Democracy is in Crisis. How we can fix it.

Democracy is in crisis. In the Middle East the Arab Spring inspired high hopes that were dashed and resulted in violence and failed states. Populism has emerged all over Europe and USA where it has led to the Trump phenomenon. In the UK a democratic crisis has come to a head over Brexit. It has exposed the need for fundamental economic and social reform, a fair voting system and a new written constitution.

Undoubtedly the EU is a flawed institution. Whilst it has many good features, the EU systematically transfers wealth from southern countries – Greece, Italy and Spain – to the north. Under the current Greek recovery programme of the Troika it is impossible for that country to recover (DiEm25). Radical reform is needed of a resistant EU. Nevertheless for the UK Brexit will be an act of self-harm, particularly damaging to the lives of young and poorer people. It is vital that the UK has a seat at the EU table and plays a constructive part in bringing about fundamental change. Given the environmental dangers that are becoming all too clear, and the threat of nuclear war, the UK needs to work with Europe and not isolate itself.

The Brexit process is undemocratic. Brexit is being inflicted on us in a profoundly undemocratic way. A C Grayling thinks This Brexit mess has gone far enough.
His new book Democracy and Its Crisis is available now.

The constant refrain – Brexit is the will of the people – is nonsense. Astonishingly, it goes almost entirely unchallenged inside Parliament and in the media. Repetition again and again, whenever the issue is discussed on the BBC, reinforces a falsehood in people’s minds. Anyone who repeats this mantra is knowingly or unknowingly supporting the oligarchy’s grip on power in the UK.

Such a major constitutional change as Brexit would, in most nations, require a two thirds majority. Instead we have a minority government pushing it through without a proper mandate. The facts are that 51.9% voted for Brexit and 48.1% voted for Remain a difference of only 3.8%; Only 37% of the 46 million electorate voted for Brexit. Furthermore, the public mood is changing as the complexities and consequences emerge.
The UK is deeply divided in multiple ways as voting patterns have shown The Glorious Referendum on the EU – Why it doesn’t represent the will of the people and Brexit vote explained: poverty, low skills and lack of opportunities and Worst-off people and places cannot now be ignored ..

Many people in the UK are deeply depressed, afraid of the consequences for them and our children. What is happening is alien to British values. Our European friends working here feel unwelcome; many are leaving. Under the first past the post voting, half of us feel unrepresented by their MP and this government. Under the current system, half our votes are wasted (June’s election was the third strike for Westminster’s voting system. It’s out) . Many are totally disaffected with politics.

A courageous statesman/woman would say: We were wrong. The referendum was flawed and inappropriate. Citizens did not and could not have had the necessary information about the consequences. We need to draw back and stop it. The referendum exposed Britain’s deep problems.

Britain’s economic model is broken and produces widespread inequality, says a new report from the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice. Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy presents an analysis of what it calls ‘The British economic muddle’ and concludes that fundamental economic reform is needed, on a par with the Attlee reforms of the 1940s and those of Thatcher in the 1980s.

We need fundamental constitutional reform. Already a political consensus is emerging. Courage and integrity are needed to enable this to happen. My two recent blogs address these issues: Collaborating for Change posted by Resurgence Ecologist  calls for a transformation in way we do politics. Progressive leadership for the 21st century calls for great leadership. But, as I argue in this piece, it seems that such leadership only emerges when the situation is dire and there is readiness amongst citizens.

The future of politics. I believe we are at a significant turning point. This newly published book All Together Now sets out what could be the future of politics in the UK.

What can you do? Support the many campaigns for political reform and human rights     :Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 5050Parliament, Women’s Equality Party and Voice4 and Liberty, Compass ,The Progressive Alliance , Progressive Alliance, CommonGround – Fair, open, honest politics

 

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Progressive leadership for the 21st century

“The initiative will have to come from below. I only know the right men – and women I say –  will be there when the people say they really want the,for it is the movements that make leaders and not leaders movements. A real shove from below will accomplish it”. George Orwell, The English Revolution.

1940

Great leadership in mid – 20th century and how it emerged

Dunkirk. The Dunkirk disaster in 1940 resulted from incompetent leadership. Following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation, Winston Churchill, hitherto in the wilderness thinking his career was over, emerged. An all-party coalition government headed by Churchill, supported by Clement Attlee, transformed the war machine. After the Pearl Harbour in 1941, USA led by Franklin D Roosevelt entered the war. British and U S industries were rapidly converted to wartime production. The Allies with overwhelmingly superior resources defeated Germany and later Japan.

The challenges facing leaders at the end of World War 2 were very different from those facing Britain today. Britain still had a vast empire and was a world power, though deeply in debt. It was bankrupt. The industrial economy was exhausted. Much of continental Europe was in a far worse state. There was a huge need for housing. The nation had to be better fed. Women, who had played a major part in the war effort, had yet to exert their influence on politics. The state had an all-powerful role in addressing these challenges. There was a national consensus about the need for a social security system. Clement Attlee led the introduction of a social settlement that became a model for the Western world.

In November 1942 William Beveridge, with cross-party support, produced  the Beveridge Report that formed the basis for the Welfare State, including the expansion of National Insurance and the creation of the National Health Service. It was highly popular with the public – another significant factor compared to today. The 1945 General election manifesto, “Let Us Face the Future” gave government and people a clear sense of direction and purpose, together with achievable immediate goals.  It is crucial to have both vision and a set of practical policies.

Often great individuals are not seen as great at the time. Attlee was understated. He had to ensure consensus was reached in Cabinet.  His skill lay in getting the best out of a team of great men.  He ensured their quarrelling did not undermine the government – rings a bell?  His “chairmanship” model was very effective. Now we need a totally different kind of settlement to which we consent and leadership that is not only transformative and far – sighted but enabling. More on this later.

 In the aftermath of the war, mindful of the1929 financial crash and Great Depression, Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, John Maynard Keynes and George Marshal were instrumental in creating the UN, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the International Monetary Fund. The Bretton Woods system of exchange rate management was created to provide exchange rate stability and survived until 1971.

