Review of A C Grayling’s book Democracy and Its Crisis

This is one of the most important books I have read in years. The opening words are

“This book is about the failure of the best political system we have: democracy. And how to put it right”.

Our democracy is not working Its shortcomings are the main obstacle to tackling the great challenges facing us early in the 21st century, creating a good society that benefits everyone and playing our part in the world. The nation has been hoodwinked first by the economically illiterate Austerity policy which has done and is still doing enormous harm to every aspect of our society and, especially, to the most vulnerable. The flawed Referendum is doing more harm. If Brexit goes ahead even more damage will be done. There is much anger and distress in a deeply divided United Kingdom.

The book is an exquisite delight to read. It is a passionate, revolutionary, rich in insights and written by an erudite and highly articulate academic. It is an exposé of our now deeply flawed democracy. As I read, I grew angrier. All of us have played a part in this decline: citizens, the media and members of parliament. This book should be read by all MPs. Every citizen needs to this book’s key messages. Otherwise we’ll continue to be victims of chicanery.

Democracy is precious. Men and women fought for it over the centuries, many giving their lives. Many other countries, including so-called People’s Democratic Republics, are dictatorships intolerant of human rights and careless of human life. Unless we are content to be deceived and exploited, all of us need to play our part in protecting our democracy by being well-informed and, when necessary, activists. We need a democracy fit for the 21st Century. Reform has been obstructed by those in power for generations. An essential feature of democracy is that MPs are there to represent us. Yet around half of us are disenfranchised because we are not represented under first past the post. Nevertheless, we need to engage with our MPs – vigorously if need be. All of us need to use our precious vote. That is the foundation of representative democracy.

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum took place on 23 June 2016 supposedly to gauge support for the country either remaining a member of, or leaving, the European Union. But it was all about Tory party interests. It is a shocking example of how citizens can be misled and exploited by a ruthless and irresponsible faction.

The constantly repeated mantra “Brexit is the will of the people” is clever propaganda designed to mesmerise us! How can we be so gullible? Certainly, 52% of those who voted, voted leave and 48% voted to remain. However only 37% of electorate, representing 26% of “the people”, voted for Brexit. So 74% did not vote for Brexit. Did all those wanting to leave do so for the same reasons? Did they have a clear idea, involving practical details, of what would follow? Many parts of the United Kingdom did not want to leave. There were huge differences depending on age. Sixteen and seventeen year olds, amongst those likely to be most adversely affected, had no vote. It is clear that a referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue. And it was explicitly advisory. Most MPs, about 73%, are in favour of Remain.

Though a relatively short book, just over two hundred pages, it is relatively complex. My aim in this review is to summarise its analysis and solutions and add my thoughts on aspects that in my view are not addressed.

PART I is a history of democracy from Plato, Aristotle through to De Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill. It describes the dilemmas and difficulties that had to be overcome in establishing a representative democracy and deciding who should be participants in it. It took many centuries to devise a system that would give the mass of people a say, and not descend into chaos or tyranny. The main issues were: who should be qualified to vote and who was competent to vote. It is primarily concerned with the evolution of Britain’s democracy. However some aspects of the history of USA and other countries are relevant. The author suggests that, unless interested in the history of democracy, the reader may choose to go straight to Part II.

PART II chapter headings are: Alternative Democracies and Anti-democracies, Why It Has Gone Wrong, Making Representative Government Work, and The People and the Constitution, followed by Conclusion. There are two appendices: Brexit and The Failure of Democracy Elsewhere.

If you wish to gain a quick understanding of the book, I suggest you read the excellent Introduction, Conclusion and the two appendices.

What Has Gone Wrong and Why


  • In a representative democracy parliament, not the public, is sovereign. In the UK it is the House of Commons that is sovereign and the House of Lords the reviewing chamber.
  • De facto the executive has become sovereign. With a single vote majority it can enact or suspend any law whatever, any civil liberty or human right and has absolute power. Ministers can use the ‘Henry VIII clause’ to amend or repeal legislation covertly without the need for parliamentary scrutiny. The absolute authority of the executive has grown greatly through a subservient majority in the House of Commons.
  • For representative democracy to work requires the independence of MPs. With the exception of election manifesto commitments, party discipline, “whipping”, threats, bullying, bribes, blackmail should not be allowed to decrease the independence of MPs.
  • The Tory party has been bedevilled by the far right for years. Labour has similar difficulties.
  • Judicial review by the courts is restricted to those bills which are incompatible with the Human Rights Act.
  • The absence of a written constitution makes it difficult to hold the executive to account.
  • The failure to equip the “demos” or citizens with the civic education makes it harder for representative democracy work.
  • Lack of popular engagement and responsibility and citizens who are uninformed, uncritical and self-interested. Myopia is a danger to sound government.
  • Manipulation by those in power, big business, big money, partisan and vested interests. Failure of the systems because representatives use democracy for their own class or party self- interest. Also interference through social media and cyber-attacks.
  • First past the post regularly produces governments with large majorities in the House of Commons on little more than a third of votes cast. Those who vote for losing candidates are disenfranchised; thus roughly half the electorate is unrepresented.
  • The picture of vigorous democratic debate is idealised. In reality it involves spin, dirty tricks, half-truths, untruths, distortion, propaganda, and attacks on individuals. All aimed at inflating the positives of one party and the credibility of the other. The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express are examples. We need to lower the temperature.
  • The cumulative consequences: anger, hopelessness, cynicism about politics, diminished respect for MPs and fewer able people wanting to become MPs.


