young, are in great sympathy. He deserves credit for recruiting large numbers of people to Labour and making Labour a people’s party. Some of his colleagues simply don’t get it! He is a very different kind of leader. We need transformative leaders who offer a vision and enable others to do likewise. They are not necessarily charismatic – Attlee, arguably one of the great 20th Century leaders, was not charismatic. Charisma can be dangerous as we are seeing through the Chilcot report on the Iraq war. Of course Corbyn has his flaws – we all do. Whether he could lead Labour in a successful election campaign is a big question that could be tested very soon.


I believe we need an alliance of progressive people who want a sustainable, fair and truly democratic Britain. Such an alliance is needed for radical constitutional reform that is required if we are to have progressive government. How refreshing it would be if we bring about such an alliance in the next Parliament. In my blog post We need a new Magna Carta to give power to the people  I argue for a new written constitution.


There are grounds for hope. Following the devastating criticisms of the Chilcot Report it is arguable that that the British state is at an all-time low. Furthermore, we lack the great leadership needed to address impending environmental catastrophe, the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It is at times like these, and the public are ready to support them, that great leaders emerge. Remember it was only after the catastrophe of Dunkirk and the general incompetence of government was clear that the two greatest British leaders of the Twentieth Century, Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee emerged. The war was won and the Britain’s much admired post-war social settlement was established.


To make this happen, all of us need to get engaged in whatever way we can – and challenge the feeling that this is all too idealistic and there is nothing we can do. Hope and idealism have bought humanity a long way; so-called realism has not!


Acknowledgment: I was inspired to write this blog post after reading Mary Dejevsky’s recent article in the Independent An astonishing power vacuum has let us down as a continent looks on.


Bruce Nixon is the author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness Published by Acorn Independent Publishing.


The sad result of UK’s EU Referendum must be changed

Leave 51.9%; 48.1 Remain demonstrates the need for consensus, not adversarial politics and constitutional reform. Many people are now in despair, especially young people who see their prospects damaged. Many people have not been heard and their concerns have not been addressed. Britain is a deeply divided nation.
Already, over 4 million people have signed the petition for a new referendum. The problem is that referendums are divisive. Now there is a call for an early General Election.

Citizens must demand that the political parties commit to comprehensive constitutional reform in the next Parliament. Look at this call for Constitutional Reform

Is Majority Rule fit for the 21st Century?



Building a Good Europe

The debate about Britain’s future in Europe is full of fear, misinformation and often abuse. Many people are confused. Time is short.  So I am posting this blog to give voice to a hopeful, imaginative vision. I hope Brits will come to their senses and in the referendum vote clearly for Remain in Europe.

Brits are Europeans: we fought and died in WW2 to save Europe from dictatorship and Nazi crimes. The EU was set up to create collaboration, prevent more war and, like the UN, create a better more peaceful and prosperous future for everyone. Today we face enormous challenges which require collaboration: climate chaos, destruction of the ecosystem, the danger of nuclear war, a growing divide between rich and poor and mass migration. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the number of people displaced worldwide has hit a new record, with 65.3 million people forced from their home as of the end of 2015.

Rather than complaining and fighting amongst ourselves, often abusively, we Brits should play a constructive part in building a Good Europe, for ourselves, our children and their children and the World. Here are constructive proposals of Compass – together for a good society, http://www.compassonline.org.uk/  created by its members.

Building a Good Europe

A more hopeful, imaginative, inspiring discussion about Europe

Executive summary


This publication draws on ideas discussed online at www.goodeurope.org. We also held a participatory event for around 100 people, when the themes we address were debated in small working groups. A summary of the responses from this event is given at the end of each policy essay. The full PDF is here http://www.goodeurope.org/report/


Visions of a Good Europe

We need to re-imagine what a Good Europe would look and feel like. The creation of the EU set the direction for peace and trade in the 20th century. But today Europe is failing to respond adequately to the huge crises we now face – from Syria to Greece, refugees to austerity, and climate change. The purpose of the EU must be re-established for the 21st century. We explore how a Good Europe can meet the demands for social justice, democracy and sustainability.