2017

Again, great leadership is needed but of a different kind

Our second Dunkirk. Today’s challenges are far greater. Chief amongst these are climate chaos, destruction of the eco-system and the possibility of nuclear war. If we don’t wake up in time, humanity could face self-extinction through environmental destruction (An uninhabitable Earth ). We have been here before. Empires have disappeared as they destroyed the resources on which they depended for survival and expanded beyond their reach. This time it could be the whole of human kind.

 Humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths in one year to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate, through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester (Global Footprint Network ). Cooperation is needed more than ever. And just at this time we are choosing to withdraw from the EU which for all its faults was established to create cooperation, at that time to prevent another great war. Brexit is not only damaging this much needed framework for collaboration; it is diverting attention and energy away from the most urgent challenges.

Britain, now a small country, still has a vital part to play in tackling global threats: the environmental crisis, cyber war, mass migration and the tragic deaths of desperate people that result from poverty, civil war, and violent conflict. Leaders still need to learn that military interventions, for example in Iraq and Libya, rarely work and often have disastrous consequences, particularly when there is no long-term plan for building peace. This is a wonderful time to be alive, and more and more people are realising that they want to contribute to healing the planet and making it peaceful (Scilla Elworthy ). Yet many politicians have not even learned how to conduct dialogue without verbal abuse. They need to learn. (NVC ).

UK’s challenges. We are a deeply divided nation in multiple ways. Many feel left out, powerless and hopeless. Humans are hard wired for hope. It’s essential they have it. When they lack hope they fall into despair.

 We may be the fifth richest country in the world but what matters is GDP per head and the distribution of wealth. Wellbeing is vital (The Equality Trust ). UK scores poorly compared with other wealthy nations. We have dangerously high personal debt. Britain’s economy is broken. Our wealth largely derives from the financial sector and far too many people are living in poverty. We have a housing crisis of enormous proportions, originating in Mrs Thatcher’s badly thought out “right to buy” policy. Homes were sold off cheaply and not replaced. Local authorities are unable to build affordable homes for rent. Land that could be used for this purpose is being sold off by cash strapped local authorities, hospitals etc. The shortage and cost of homes is exacerbated by the property market and concentration of wealth in the south-east. Invariably policies are not rigorously thought through. In making policy, all stakeholders, the whole system and the best think tanks need to be involved. It’s is crazy that when a government changes, the work of dedicated people is swept away overnight. Serious consideration is being given to establishing independent commissions for key reforms too important to be at the whim of illiterate politicians.

Austerity is economic illiteracy and continues to do immense harm. It is widely recognised now that neoliberal policies, the dominant ideology of recent years, has failed to deliver prosperity and wellbeing for all. It systematically transfers wealth from those who create it  to the 1 percent – and similarly from southern to northern Europe and from poor to rich nations. Debt created by the banks, profiting from supplying 97 percent of our money, plays the major part in this transfer of wealth (Positive Money and Jubilee Debt ). Borrowing or using scandalously costly PFIs and PPPs for investment in infrastructure, schools and hospitals is unnecessary if Sovereign Money is used.

Great leadership may again emerge from incompetence. But only if we realise we are in a new century. We cannot turn the clock back and we must innovate in every way. A recent article in the Times described the Conservative government as criminally incompetent The Conservatives are criminally incompetent . Every day there is more evidence of the disastrous consequences of austerity and cuts on the lives of many ordinary people, the health service, maternity services, schools without sufficient resources, young people with emotional problems, social care and so it goes on. Grenfell is a wake – up call.

 Opportunities today are extraordinary. The scientific and technological revolution, comprising artificial intelligence, the internet of things, robotics, 4-D printing and continuous medical discoveries such as gene therapy could bring enormous benefits. Robotics could transform work for the better, eliminate unhealthy or unsafe work and enable a three day week and shorter working hours. William Morris’s utopian dream News from Nowhere  becomes possible.  Wealth will make a Universal Basic Income  possible. More people will be enabled to pursue work in the creative arts and caring work. Equally, rapid innovation could result in massive unemployment and transfer even more wealth and power to a new elite. The role of the state is to ensure outcomes benefit humanity as a whole.

Citizens are different from how they were in Attlee’s time. Deference is dead; people are more empowered, especially the young, many of whom are better educated. We live in a far more diverse society in every respect. The internet, although it can be evil, is transformational. It empowers people with information as never before. Thanks to sites like Fact Check and Full Fact fake truth can be exposed. People have more power to organise, lobby and petition. Today there are vast numbers of progressive organisations. More and more they are initiated and led by women and minorities. Many of these are democratic and use inclusive processes for decision making. The stage is no longer the conventional news media. Political parties are catching up, but not fast enough.

There is a constant stream of deeply shocking, depressing news. Yet, reality is far more is positive. The prevailing energy in the world is love. It is said that we live in the most peaceful era in history. However there are grave risks, especially from unpredictable, narcissistic and psychopathic pleaders.

There is no shortage of solutions. The obstacle is the lack farsighted leadership. More so-called ordinary people must inform, empower themselves and Dare to be great . Our representatives in Parliament need courage. Who dares say Brexit is not the will of the people? Who dares to say the people were not well informed? Or, Brexit must stop.

The UK is a good place in which to do business partly because of the rule of law. There is boundless creativity, resourcefulness and entrepreneurship. The people of Britain succeed despite poor government. Regions, cities, business leaders, universities and technical colleges, communities and individuals will just get on with creating prosperity and tackling environmental threats. They will do more if they feel they are part of a great national vision and are given enlightened support.

Crucially power and financial resources need to be devolved to regions, cities, towns and communities under the principle of subsidiarity. Now, instead of improving transport everywhere, central government is planning to spend vast sums on grandiose vanity schemes like HS2 that will largely benefit the south-east. Funding for the south-east is disproportionately high. London gets 24 times as much spent on infrastructure per resident than north- east England . A farsighted government needs to provide the enabling support that only government can provide for research, more appropriate education, innovation, and the woman and man power planning needed in the long term. This is what the most successful economies do.                                  