Making Representative Government the Best it Can Be

 “The failings and frailties of human institutions, like those of individuals are inevitable; but there are many things that have to be done to be the very best they can be….because of what is at stake. Government falls into this category.”

What is required:

  • Parliament should be sovereign and representative. The task of managing competing needs and demands in a complex society is best managed in a representative democracy. Our parliament is not representative.
  • Proportional representation is essential.
  • MPs need to be independent in order to represent their constituents. Thus, except on manifesto commitments, end party discipline and whipping. MPs must be held to account by their constituents.
  • Representative democracy should have no truck with referenda.
  • A bicameral legislature with a more directly elected second chamber that enables proposals to be reviewed – the safeguard of second thoughts.
  • Media reporting and lobbying rigorously kept to standards of probity and accuracy. People should be reliably informed about what is happening in government and politics.
  • Complete transparency about funding involved directly or indirectly in campaigns. Limits on the amount that can be spent on campaigns to create a level the playing field.
  • Compulsory civic education in schools and compulsory voting for all aged 16 and above.
  • A written Constitution, based on consultation, to enable Judicial Review. An unwritten constitution is vulnerable.
  • Smaller government is needed in a more mature political activity.

Further Proposals

A Collaborative Democracy is essential if we are to bring about the changes needed and create a democracy fit to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Progressive parties need to work together if they are to gain power and bring about reform. It is essential that poiliticians learn to find common ground, rather than wasting energy in conflict. Here are my comprehensive proposals based on those of the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and the Green Party with some features added by me. A different kind of Political Leadership is also required, one that unites people, rather than wasting energy in division and conflict.

 How you can use your power to transform our UK Democracy:

 Bruce Nixon is an author, writer, speaker, blogger and activist.




Creating a Prosperous Economy that Works for All

Investing in Northern and Midland Rail infrastructure could make an enormous difference.  This is an exceptionally insightful and useful article by Will Hutton. You have heard of the north-south divide. Now how about the west-east one? It says The Social Mobility Commission state of the nation report published last December showed disproportionate disadvantage in the east where the Brexit referendum was won. Birmingham and Manchester England’s next biggest cities after London need to be bigger and governed as regions to capture the agglomeration effects that lead to the prosperity that creates the greatest social mobility effects. This will be helped by HS2 linking Birmingham to London and Europe and to Liverpool and Leeds via HS3. I say the sooner these rail links are built the better it will be. And that can be enabled now with Sovereign Money without any more borrowing or taxes.

In the USA bonds are the normal US way of raising capital for public investments (eg New York Subway). As I understand it, the Government simply guarantees to repay the bond by a fixed date and then gets the capital very cheaply on a triple A security.

Should we be taking back public services into public ownership? Lord Adonis’s recent article Grayling’s rail bailout echoes the grave errors of New Labour makes a strong case for taking the railways back into public ownership. A useful model for transport is London’s TFL. This could be adopted in the regions.

The Carillion collapse suggests that management of the construction of hospitals and schools and management of services should be taken back in house. Capita’s woes cause further concerns about outsourcing . However an equally important issue is how infrastructure is financed. Government and local government need to rethink the use of private finance in the public sector. Its use is often an ideologically based decision, not a rational one.

Public Finance Initiatives In particular the use of Public Finance Initiatives (PFI’s) as a way of funding investments in hospitals and schools have turned out to be hugely expensive and not necessarily effective. There are also problems with secrecy. Both parliament and the public are unable to obtain essential information about these contracts including tax avoidance .

It is shocking that 85% of MPs don’t know where money comes from The commercial banks make money from creating 97% of our money supply . Thus they are incentivised to create debt, hugely increasing the nation personal debt. Instead, our money supply should be created by an independent public body to meet the nation’s needs. The proper role for banks is to provide funds for businesses. Germany has a far better banking system that provides better services that support economic development at local, regional and national levels.

The good news is that there are better ways of financing public investment. There is no justification for arguing that large infrastructure investments are best funded by outsourcing them to the private sector in order to provide the finance without government borrowing. People’s QE or Sovereign Money can be used to finance them without creating debt. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is giving this serious consideration

J M Keynes, Milton Friedman and Martin Wolf have all advocated the idea of sovereign money. Most recently, Lord Adair Turner has proposed similar ideas, highlighting that ‘there are no technical reasons to reject this option’. Like Quantitative Easing (QE), Sovereign Money relies on the Bank of England creating money and putting this money into the economy. But whereas QE relied on flooding financial markets and hoping that some of this money would ‘trickle down’ to the real economy, Sovereign Money works by injecting new money directly into the real economy via government spending.