How we experience life at the European level is inextricably linked with the EU, which has not always been as it is now. Its structure is not inevitable: it was created and can be recreated. As it reforms it must become a Europe for the people by the people, to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Europe is not just a place, it’s a story we tell each other. By nature it’s a cultural construct and this will shape its evolution. A Good Europe will be a continent-wide expression of what it means to be human in the 21st century. It will be relational, not transactional. Solidarity will transcend borders as we work together to bring about a better world that is underpinned by the original intentions behind the EU (peace, human rights and equality) but more fair, green and democratic, where security and freedom will go hand in hand.

Radical, feasible policies

We need transformative policy ideas to unlock the vision of what a Good Europe could look and feel like. These are the big-hitting policies that could lead to a fundamental transformation of the EU in the 21st century.

Democracy is the biggest weakness of the European project, yet also its potential deliverer. The EU must do democracy better – and do it fast. We should insist that democratic legitimacy is the axis on which the EU turns. A Good Europe must adopt democracy as its founding value – and be open to a number of key changes this will bring. Specifically:

  • The EU must become more transparent
  • European Parliament, EU Council and other meetings should be live recorded
  • All treaty documents should be made public
  • The register for lobbyists must become compulsory
  • The institutions of the EU must place democracy at their heart
  • European Parliament should be able to propose legislation
  • European Parliament should have two chambers: one directly elected proportional to population, the other selected by member state’s parliaments
  • We need to move beyond representation to direct participation
  • A Constitutional Assembly drawing citizens from across the continent should consider all the options for democracy in the EU and make recommendations/decisions

The European project is an embodiment of the flourishing of potential that can be achieved when a commitment to the free movement of people across national borders is implemented. Yet misguided policies and a lack of coordination at the European level have led to many problems. We must have renewed coordination and solidarity between the member states and with migrant populations, to find policies which are more sustainable and lead to better outcomes for all. We should:

  • Implement a rights-based refugee response
  • End immigration detention in the EU
  • Create a social rights pillar
  • Create conditions where people don’t feel they have to leave their country to have a good life, for example, a universal income for all in Europe
  • Throughout each aspect of the discussion of migration we must face up to and tackle issues including othering, racism and Islamophobia.

Europe works on a scale that provides a stepping stone between the national and the global – a vital role for the environment and sustainability. Europe must work harder to be more sustainable through:

  • Green Quantitative Easing (QE)
  • “Green QE” channels money directly into the green and low-carbon sector of the real economy
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) for real
  • Companies should be required to report on social and environmental risks and impacts, and not just their financial performance and outlook
  • Companies should be discouraged from short-termism in their decision-making through restricting shareholders’ voting rights to those who hold shares for a minimum period of at least a few years
  • Consumer behaviour change
  • Speaking about the environment and the economy together

How can solidarity in Europe be (re)created? Our model should be the Nordic welfare states, premised on progressive taxation funding universal benefits and services. The EU may have state-like qualities but it is a much more modest entity than a state. Yet, elements of ‘radical redistribution can be inserted into its architecture. The areas that present opportunities to cultivate solidarity are:

  • Jobs and wages
  • All adults in the union should be guaranteed employment, re-education/retraining or other (remunerated) social participation
  • European-wide minimum wage of 50% of average national income
  • Universal childcare across the union as a progressively introduced entitlement
  • Social Insurance
  • Every European citizen should be issued with their own social insurance card for protection when they move from state to state, like the European Heath Insurance Card

Few people believe that Europe is safe from a future financial crisis, or that the EU’s economy is performing as well as it could be. However, the EU can deliver reforms that would not be possible for individual countries:

  • Facilitate new business models and best practises to spread quickly
  • Promote a more diverse eco-system of bank business models in Europe
  • Establish a Europe-wide authority to regulate financial transactions, developing a more networked approach

The EU could also:

  • Require banks to fund themselves with more capital
  • Provide finance for a social purpose, for example, encouraging the development and use of local currencies

How does change happen?

When dreaming of our new vision for a Good Europe and fleshing out the policies that will help us get there we must consider how change happens. Making change happen is never simple or easy but when dealing with a set of transnational institutions it becomes very complex. We cannot simply look to one tactic, institution, party or ‘silver bullet’ policy.

The elements of making change happen include: changing the discourse, looking for opportunities and creating a European demos – a public sphere for European citizens to debate, discussion, decide and act.

Sovereignty has long escaped national borders and is never coming back. Power and politics have been separated. As tough as it is, we have to create transnational democratic, political and economic platforms.