The 21st Century leader

Again, we need leadership that creates a new spirit of hope, a clear sense of direction and purpose, together with achievable immediate goals. Above all a great leader must be a far sighted, transformative, enabling host (Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host ) and courageous, courageous enough to say “Brexit is NOT the will of the people”. Even more impotant, the courageous leader would say ” We must live lightly on the planet”. Collaborative, embracing the whole nation. Leading a learning organisation; a learning nation. Able to admit when wrong; able to change her or his mind. A leader with compassion who recognises the need to live and work in the four rooms: heart, mind, spirit and body. Embracing diversity and welcoming difference. Difference makes the whole. Getting the whole system into the room, skilled in facilitating. Not putting party before nation. Bringing people and nations together, a servant leader. An internationalist. Above all she/he will clearly prioritise the need to prevent environmental disaster and present a new “Let Us Face the Future”.

How do we get there? We, citizens, must take responsibility and demand radical reform of our out-dated democracy. A government voted for by a minority of the electorate has no mandate. Proportional representation, long resisted, is the first step; this requires support for a Progressive Alliance . Comprehensive constitutional reform must follow.

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness

 

 

Collaborating for change

A new version Published in Resurgence Ecologist Issue 304 September/October 2017
Together We Are Stronger

Personal Opinion

In Britain, we need a revolution in how we do politics, argues Bruce Nixon, who offers his own, distinctive recipe for reform

 

We have a dysfunctional democracy in Britain. This adversely affects almost every aspect of our lives. Government is an obstacle, not an enabler. There is a lack of courageous, visionary leadership at the top. So we fail to address the most fundamental challenges facing us: above all the risk of human extinction through climate chaos, destruction of our habitat or nuclear war, economic and social injustice and failure to resolve conflict without violence. We need to ensure that everyone benefits from the Fourth Industrial Revolution — developments in medicine, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics — and that it does not give even greater power to the few.

 

Under the current form of democracy, half of us are unrepresented and disempowered. We are a divided nation in terms of prosperity, wellbeing, housing and health. There is a huge gap between London and the South East of England and the rest of the country. Swathes of former industrial heartlands continue to suffer generations of unemployment and deprivation.

 

Meanwhile, however, we are in the midst of a revolution in politics. There are more political parties and vast numbers of progressive political movements – largely under the radar of the conventional media. They involve thousands of young people and broadly equal numbers of women and men. Their processes are inclusive, not top-down. Their territories are mass gatherings, the internet and social media. Young people have voted in much greater numbers at the recent general election. Jeremy Corbyn, a disrupter, has grasped these changes and as a result the Labour Party benefitted.

 

We have a unique opportunity to create a new democracy, a model for the world. We need to focus on a vision for a better world, a good society, a good Europe and a good democracy. To achieve this, a new kind of leadership and new a ways of involving people are needed. The biggest lesson is: we need to collaborate and embrace difference. This article offers proposals.

Brexit was a huge protest vote

The message of last year’s Brexit referendum was clear: Westminster needed to listen. The two main parties had not listened to the diverse needs of people in different parts of the UK. Similar messages come from all over Europe and the United States. Ultimately if people feel unheard and unrepresented, it leads to violence. Brexit distracts from such vital issues as the possibility of human extinction through climate change or nuclear war, or the overuse of resources.

To say that “Brexit is the will of the people” is nonsense. Astonishingly, it goes almost entirely unchallenged inside Parliament and in the media. Repetition again and again, whenever the issue is discussed on the BBC, reinforces a falsehood in people’s minds. Anyone who repeats this mantra is knowingly or unknowingly supporting the oligarchy’s grip on power in the UK.

 

It was the will of only 51.9% of those who voted, many of whom had been grossly misled; certainly not the will of most people under 45. There is nowhere in the world where 37% of an electorate would constitute a mandate for such a major constitutional change. Generally a two thirds majority would be required. And the flawed referendum, inappropriate for such a complex issue, was only advisory. Polls now show a shift to Remain. Brexit is a disaster: which political leader has the courage to say this and demand that it is abandoned?

 

People want a different kind of politics

The wrong kind of people get into political leadership. Instead of providing far – sighted strategic leadership, they focus on winning and holding on to power. Politics is adversarial whereas collaboration is needed. There is widespread dislike of adversarial, often abusive, debate. Debate is half-truth, often untruth. Verbal abuse is a form of violence. We need to listen and learn. No single party has a monopoly of wisdom. As Satish Kumar says, opposites make the whole.

 

The two main political parties have been riven by conflict

Rather than fight among themselves, they need to value their diverse membership and listen. They also need to respond to the diverse voices among their own constituents: business people, people in the public sector, the general public, especially younger people, people who are suffering most and progressive people. Difference makes the whole.

 

‘One party rule’ is out of date

 

 In 2015 the first-past-the-post voting system led to a Conservative government, backed by less than 24% of those eligible to vote, continuing to inflict neoliberal policies on the nation. Continuing harsh austerity measures would have been impossible but for this deficiency. Austerity, an illiterate policy in a recession, obstructs economic recovery, harms the most vulnerable and is damaging every aspect of our society. Majority rule results in poor decisions and leaves at least half of us feeling angry, frustrated and disengaged. A divided country is an unhealthy one. We now face two years of uncertainty and as Professor Sir Cary L Cooper says, uncertainty leads to psychological stress.