Funding rail infrastructure, hospitals and schools. Sovereign Money, as argued above, can be used to fund new rail infrastructure in the North to support the Northern Power House without incurring debtincurring debt . It can enable new hospitals and schools to be funded without borrowing. Sovereign money could also enable investment in building affordable homes and refurbing leaky homes , and schools to invest in renewable energy, saving them thousands of pounds, and community or regional power  generation.

Every time I walk in my town, I see deteriorating infrastructure: rusting railings, damaged pavements and pot holes in the roads. And like many other many other local councils our council is selling off assets and privatising public facilities in order to make ends meet . It is as if we, the fifth richest economy in the world, were a third world country.

No longer is there any excuse for Austerity with all its deplorable effects. Brexit is another great folly. It all adds up to incompetent government.

If you want to make all this happen lobby your MP and support ney Positive Money . You can get together with others and form a local group.

More about all these issues and solutions can be found in Chapter 7 An economy that works for all in my recent book The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness. and Chapter 2 Understanding the Financial Crisis and Chapter 10 New Money of A Better World is Possible

Re-imagining Politics – A Collaborative Democracy

In the 21st Century, we need a completely different political leadership model. Until now human history has been about building empires and nations fighting each other for power and resources. The British Empire, backed by a huge navy, was the most successful example. We were the best at war. We were however not alone in committing atrocities on a massive scale. Now the challenges facing humanity are existential: we’ll self-extinct unless we reverse climate chaos and destruction of our habit. We risk nuclear war unless we learn to resolve conflict without violence. Collaboration between nations, especially in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, offers the possibility of vastly greater wellbeing human beings and all life. That vision led to the creation of the United Nations after WW2.


In its extreme form old leadership leads to horrendous crimes against humanity. The Arab Spring offering the hope of democracy in nations ruled by despots was  crushed.  Horrendous crimes against humanity are still being committed in Syria by a leader unwilling to compromise. Babies, children and their parents are being slaughtered. Similar atrocities have been committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya people. There is a danger that the hopes of the Turkish people for democracy and a solution for Kurds will be destroyed by President Tayyip Erdogan. Catalonia is another example of the need for building consensus and compromise.


British politics is bedevilled by old style leadership. It is about winning power and imposing change when what matters most is the wellbeing of all. The current adversarial system places leaders in the position of putting party before national interest. One of the consequences is a deeply divided nation. Conservative and Labour alike are divided over various forms of Brexit or Remain. Despite Corbyn’s declared intention to democratise Labour and give power to constituents, the reality is factions still fighting for control of the party.   


I listen to the usual Radio4 Today formula. Put two people with opposite views together and let them fight. Often they are unable to listen to each other, they talk over each other and cannot wait to get their word in. Many of us hate this approach and switch off. It contributes to a general gloom and pessimism about British politics. Essentially it is violent talk, when people are looking for vision and hope.


In PMQ in the House of Commons, a kind of warrior mentality is fostered by the opposing rows of seats in the antiquated House of Commons chamber. Like a student debate. Who can be the wittiest combatant in the arena rather than having a sensible inquiry into what will work best. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn try to score points over each other with accusations and answers which are at best selective truths. May quotes rising employment figures; Corbyn counters with low pay, insecurity and poor employment conditions. The same is true of much of the media. An accusation is made; it is contradicted by the other side. Claims about the amount of money pumped into the NHS avoid the fundamental issue that it has insufficient resources and needs radical reform. More nurses and midwives are leaving than joining the profession . Medical students are shipped in to help in the NHS crisis. 2.8 BN school funding cuts risk educational outcomes . School heads are asking parents to contribute more and more money. In both cases staff are worn out and frustrated by changes imposed on them without their involvement – a basic leadership failure. Many dedicated people quit as a result.

We learn by making mistakes. How refreshing it would be if Tony Blair said “I apologise for the appalling consequences of the Iraq war but I have learned”. He would earn great respect. Gordon Brown did well in handling the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis but he might well say, “I made a mistake when I continued to use PFI contracts (a way of avoiding borrowing appearing on government books and outsourcing services). The Carillion collapse has precipitated a complete rethink about outsourcing. Amongst the devastating consequences of ideological policies are record levels of child poverty and homelessness .


George Osborne (recently appointed Hon Professor of Economics at Manchester University) has a lot to answer for. His illiterate Austerity policy, including a public sector pay freeze, reduced staffing of public services, delayed economic recovery, put people out of work, reducing tax take, resulted in decaying infrastructure and continues to damage almost every aspect of British society. It failed to cut the deficit . His support for the Northern Powerhouse is admirable. However much needed investment in rail infrastructure in the North (rather than HS2) on which this depends, need not be delayed if Peoples QE or Sovereign Money is used instead of borrowing. Botched implementation of Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit has dire consequences for vulnerable people. Instead of ideological strategies, governments need the advice of expert bodies such as IPPR , Rowntree Foundation, Resolution, Sutton Trust and New Economics Foundation, Kings Fund, Royal College of Nurses.


