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.

 

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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

 

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/