 

We need a clear vision of what a good democracy looks like

This is mine:

  • A written Constitution
  • Citizen-led Conventions to determine the Constitution.
  • Parliament the principal decision-making body of government
  • The Prime Minister should be head of a government elected by Parliament as a whole
  • Proportional representation voting systems for national, regional and local government
  • 50:50 representation for women and proportionate representation for black, Asian and ethnic minorities.
  • Devolution of power from Westminster to regions and local government
  • An elected reviewing chamber
  • All elected politicians should be liable to recall by their electorate.
  • A cap on individual funding of political parties, and complete disclosure
  • End the so-called “revolving door” allowing politicians and senior civil servants to move swiftly to top jobs in the private sector
  • Votes from age 16
  • The rights of future generations to be recognised – see the work of the Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations for more on this.

Proportional Representation

 

Under a system of Proportional Representation, such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV), in Britain’s general election this year,  this would have been the distribution of seats (the actual result is given in brackets):

 

Conservatives 275 (318),

Labour 260 (262),

Liberal Democrats 48 (12),

Scottish National Party 19 (35),

Green Party 10 (1),

UKIP 11 (0),

Plaid Cymru 3 (4),

Democratic Unionist Party 5 (10)

Sinn Fein 4 (7)

 

(source: Make Votes Matter).

 

It’s a condemnation of the political class that they have resisted reform for so long. Again, courageous leadership is needed.

 

Proportional Representation would have had a similar effect in the 2015 general election. The Conservatives would still have been the largest party, but their  37% of votes should never have been equal to 51% of seats in a real democracy.

 

The first and most important step is to replace the first-past-the-post system

Britain is the only country in Europe using FPP for national elections. Proportional Representation would enable the main strands of public opinion to be better represented. In the run-up to the 2017 election, Compass: together for a Good Society led a Progressive Alliance of parties working together that resulted in many progressive MPs being elected. Collaboration like this could help make PR happen.

 

A Constitutional Convention

 

We need fully participatory processes to make the many important and far-reaching decisions about our future. Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament, has called for a National Constutional Convention  to bring citizens and politicians together to discuss the democratic future of the UK. Given how long it will take to agree a new relationship with the EU, now seems a good time for communities to discuss our future outside or inside the EU. Such a process could help heal the deep and painful divisions created and exacerbated during the referendum campaign.

 

A new kind of leadership is needed in the 21st Century

 

Courageous, transformative, enabling leadership is needed that embraces the full diversity of the nation. Leaders need to involve all stakeholders in bringing about change. Imposed change does not work:  many initiatives imposed by successive governments have failed because people “on the ground” were not properly involved from the start. Dedicated people become alienated and exhausted. Some choose other work, adding to shortages of skilled people and the pressures on overburdened and underfunded organisations. A recent example was Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to impose a seven-day week on junior doctors.

 

An enabling state

 

Most initiatives required to create prosperity are created by individuals and communities, not the state.  The state’s role is to enable. Our concept of leadership must be one 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, workplace, colleagues and love of one’s country. Margaret Wheatley describes this well in her article Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host .

 

Servant leadership

 

In place of greed, we need to embed servant leadership throughout society. Excessive consumption is driving us towards extinction. Prosperity must be redefined as wellbeing. We need to live lightly on the Earth. Today we need about 1.6 planets’ worth to provide the resources for our consumption and absorb our waste. But which party leader has the courage to say this?

 

Getting the whole system into the room and involving all stakeholders

 

This is a principle for creating change. It enables people to build consensus and create solutions that work for everyone. Leaders need to value difference and recognise the importance of “getting the whole system into the room”. Future Search is such an approach.  In his book Consensus Design  Christopher Day describes how people start with one view of what needs to be done and by listening with respect, instead of trying to win the argument, come to a different and far better solution.

 

If you want more information on the ideas I’ve outlined here, look up the following organisations. I don’t necessarily subscribe to all of their policies or suggestions, but they suggest new ways of approaching our political problems:

 

  • Britain for Europe
  • Centre for European Reform
  • Electoral Reform Society
  • Make Votes Matter
  • Open Britain
  • Servant Leadership UK
  • The Convention
  • The Progressive Alliance: Together for a good society
  • UK in a Changing Europe

 

 

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness

 

 

 

 

Views expressed in Opinion columns may not necessarily represent those of The Resurgence Trust.

 

 

 

Collaborating for Change: We need a revolution in how we do politics

SUMMARY

We have a dysfunctional democracy. This adversely affects almost every aspect of our lives. Government is an obstacle, not an enabler. There is a lack of courageous, visionary leadership at the top. So we fail to address the most fundamental challenges facing us: above all the risk of human extinction through climate chaos, destruction of our habitat or nuclear war, economic and social injustice and failure to resolve conflict without violence. We need to ensure that everyone benefits from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (developments in medicine, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics) and does not give even greater power to the few.

Under the current form of democracy half of us are unrepresented and disempowered. We are a divided nation in terms of prosperity, wellbeing, housing and health. There is a huge gap between the City and South East and the rest of the country. Swathes of former industrial heartlands continue to suffer generations of unemployment and deprivation.

We are in the midst of a revolution in politics. There are more political parties and vast numbers of progressive political movements – largely under the radar of the conventional media. They involve thousands of young people and broadly equal numbers of women and men. Their processes are inclusive not top down. Their territories are mass gatherings, the internet and social media. Young people have decided to vote. Jeremy Corbyn, a disrupter, has grasped these changes and Labour has benefitted. However does Labour fully understand the need for a 21st Century economy that is entirely different from that of the previous century?

We have a unique opportunity to create a new democracy, a model for the world. We need to focus on a vision for a better world, a good society, a good Europe and a good democracy. To achieve this, a new kind of leadership and new a ways of involving people are needed. The biggest lesson is: we need to collaborate and embrace difference. This article offers proposals.