One party government not only leads to incompetence. It wastes the talent of potential government ministers. It causes distress and alienation amongst the population who have a different view and feel disempowered and unrepresented. This applies to people working in schools the NHS and other public services who are not involved in vital decisions. It is increasingly recognised that cross-party collaboration, in a Commission, is required to create long-term strategies for such vital systems as the nation’s health, economic policy and education. Such a system works well in Parliamentary select committees.


Re-imagining Democracy A Collaborative Democracy

  • A written Constitution
  • A Citizen-led Convention to determine the Constitution.
  • Parliament to be 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

(Main source Green Party and  Electoral Reform Society )


Re-imagining Political Leadership.

Here are some ideas in no order:

  • Compassionate – compassion is the most important factor in making decisions
  • A servant leader
  • Enabling – a leader of leaders
  • Getting the whole system into the room, involving all stakeholders, using Citizens Conventions in making change
  • Far-sighted
  • Strategic
  • Collaborating to bring about change
  • From Heroes to Hosts
  • Modelling good leadership for others such as valuing difference, non-violent communication and listening
  • Able to unite a highly talented team as Clement Attlee did
  • Internationalist – wanting all nations to flourish. Peacemakers
  • Inclusive, involving diverse people in creating a vision for the future. Standing for diversity
  • Integrity – truthful, values based, able to admit mistakes, putting national interest rather than party interest first


Britain should be among the nations setting an example for the world. We have a choice. Do we continue with an outdated democracy? Or do collaborate to bring about fundamental change. It won’t happen unless many more of us decide that to get involved and campaign for positive change.


What you can do to use your power:


Bruce Nixon is an author writer, speaker, blogger and activist.



Book Review: Education Forward – Moving Schools into the Future. Edited by David Price

This is one of the most important and inspiring books I have read in a long time. School education fit for the 21st Century is vital for our society, an economy in which everyone can prosper and enjoy a fulfilling life, especially young people, and our role in making a better more peaceful world. It is a hopeful book. Apart from setting out the challenges we face in transforming school education, the book provides a clear pathway forward. And there is lots of good news about progressive practice.


The Fourth Revolution will transform the way we live and even transform us for the better. It will be a world of artificial intelligence (AI) . Robots, already working in factories, could soon be doing jobs like picking fruit and vegetables. It is said that by 2025 30% of jobs will be replaced by robots though new jobs will be created. The revolution could further concentrate the power and wealth of an elite or change the lives of all human beings for the better – our choice. With a Citizen’s Income and a Robot Tax , human beings could be released for rewarding work that involves our unique qualities such as compassion, caring, creativity, working with nature and work in the arts. Every day we learn of medical advances that will reduce suffering, transform human health and increase longevity. The NHS will be able put more resources into promoting healthy living, emotional wellbeing, practices such as yoga, social care and care of the old in their own homes.


Our children will face enormous challenges: We have left them with a warming planet, growing destruction of our habitat, economic injustice and mass migration caused by climate change, poverty, violence and crimes against humanity. There is the threat of nuclear war. It is vital that humanity learns how to resolve conflict without violence in deed or word. Our democracy is in urgent need of radical reform, including the vote from sixteen. This is the world our young people will live in and make their contribution.

Education has an enormous part to play in helping them address these challenges and flourish. We could be at a historic a tipping point. 


It is difficult to do full justice to a book of sixteen unique essays.  All are valuable contributions by people who know what they are talking about, people not only in education but experts in other relevant fields such as future trends and the challenges people of all ages will face. They are people with farsighted vision and clarity about children’s need for an education that prepares all of them to thrive in the world of the future. Not the superficial, tired old debates so popular with some government ministers and politicians about global league tables, outdated ideas, whether we should have more grammar schools, more discipline and strict uniform policies etc.


The book divided into four parts framed by the Introduction and Conclusion consists of sixteen essays. The four parts are: The Urgent Case for Change. Making a difference: Parents, Pedagogy, Knowledge and Intellectualism. Making it Count: Examinations, Evidence and Outcomes. Making it Happen: Politics, Progress and a Peaceful world.


The first question asked is: what is the fundamental purpose of education – what is it for? Two chapters provide answers to this question. Chapter 1 – Bringing Schools to Life by Guy Claxon  sets out suggestions under these headings: Outcomes – Every child deserves a good education and to feel they have received one. He describes what they have a right to expect.  Parents – Their concerns, and they need to find their voice. Intellectualism – children who may not be academic yet offer different talents need to be equipped for future vocations vital to our society. British education continues to suffer from the consequences of an academic bias. Examinations – All kinds of outcomes should be valued – not just academic ones but qualities of mind such as perseverance, self-control, curiosity, concentration and empathy and pleasure in reading and learning. Pedagogy – the way teachers teach. Knowledge – What is likely to matter most in the mid to late 21st century? Evidence– conventional tests do not provide evidence of qualities that matter most such as determination. Progress – There are many pioneering beacons throughout the world providing the education required by a wide range of children. We need to learn from them. Ofsted must adapt and update its criteria. Politics – With few exceptions, politicians need to inform themselves and do much better. A peaceful world – We have large numbers of migrants many of whom feel unsettled, anxious and aimless. Seeds of violence will not flourish if children all over the country are given a good education that addresses their needs and through that they can see they can have fulfilling lives and contribute to society.