————————————————————————————————————————–

 Brexit was a huge protest vote. The message was clear: Westminster needed to listen. The two main parties had not listened to the diverse needs of people in different parts of the UK. Similar messages come from all over Europe and the USA. Ultimately if people feel unheard and unrepresented, it leads to violence as in the Middle East. Brexit, essentially a Tory party issue, distracts from the vital issues. “Brexit is the will of the people” is nonsense. It was the will of only 51.9% of those who voted, many of whom had been misled; certainly not the will of most people under 45. There is nowhere in the world where 37% of an electorate or 26 % of the population, would constitute a mandate for such a major constitutional change (Thanks to A C Grayling’s article in the New European). And the flawed referendum, inappropriate for such a complex issue, was only advisory. Polls now show a shift to Remain. Brexit is a disaster. What political leader has the courage to say this and demand that it is abandoned?

People want a different kind of politics. The wrong kind of people get into political leadership. Instead of providing far – sighted strategic leadership, they focus on winning and holding on to power. Politics is adversarial whereas collaboration is needed. There is widespread dislike of adversarial, often abusive, debate. Debate is half-truth, often untruth. Verbal abuse is a form of violence. We need to listen and learn. No single party has a monopoly of wisdom. As Satish Kumar says, opposites make the whole.

 The two main political parties have been riven by conflict. They need to value their diverse membership. They need to respond to what businesses, the public, especially younger people, people who are suffering most and progressive people are telling them.

One party rule is out of date. In 2015 the first past the post voting system led to a Tory government, backed by less than 24 percent of those eligible to vote, continuing to inflict Neoliberal policies on the nation. Continuing harsh austerity would have been impossible but for this deficiency. Austerity, an illiterate policy in a recession, obstructs economic recovery, harms the most vulnerable and is damaging every aspect of our society. Majority rule results in poor decisions and leaves at least half of us feeling angry, frustrated and disengaged. A divided country is an unhealthy one. We now face two years of uncertainty and as Professor Sir Cary L Cooper says uncertainty leads to psychological stress.

We need a clear vision of what a good democracy looks like.

  • A written Constitution
  • Citizen-led Conventions to determine the Constitution.
  • Parliament the principal decision-making body of Government
  • First Minister as head of Government elected by Parliament as a whole
  • Proportional representation for national, regional and local government
  • 50:50 representation for women and proportionate representation for Black, Asian and ethnic minorities.
  • Devolution of power from Westminster to regions and local government
  • An elected reviewing chamber
  • “Total recall” for all elected politicians
  • A cap on individual funding and complete disclosure
  • End the so-called “revolving door”
  • Votes from age 16
  • The Rights of Future Generations to be recognised

 Proportional Representation Under Proportional Representation, such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in the 2017 election this would have been the distribution of seats (actual in brackets): Conservatives 275 (318), Labour 260 (262), Lib Dem 48 (12), SNP19 (35), Green 10 (1), UKIP 11 (0), Plaid Cymru 3 (4), DUP 5 (10) Sinn Fein 4 (7) (source Make Votes Matter). Progressive parties would have had an overwhelming majority of seats. It’s a condemnation of the political class that they have resisted reform for so long. Again, courageous leadership is needed.

PR would have had a similar effect in the 2015 election. The Conservatives would still have been the largest party, but 37% of votes should never have been equal 51% of seats in a real democracy.

The first and most important step is to replace First Past the Post. Britain is the only country in Europe using FPP for national elections. Proportional Representation would enable the main strands of public opinion to be better represented throughout the country. In the run-up to the 2017 election, Compass: together for a Good Society led a Progressive Alliance of parties working together that resulted in many progressive MPs being elected. Collaboration like this could help make PR happen.

A Constitutional Convention We need fully participatory processes to make the many important and far-reaching decisions about our future. Molly Scott Cato Green MEP calls for National Constitutional Convention  to bring citizens and politicians together to discuss the democratic future of the UK. Given how long it will take to agree a new relationship with the EU, now seems a good time for communities to discuss our future outside or inside the EU. Such a process could help heal the deep and painful divisions created and exacerbated during the referendum campaign.

 A new kind of leadership is needed in the 21st Century: courageous, transformative, enabling leadership that embraces the full diversity of the nation. Leader need to involve all stakeholders in bringing about change. 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 become alienated and exhausted. Some choose other work, adding to shortages of skilled people and the pressures on overburdened and underfunded organisations. A recent example was Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to impose a seven day week on junior doctors.

An enabling state Most initiatives required to create prosperity are created by individuals and communities, not the state.  The state’s role is to enable. Our concept of leadership must be one 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, workplace, colleagues and love of one’s country. Margaret Wheatley describes this well in her article Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host .

Servant Leadership In place of greed, we need to embed servant leadership throughout society. Excessive consumption is driving us towards extinction. Prosperity must be redefined as wellbeing. We need to live lightly on the Earth. Today we need about 1.6 planets worth to provide the resources for our consumption and absorb our waste. Which party leader has the courage to say this?

Getting the whole system into the room and involving all stakeholders. This is a principle for creating change. It enables people to build consensus and create solutions that work for everyone. Leaders need to value difference and recognise the importance of “getting the whole system into the room”. Future Search is such an approach.  In his book Consensus Design Christopher Day describes how people start with one view of what needs to be done and by listening with respect, instead of trying to win the argument, come to a different and far better solution.

What you can do – support:

  • Britain for Europe
  • Centre for European Reform
  • DiEM25
  • Electoral Reform Society
  • Make Votes Matter
  • Open Britain
  • Servant Leadership UK
  • The Convention
  • The Progressive Alliance: Together for a good society
  • UK in a Changing Europe

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness –  Oxford Alumni Book of the Month November 2016   

 

 

Leadership for the 21st Century

The Challenges and Opportunities

The challenges facing leaders at the end of World War 2 were very different from those facing Britain today. Britain still had a vast empire and was a world power, though deeply in debt as a result of war. It was bankrupt. The industrial economy was exhausted. There was a huge need for housing, and the nation had to be better fed. Women, who had played a very large part in the war effort, had yet to exert their influence on politics. The state had an all-powerful role in addressing these challenges. There was a national consensus about the need for a social security system. Clement Attlee led the introduction of a social settlement that became a model for the Western world.

Now we need a different kind of settlement to which we consent and leadership that is not only transformative but enabling.

Today’s challenges are very different: climate chaos and destruction of the ecosystem, growing economic injustice, mass migration resulting from climate change, poverty, and civil war, and the need to resolve conflict without violence. We have learned from the disastrous consequences of military intervention in Iraq. Cyber interventions are a new threat. And we are at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution.  Also we live in a far more diverse society.

Humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths in one year to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate, through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester (Global Footprint Network ).

Austerity continues to do immense harm. It is widely recognised that free market capitalism and neoliberal policies, the dominant ideology of the past thirty years, have failed to deliver prosperity and wellbeing for all. Instead it is system that extracts wealth from those who create it and delivers it to the 1 percent and from poor to rich nations. Debt created by the banks, profiting from supplying 97 percent of our money, plays a major part in this transfer of wealth (Positive Money)

 The scientific and technological revolution, comprising artificial intelligence, the internet of things, robotics and 4-D printing, could bring enormous benefits. Equally it could result in massive unemployment and transfer even more wealth and power to a new elite. It is the role of the state to ensure outcomes that benefit humanity as a whole.

Arguably the greatest threat to our survival is our capacity to commit mass suicide by destroying our habitat on Spaceship Earth (Anthropocene ) or through nuclear war.

There is a constant stream of deeply shocking and depressing news. Yet, in reality there is far more that is positive; the prevailing energy in the world is love. It is said that we live in the most peaceful era in history.

However many people are angry and disaffected. They feel they have little control over their lives, are unrepresented and left behind (NEF). The NHS is being dismantled without their consent (Independent) and Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill . They are fed up with ideological politics, parties at war with themselves and the abusive behaviour of politicians towards each other. The tradition of combative debate rather than constructive, respectful, dialogue is furthered by the ancient arrangement of opposing seats in the House of Commons.

The Age of Anger ( Guardian ). Clearly human beings are not wholly rational, nor are they wholly good. This is particularly evident in Syria and when a torrent of protest has been unleashed all over the West. As Satish Kumar says in his guided meditation, “All opposites complement and make the whole” (Youtube). We need a new philosophy( Resurgence) . We must go beyond self-interest and embrace the idea of mutual interest.

There is no shortage of solutions. It is the lack of far-sighted strategic leadership that gets in the way. The people of Britain succeed despite poor government. Britain is a good place to do business, partly because of the rule of law. There is boundless creativity, resourcefulness and entrepreneurship. Communities are solving their own problems, and more will do so given enlightened support. Power and resources need to be devolved to regions, cities, towns and communities under the principle of subsidiarity

Given all these challenges and opportunities, the need for radical reform of our out-dated democracy is overdue. A government voted for by only 24 percent of the electorate has no mandate and cannot represent the UK as a whole. Proportional representation is the first essential. To bring this about a Progressive Alliance is needed. Progressives all over Europe need to communicate, discuss and exchange ideas in the coming years.

New Politics in the Age of Consent

In The Age of Consent Helena Kennedy QC explores the key idea of consent in our politics, law, media and digital lives.

Have we, a diverse United Kingdom of nations and very different regions and cities, young people and old, really given our consent to Brexit? And what about those who did not vote – the not heard? Did we have the necessary information to give our consent? Did the state discharge its responsibility? Especially, when consent needs to be informed and much of the essential information will emerge over the next two years. People cannot yet have a full understanding of what is in front of them. When the full consequences of Brexit becomes clear, a courageous leader might decide to consult the public again through a second referendum and be prepared to help the nation do a U-turn. Brexit is such a diversion of energy when there are far more urgent priorities to address.

Over the years, the parties have not listened to the diverse concerns and needs of people in different parts of the UK. Westminster was and is seen as out of touch. Similar patterns emerged all over Europe and in USA. The EU is inflexible and will have to change itself. Mainstream politics and economics have not adapted to the consequences of globalisation and the extractive process mentioned above. Whilst globalisation has taken millions out of poverty it has destroyed many jobs in Western nations and created generations of joblessness in some communities. Parties need to be democratised. The new political party must aim to represent the full diversity of people in UK if we are to be a nation at ease with itself.

The Electoral Reform Society’s report Open Up: the future of the political party  argues that political parties need to be far more democratic.

 New Political Leadership

Above all Britain needs to be offered a unifying strategic vision that will address the nation’s problems many of which have persisted for years. Brexiters and Remainers both fail to grasp the challenges facing Britain 

Leadership in an age of complexity needs to be transformative and enabling. In the article Leadership in an age of complexity Meg Wheatley says leaders need to move from being heroes to hosts, from patriarchs to enablers.  Leaders need to be listeners; they need to listen to people in their organisations. Time and time again I hear people who work in organisations say “If only they would listen to us”. Political parties, through their MPs, need to listen to the wide variety of people in their constituencies, not just those who vote for them. Government also needs to listen and involve all stakeholders, those working on the ground, like teachers and health practitioners, and relevant think tanks.

Transformative, enabling leaders require presence, not charisma. Charisma can be dangerous as we know from examples of narcissistic or psychopathic leaders. They need to be experts in enabling people. Leaders need to involve people in creating their future. People support what they co-create . They need to get the whole system into the room in developing policies. It is folly to do otherwise. The state of Labour illustrates the need for the leadership to help the party focus on common ground.

Political leaders need to enable people to build shared vision and policy. To do so they must embrace difference and diversity, and value both crusading forces and restraining forces. Political leaders with integrity have a duty to put the long-term interests of the nation before the short term interests of the party. They need to make their organisations learning organisations. They have a responsibility to educate the nation and themselves and admit when they were wrong without being jeered at. There is no shame in changing one’s mind as someone seeking to learn must do. They need to be  Servant Leaders   also in UK

So what are the implications for the Labour Party? No party has a monopoly of wisdom. An effective opposition is vital in a democracy. The Labour party is tearing itself apart. In his article Why Corbyn’s leadership is being judged neither prematurely nor by the wrong standards Erick Shaw says its leader’s poll ratings are worse than for any comparable leader in British polling history.