Chapter 3 – What is Education for? Renewing the Purpose of Education by Valerie Hannon particularly interested me. She argues that the current mass education system that emerged to serve in the 19th Century Industrial Revolution is failing our children. The welter of changes under the banner of “school reform” have been superficial and have manifestly failed. Indeed they have exhausted and alienated teachers. In the section, What are these failings? she describes the dissatisfaction and alienation of the profession, growing costs and failure to meet the needs of children, the nation and indeed the world in the present times. She argues that politicians’ ideas of promoting growth (a wealth extraction process), boosting national GDP and turning education into a sort of global arms race are threadbare.


“There is no clear narrative for public education today that both connects with the realities people are experiencing and faces up to what can confidently said to be on our horizon….. Reflecting on the scale and direction of these shifts, I believe education has to be about learning to thrive in a transforming world. (My bold).


The future is of course unknowable and the ability to thrive in uncertainty is part of the education that is needed. She describes the changes in three categories: Our Planet’s Predicament, The Supremacy of Technology and Designing our own evolution.  Planetary/global thriving, National/Local thriving inter-personal thriving, intra-personal thriving and in Where are the politicians who will face this? She asks where are there the new generation of politicians to create a fresh narrative and new possibilities.


Themes One common theme is about helping all young people be who they truly are, enjoy their lives, adapt and make their unique lifetime contribution. There are of course many themes that appear throughout the book, some suggested by these chapter titles: Bringing schools to life. Awakening Adventure – Liberating Imagination, The socially connected teacher. No parent left behind.

Here I try to provide the essence of some of these themes:


Common themes:

  • Every child has a right to a joyful childhood and being loved unconditionally for who they are – Carl Rogers.
  • Schools need to model how a good organisation should be: compassionate for example and show how an organisation learns as well as teaches. They need to model being democratic rather than authoritarian. That means being loving towards everyone – yes, loving organisations is a vital notion.
  • Teachers deserve a rewarding life – not the current stress they are subject to. They can only give their best if they enjoy their work.
  • They need to be skilful, not just in teaching, but in the soft skills of helping children emotionally, helping them to value themselves, not to self-deprecate, that feelings are OK and how to deal with difficulty and thrive.
  • They should encourage every young person to Dare to be great in whatever way is right for them – by example.
  • Every child is unique and her/his education needs to focus on helping bring out their unique talents. So many talents are needed, all valuable and none are superior to others. Hence valuing education for all kinds of vocations – not prioritising academic education as if it were the most important.
  • Their education should equip them to thrive in an unpredictable transforming world and encourage an international outlook.
  • Collaboration is the only way to create a better, fairer and peaceful world. Hence the school needs to demonstrate how to learn with others, have a constructive dialogue rather than wanting to win in a debate. That means respecting and valuing difference. And learning by doing.
  • Children need help in learning how to learn, be inquisitive, to question, to research and form their own views. Also how to use the internet and social networking safely.
  • They need to learn how to be hopeful, visionary, to imagine and believe anything is possible.
  • The importance for everyone involved of good supportive relationships, teachers, parents and children if they are to do all these things.


Conclusion: This book is a call to everyone to create a movement for the change they want to see: A powerful collaboration of school leaders, teachers, pupils, parents, governors and  politicians will succeed. You are not alone. There is a world movement with similar aspirations. At the end of the book, there is a list of organisational resources in the UK and Internationally that you can use to inform and empower yourself to take powerful action with like-minded people.


Read this book, be inspired and challenged, join Education Forward and decide what you will do as a result of reading this wonderful book.


Bruce Nixon is a thinker, author , writer, speaker, blogger and activist.


We’re allowing ourselves to be ruled by Knaves and Charlatans

Every day we see consequences of Osbornism, an illiterate economic policy: potholes in our roads, inadequate infrastructure, underfunded NHS, schools, prisons, police, social care, child care. Cutting public sector employment and holding down pay increases, added to the difficulties of staff already demoralised by constant government interventions. Austerity is counterproductive: it failed to reduce the deficit, delayed economic recovery, put people out of work and hence reduced the tax take. The Great British Refurb The Great British Refurb to insulate homes, make them warmer and reduce carbon emissions would have provided thousands of jobs but was scrapped. A scheme to put PV panels on school buildings that would make schools a lot of money and help save our planet was also scrapped. The Green Investment Bank was starved of funds and finally sold off. One of the most shocking consequences of Austerity – skimping on standards and fire safety precautions – is the Grenfell disaster. Now people are seeing the folly of Austerity and rebelling, not only in UK but all over Europe.