“This mode of leadership requires a shrewed eye for opportunity, a good hand at bargaining, persuading, reciprocating. It demands an orientation to leadership governed by the ethic of responsibility, incorporating an open and conciliatory style of engagement, a capacity to modulate personal and political ambitions by patient calculation and realistic appraisal of situations and an overriding emphasis upon the importance of reaching consensus and coalition-building. It involves accommodating public opinion with membership preferences, regulating disagreements, astute political maneuvering and a capacity, above all, to hold the party together. Corbyn has merits – decency, honesty, integrity – but it is not at all evident that concept of leadership is what the party requires.”

Labour needs a leader with high credibility both within the party and amongst the public. Without that there is no chance of uniting the party. However, to be optimistic, the chances are that out of the current chaos, given the demands of supporters and others, leadership such as Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee provided after Dunkirk will emerge.

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

  • Collaboration works. Above all get involved in the Progressive Alliance movements in UK and elsewhere
  • Lobby all parties demanding their commitment to comprehensive constitutional reform in the next Parliament.
  • Support Compass – together for a good society, the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy, The Citizens Assembly Project, Assemblies for Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 5050 Parliament, Women’s Equality and Voice4 Change and Polly Higgins’s campaign for the UN Ecocide law – the fifth crime against peace, National Health Action Party, Save our NHS, Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
  • Subscribe to the blog posts of the London School of Economics British Politics and Policy , New Economics Foundation, Compass- together for a good society, Positive Money, Global Justice Now and Jubilee Debt Campaign and James Robertson’s  Newsletter Visit Robert Greenleaf Servant Leadership UK
  • Use 38 Degrees, Change.org and Avaaz to petition and lobby.

Ways of Creating Common Ground

Citizens Assemblies are needed for both creating a new British constitution and a new Social and Economic Settlement- see Citizens Assemblies and We Can do Politics Differently in the UK .

Useful processes

Among these are:

 Bruce Nixon is an author, writer, speaker and activist. He gives participative talks in communities, universities, colleges, schools and at conferences. His most recent book The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness which offers a new strategic vision for Britain. His Blog and other books may be found at http://www.brucenixon.com/

Lessons from Brexit

“Brexit is the will of the British people.” This oft repeated mantra is simplistic and grossly misleading. Is it designed by repetition to bamboozle the British people or convince the Prime Minister and her colleagues that they are doing the right thing?

 

Democracy is in crisis. This episode in our history illustrates that there is something seriously wrong with the way Britain does politics. A new approach is needed; proportional representation and a new written constitution are required. Many people hate adversarial politics and want politicians to work together. Nearly half the population are opposed to Brexit. Many feel deeply depressed and powerless. And that applies to so many government policies. It is not a healthy state for a nation to be in. Austerity, imposed by a government backed by less than 24 percent of those eligible to vote, that is 76 percent did not vote Tory, continues to damage our society and undermines the wellbeing of thousands of people. This contrasts with the post-war situation from 1945 to 1951 when there was a national consensus on the introduction of the Welfare State that became a model for the world.

We now see a similar situation in USA. Americans are split 50; 50. Many Americans are filled with horror at what Trump stands for, what he is already doing and what he may do next.

Brexit should be stopped in its tracks.

 

The nation is deeply divided about Brexit. The facts are that of the record number who voted, 51.9% voted for Brexit and 48.1% voted for Remain a difference of only 3.8%. Is this an adequate mandate for fundamental changes that may have devastating consequences? Would a supermajority requirement, such as a two-thirds majority be more appropriate?  Furthermore, only 37% of the 46 million electorate voted for Brexit. Young people will be most affected by the outcomes of Brexit. Yet 16 to 17 year olds, large numbers of whom were in favour of Remain, were not eligible to vote – something that needs to be changed as soon as possible. Scotland and other parts of the UK are strongly in favour of Remain; others do not know. However many Remain voters have considerable concerns about the EU. For more details see the New Economics Foundation’s We polled Remain voters – this is what they told us

The London School of Economics  report Brexit is not the will of the British people. It never has been casts further light on the reality: “The difference between leave and remain was 3.8 percent or 1.3 million in favour of Leave. However, in a close analysis, virtually all the polls show that the UK electorate wants to remain in the EU, and has wanted to remain since referendum day. Moreover, according to predicted demographics, the UK will want to remain in the EU for the foreseeable future”.

The referendum process was flawed. It was only advisory and the government had no obligation to act on the outcome, especially when it was so close. Many argue that a binary yes no referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue. Much more time was needed. Was it more about party politics than the interests of the nation? Some senior politicians and newspapers were irresponsible and made false claims. The Electoral Reform Society exposes its flaws and puts forward proposals for future referendums.

 

Now that people are far better informed about the economic consequences of our withdrawing from the EU, many of those who voted for Brexit would now not do so. Economist Iain Begg, from the London School of Economics said the results exposed the shortcomings of using referenda in complex policy choices. “The finding that a sizeable proportion of Leave voters now regret their decision, coming barely one hundred days after June 23, highlights the shortcomings of using referenda to make policy choices on issues as complex as membership of the EU,” he told the Independent:If EU referendum was held again Remain would win due to ‘Bregret’, official figures reveal

Another post by Adrian Low reveals that “only two YouGov polls support a majority in favour of Leave was right, the other eleven polls have all indicated that the will of the UK is that it should remain in the EU. Such unpalatable poll results have been left unreported or occasionally inaccurately reported.” 