Thatcher’s policy of right to buy, selling off council houses without replacing them, ultimately led to today’s housing crisis. Developers have no incentive to produce affordable homes and they do not build enough. Council homes bought by landlords do not offer affordable rents or secure tenure. Affordable homes need to be council built. But councils are constrained by government policy of encouraging them to sell off their properties and land and restricting their ability to borrow. The way to solve the housing crisis is to enable local government to build homes at affordable rents. Homes should be for people, not primarily investments.


Real wages have been stagnant for years. Sure, employment has risen lately. But much of it is insecure, poorly paid and some people, including single mothers, have had to do more than one job. Incomes are not keeping up with rising prices . Growing numbers of people are dependent on food banks. There are worryingly high levels of personal debt as many people survive only by using credit cards. People are easily tipped into homelessness.Family homelessness in the UK has risen by more than 60% and is “likely to have been driven” by the government’s welfare reforms, the public spending watchdog has said. Rough sleeping has risen by 16% on last year

Shelter says 128,000 children are in temporary accommodation; that is nearly one in every hundred children. The UK, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, has amongst the highest rates of poverty and inequality . Young people are at a considerable disadvantage compared with previous generations, students have high levels of debt, and many have little chance of owning a home until well into their thirties. Meanwhile university education is being marketised and the NHS privatised by stealth along American lines. (How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps ). Clearly there is an underlying Neoliberal ideology at work.


Worse still, large swathes of Britain outside the South East have been depressed for generations. This represents a total lack of long-team strategic planning. To be fair, government has now set up some regional mayors with this responsibility.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) presents Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy – but it is not the first such proposal. Now we face the challenge of how to ensure that everyone benefits from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Little wonder that Brexit was a huge protest vote from an angry and divided nation. Brexit is a huge distraction from dealing with the fundamental problems Britain has faced for more than a generation. One of these is Britain’s poor showing in social mobility. Alan Milburn quit as chairman of the Social Mobility Commission  after months of ‘indecision, dysfunctionality and lack of leadership’. An earlier study in 2012 found that social mobility in Britain is the worst in the Western world and the gap between rich and poor has become ingrained in children as young as three. The prospects of half of all children born in the UK can be linked almost entirely to the circumstances of their parents – compared to only 15 per cent of those in Denmark.


Brexit is making the situation even worse. Brexit is not about the interests of the people of Britain. It is about party politics in a deeply divided Tory party. It is the work of wealthy knaves and charlatans who funded a campaign to take Britain out of the EU and “restore power to the British government” meaning themselves and their friends. They did not anticipate the economic consequences of Brexit and misled the public. The government has resisted disclosing information Parliament is entitled to. It is suspected of trying to use the Great Repeal Bill to enable it to make changes without Parliamentary scrutiny . David Davis’s latest revelation that there is no proper impact assessment about how Brexit is likely to affect the different sectors of our economy and society is truly astonishing.  Add the right wing press monopoly, continues to mislead the public with sensational headlines.


I ask myself: What is the motivation of these people, including rich funders who have promoted Brexit, made false promises, hurt our European friends, instigated anti-migrant abuse and grossly misled the public with propaganda chants like “take back power” and lies such as “Brexit is the will of the people”? Of course the answer is obvious: it is simply power lust; not desire to serve the best interests of the people who will suffer most from Britain leaving the European Union, for all its faults that we should be fighting to remedy.


We are a deeply divided Nation. Young and old; affluent and poor; people of different racial origins, South East and other regions; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, different educational values. Many of us are very depressed. To be successful, the nation needs to provide not only excellent academic education, but technological and practical education for all the talents we need including English language education where necessary. Instead of fuelling conflict, we should be rejoicing in our multi-cultural society and valuing difference and seeking and reaching consensus.


We now know the result of the referendum was essentially a protest vote. People were asked to make a decision vital for the nation with little idea of the economic consequences for them and their families. David Davies, Brexit Minister, admits that there is no comprehensive impact assessment. This is gross irresponsibility and incompetence.


The so-called decision to leave is not democratic: the previous and current government were not elected under proportional representation. PR has been resisted by the main parties for decades for party-political reasons. The government would not have a working majority but for the support of the DUP.  A binary referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue. A two thirds majority is generally required for constitutional change. Brexit is not “the will of the people”. It was the will of just over half those who voted. And whilst 33,551,983 voted 31,048,010 either were not on the register or did not vote Courageous MPs now need to say: “There is no mandate for Brexit and I do not believe it is in UK’s best interests“. People did not vote to be poorer for at least a decade. Nor did they vote to have such a divided nation. They were misled by untruths commonly known as lies, understandably did not trust what information they were given, and could not have had the information they have now. Brexit is not the will of the people and we can and must stop it.