 

Strategic leadership is needed. The whole story from the time David Cameron tried to negotiate a deal with EU leaders is an example of the need for strategic leadership and whole system thinking. Britain has been half in; half out. It was totally unrealistic to imagine he could achieve his goals in such a short time. Clearly the EU requires fundamental reform and British citizens’ discontents are just one example of those in 27 countries who want change. David Cameron missed an opportunity to adopt a constructive approach by working with European colleagues in bringing about reform. It seems that Theresa May is adopting the same adversarial approach. And the British people will suffer the consequences with their European counterparts. We need to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer Great Britain, no longer a global power, but a small nation that needs to work as part of Europe with which we have so much in common. Otherwise we delude ourselves. Brexit makes this harder.

 

The first step in bringing about fundamental change is relationship building. Instead of returning without a deal, the British prime minister should have worked long term in bringing about reform. Britain needed to work with its European colleagues in developing common ground, creating consensus on what needs to be changed and a common vision of a better Europe.

Brexit was a multiple protest. It is now clear that underneath Brexit were deep seated problems like joblessness and living in destressed communities some going back for generations. To tackle these issues a whole system approach is needed: tinkering with symptoms when a system is flawed invariably fails. Reforming the EU may be part of the solution but the danger is that Brexit will be a huge diversion of time and energy. We have far more work to do in putting our own house in order.

Fundamental issues confront Britain and Europe: Power is shifting away from the West. China will be the dominant power. Russia becomes a threat to peace. The threat of cyberattacks from hostile nations, terrorists and criminals grows. The global economy is transforming.  The scientific and technological revolution, including advances in medicine, robots and artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to bring great benefits to humanity but equally could have disastrous effects on the lives of ordinary people and further concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few. Of course the biggest threats to humanity are the environmental crisis and nuclear war.

 

Globalisation has lifted many people out of poverty but it has also brought hardship to many in the West. There is a rebellion against the neoliberal policies of the past thirty years. Austerity and debt creation form an extractive system that transfers wealth from those who create it to the already rich elite. In Europe, wealth is systematically extracted from the South and transferred to the North. As a result populist leaders are emerging all over Europe. Finally there is the issue of mass migration which is likely to grow massively over coming years as people flee from violence in failed states and countries like Africa become uninhabitable as the planet warms.  Of course the biggest threats to humanity are the environmental crisis and nuclear war both of which could wipe us out.

For all these reasons Britain needs to stand together with Europe and the United Nations.

Ways forward Theresa May must involve the British People. Brexit is not a foregone conclusion. “Brexit is the will of the British people” needs to be challenged by the British people. Parliament must have the final say, insist that Brexit options are on the table before invoking article 50 and a second referendum may be needed.  MPs need to consult their constituents. Citizens Assemblies  should be used to help members become better informed, listen to eachother and then make up their minds. In his blog, Taking back control: Why voters need a say on Brexit plans deputy chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society Darren Hughes, argues that Theresa May really could ‘bring the country together’ through Citizens Assemblies . “But it will require everyone having a stake in the process – and feeling like a ‘people’s Brexit’ really does come from the people”.

The public need a say on where power will lie after Brexit In this post Katie Ghose, Chief Executive Electoral Reform Society argues “So Theresa May has fleshed has fleshed out her plans for Britain leaving the EU and becoming an independent self-governing nation. With more detail emerging about the economic plan, it’s time to look at the democratic implications….Serious thinking about democracy can all too often get left behind and the public shut out of these debates, as we’ve seen with English devolution. How our democracy actually takes shape after Brexit goes beyond the two year window of negotiations, and has to mean the public having a strong say. After all, it would be ironic given the strong focus on ‘where power lies’ during the campaign (summed up in the powerful slogan ‘take back control’) if this wasn’t a strong focus”.

Conclusion The biggest lesson is that adversarial politics does not work. Human beings must learn to respect and value difference and use it to build solutions that work. We see the consequences of failing to do this most tragically in failed states that have descended into violence and inhumanity. Consensus Design is the way forward.

So the final outcome of the current trauma could be a profoundly more democratic Britain and Europe.

Please note: this article is a much enlarged and updated version of a previous article

“Brexit is the will of the British people.” Oh, really?

Bruce Nixon is an author, writer and speaker. He gives participative talks in communities, universities schools and at conferences. His most recent book is The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness   

“Brexit is the will of the British people.” Oh, really?

“Brexit is the will of the British people.” Oh, really? This Mantra is grossly misleading.

The facts are that of those who voted, 51.9% voted for Brexit and 48.1% voted for Remain. However only 37% of the 46 million registered electorate voted for Brexit. Brexit is not the will of the British people – it never has been.  Young people will be most affected by the outcomes of Brexit. Yet 16 to 17 year olds, a large numbers of whom were in favour of Remain, were not eligible to vote.

The UK as a whole is deeply divided on the issue, Scotland and other different parts of the UK being strongly in favour of Remain – See the New Economics Foundation’s report for more details.

The referendum process was flawed. Much more time was needed. Many argue that a referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue. Some senior politicians and newspapers were irresponsible and made false claims. The Electoral Reform Society exposes its flaws and their report puts forward proposals for future referendums.

Now that people are far better informed about the economic consequences of our withdrawing from the EU, many of those who voted for Brexit would now not do so. Economist Iain Begg, from the London School of Economics, said the results exposed the shortcomings of using referenda in complex policy choices. “The finding that a sizeable proportion of Leave voters now regret their decision, coming barely one hundred days after June 23, highlights the shortcomings of using referenda to make policy choices on issues as complex as membership of the EU,” he told The Independent.

Another post by Adrian Low reveals that “only two YouGov polls support a majority in favour of Leave was right, the other eleven polls have all indicated that the will of the UK is that it should remain in the EU. Such unpalatable poll results have been left unreported or occasionally inaccurately reported.”

The Mantra “Brexit is the will of the British people” needs to be challenged by the British people. Parliament must have the final say and another referendum may be needed.  Citizens Conventions which help people become better informed, listen to others and then make up their minds, can make a valuable contribution to resolving this issue.

Bruce Nixon is an author, writer and speaker. He gives participative talks in communities, universities schools and at conferences. His most recent book is The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness   http://www.brucenixon.com/21stCenturyRevolution.html