Crucially as Will Hutton explains in his article As corporate goliaths grow ever larger, Britain looks increasingly exposed. we shall be in a very weak global position if we leave the European Union. We shall be a middle sized country on its own.


Globalisation has become a universe of monopoly, oligopoly and shadow cartels. Prices are not fixed in smoke-filled rooms: the market leader in whatever global industry sets a reference price that everybody follows tacitly – or faces dire consequences.


This is a far cry from the imagined world of Brexiters, where supranational authorities and regulations, especially EU regulations, are “shackles”. All Britain has to do is champion free trade outside the sclerotic EU under WTO rules and it will be blessed with a new age of growth and prosperity. In reality, competition and anti-monopoly authorities are no match for the behemoths and the WTO is systematically gamed and undermined by the two economic superpowers. The WTO is weak and getting weaker.


International trade is not a game of cricket between equally matched teams, only disturbed by Brussels Eurocrats, as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson et al imagine, waiting for a Britain, energised by leaving the EU, to further stimulate it. It is a dog-eat-dog world in which the choice for a medium-size country is to make common cause with one of the three economic blocs capable of challenging the new monopolists and cartels – China, the US or the EU – or roll over and be plundered. Britain alone has no chance of challenging the West Coast tech giants over their policies on anything from tax to data or challenge any of the analogue goliaths over their stance, say, on diesel emissions or plastic packaging.


You don’t have to be a Marxist to worry about where today’s capitalism is heading – both the Bank of England and the Economist magazine share the concerns. But it is curious that Labour’s allegedly leftwing leadership is so quiet. Far from a capitalist plot, EU membership is one of Britain’s few available defences. Trade unions understand this well: it is time for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to find their voice. Leaving the EU can and must be stopped (my edits).


What can you do? Take this simple political act: engage in a dialogue with your MP, say what your concerns are, what you think, what you want. It may be best to do this in a group which can make more impact than a single person. So get a group together and meet your MP. This might be welcome to her or him as it would be time effective. You can brief yourselves well first by researching the internet.


My top suggestions are:  

For economic and social reform: New Economics Foundation, Institute for Public Policy Research, Education Forward, Resolution Foundation, Rowntree Foundation, Shelter, Sutton Foundation, Global Justice Now and Client Earth.


For reforming democracy:  Unlock Democracy, Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Compass – The Progressive Alliance , Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 5050 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party and Voice4 Change.


Bruce Nixon is a thinker, author , writer, speaker, blogger and activist.



The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

The Western world is at an historic turning point. It could be a tipping point. We could be on the verge of human extinction because of climate catastrophe or devastating nuclear war or both. Or we could be at the beginning of a new benign stage in our evolution.

We live in dark times; but they could lead to the best.

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. A Tale of Two Cities

The history of humanity is one of constant revolution, innovation, turmoil, creation and destruction. Human life is full of opposites. Opposites make the whole. On the one hand the Fourth Industrial Revolution could bring enormous benefits but equally it could further increase the power of a super- rich elite and many jobs are at risk. Often, as in the Arab Spring, revolution starts peacefully but descends into mass violence of the worst possible kind. We have a choice between resolving conflict peacefully by compromise, finding common ground, and violence.  When I look at my little grandson I think, how could human beings kill thousands of babies, little children and their mothers and fathers as in Syria today? On the other hand good people risk their lives providing aid and saving lives. We can be good or evil. We can be racist or delight in our difference. Everyone needs to be aware of what is within and not act it out.

Hope or despair? We have a choice. I believe history justifies hope. We do make progress; but often it is slow – steps forward and back. Compare the position of women in Britain today with the 18th century. Women fought for it, sometimes with their lives, and are still fighting (Counting Women In and 5050 Parliament ). Currently of the 650 seats in the House of Commons men hold 442 (68%) and women only 208 (32%).

 Upheaval in the West After over a generation of failed neoliberal economic policies in the UK, USA and Europe, people are turning against both centre – left and centre – right parties and turning to extremism. The essential dynamic of the global economy is the systematic extraction of wealth from those who create it to the 1%. In Europe this system extracts wealth from southern countries and transfers it to the north, particularly Germany. It is particularly hard on young people amongst whom there are very high levels of unemployment. In Greece this is partly due to an inefficient and corrupt economy and excessive borrowing. Banks play a major part in this extractive process by creating debt. A common theme is the demand for more autonomy e.g. in Scotland, British Cities and regions, Catalonia, Lombardy and Venetia and similarly the Kurds in the Middle East. Compromise is required

Great Leaders. In the period 1940 to 1951 great leaders emerged following a period of incompetence. Churchill, Atlee, Beveridge, Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, George Marshal and others. The war was won and international institutions were set up including the United Nations, International Bank for Reconstruction, the World Bank and Development, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the International Monetary Fund. The Welfare State and NHS were established in the UK as part of a comprehensive social settlement – a model for the world. Today is very different,

 There are daily exposures of incompetence, low standards of behaviour, corruption, sexual harassment and lies by people in power. Some ministers have no idea of how to lead or involve people in bringing about change e.g. Michael Gove’s interventions in school education. In contrast see Moving Schools into the Future  and the book Education Forward  We need lifetime education that brings out everyone’s potential and enables them to adapt to change.

Some are narcissistic egoists and unfit for office. Brexit, brought about by such people, is a violation of democracy. Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower are prime examples of the consequences of incompetence. However we are lucky to have a free press. Eventually, often after a long fight, justice is done. 

The UK is a place people like to live in. It is admired for its culture, tolerance and multi-racial society. It is a good place to do business in thanks to the rule of law. It is alive with progressive think and act tanks and campaigns. Women and men, young and old are equally involved. There are many local initiatives people deciding to do what government is not doing. Government needs to devolve power and support communities with resources.

However Britain’s economic system is broken. Neoliberalism has failed to deliver wellbeing and prosperity and wellbeing for the majority. On the contrary it has created a deeply divided nation.

Thatcherism From 1979 to 1990 Thatcher ushered in an era of consumerism and greed, particularly at the top; not shared responsibility for a good society for everyone. She began undoing the work of the Attlee government – the economy certainly needed freeing up – and establishing Neoliberal policies and privatisation. She offered the council house “right- to buy” policy but without replacing what was sold. Thus began the housing crisis.

When Tony Blair came to power he offered a softer form of Thatcherism “The Third Way” “a varying synthesis of centre-right economics and centre-left social policies”. He properly funded the NHS. To finance investment in hospitals and infrastructure avoid more government debt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown used Public Private Initiatives (PFIs) that have saddled these organisations with huge costs . Now we know there is Sovereign Money , a way of the state investing in infrastructure without creating debt.

Osbornism After the 2007 banking collapse and the Conservatives came back into power, “Osbornism” was born. The policy of austerity and cuts failed on its own terms. It failed to reduce the deficit, delayed economic recovery, put people out of work and hence reduced the tax take. Labour failed to challenge the narrative that its borrowing had caused the financial crisis and state clearly that this policy was illiterate.

The consequences of ideological policies become clearer every day. Seven years of underfunding the NHS  and stealth privatisation (How to disamantle the NHS in 10 easy steps) have created a crisis. Cuts in funding have led to inadequate social services, overcrowded crowded prisons, and failure to rehabilitate prisoners. Underfunding of policing and emergency services and education continues. Child care should be available at an affordable price.

UK is now one of the most unequal developed countries – similar to the USA and post – Communist Russia. The top 1% earn just over £150,000 each. The super-rich top 0.1%, roughly 50,000 people, earn more than £1 million per year. 1% or 488,000 own 14% of the UK’s assets, averaging about £3.16m each.  15% of adults, 7.3 million people, have no assets or are in debt. UK’s social mobility is one of the worst in the world (Resolution Foundation and Lib Dems The gap between the super- rich and the rest of us is spiralling out of control ).

Decades of incompetent government have failed to anticipate and plan ahead for both aging and growth in the population. They have failed to respond effectively to “The left behind”, globalisation, the death of old industries, generations of unemployment and now mass migration. The economy is unbalanced, too dependent on financial services. Wealth is concentrated in the South East. There is a long term housing crisis. Governments have failed to address the fundamental issues: an unbalanced economy with low productivity, low investment and an adverse balance of payments. Fundamental problems require a systemic approach (The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness ).The Institute for Public Policy Research provides A New Vision for the British Economy.

UK’s Economy may be the fifth wealthiest, but it is stagnant. Employment may be relatively high but much of the work is insecure and poorly paid. Large numbers of people are suffering poverty and are only surviving by borrowing, using their credit cards. A small increase in interest rates could be disastrous for them and lead to homelessness. Such people are often single mothers, sometimes escaping from violent abusive husbands.

Brexit is making the situation even worse. Despite government trying to hide it, every day more is revealed about the damage uncertainty is already doing and the damage leaving the EU will do. Where is the courageous leadership and integrity in the House of Commons to challenge this nonsense? This mantra “Brexit is the will of the British people” is a lie see “Brexit is the will of the British people.” Oh, really?

Brexit was a huge wake-up call from the 99% to the 1%. There need not be a disaster if we respond to its underlying causes. People at all levels in society need to Dare to be great, empower ourselves, demand political change and make change themselves.  Brexit, like the emergence of populism in Europe of and Trump in USA was essentially a response to a long term failure to create a good society.

What you can do: Support

  • The Progressive Alliance. Progressive parties need to collaborate for change. Tribalism gets in the way!
  • Institute for Public Policy Research,  New Economics Foundation, Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Count, Unlock Democracy and Global Justice Now.

Many more campaigns are listed in The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness   where you can sign up for my BLOG.


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, especially Germany. 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. Opposition is out of date and the way the House of Commons is arranged in two rows facing eachother is an anacronism.  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. Now, as George Orwell said, “Britain is a family with the wrong members in control”.

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