“Brexit is the will of the British people” is complete nonsense

This mantra is clever propaganda but complete nonsense. We are duped.

Boris

Getty image.

It’s a lie that needs to be contradicted firmly in Parliament and the news media including television. The facts are that of those who voted, only slightly more than half voted for leave. 51.9% voted for Brexit and 48.1% voted for Remain. However only 37% of the 46 million registered electorate voted for Brexit. Almost 13 million people did not vote at all. The UK as a whole is deeply divided: Scotland, Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK being in favour of Remain. There is an age divide: the younger you are the more likely you are to want Remain; the older you are the more likely to want Leave. It is the young whose future is most at stake. Yet 16 to 17 year olds, large numbers of whom were in favour of Remain, were denied the vote.

The referendum process was flawed. Senior politicians and many newspapers were irresponsible and lied. Dodgy financing and misuse of the internet were involved. A proper referendum on such an issue would require a super majority of say two thirds. But a referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue.

Only now are the full damaging consequences of leaving the EU clear. Over three years after the vote, we have the benefit of full information and a greater understanding of the complexities of the issue, especially the economic consequences for Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the danger to the Good Friday Agreement. It is therefore appropriate to hold another people’s vote requiring a super majority for any decision.

A useful way of reaching consensus on complex issues such as membership of the European Union is the Citizens’ Assembly. We know that Brexit was a symptom of discontent. Put ordinary voters from both sides in a room and they may talk, listen and find a superior solution to the underlying issues. Such a process needs to be used in Parliament, instead of old-fashioned adversarial debate. People need to listen to each other. Consensus decision making is needed.

If you agree with me, please use your people power to lobby your MP or candidate and use social media.

I give participative talks on the big issues facing us. My most recent book is The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness  was Oxford Alumni Book of the Month for November 2016. Professor Katherine (Kathy) J. Willis, CBE, Principal of St Edmund Hall and Professor of Biodiversity, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford said I am greatly enjoying it; you write beautifully”.

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Why we need a written constitution

Things are falling apart. Brexit has shown us that we need a Democratic Revolution

Mogg

AFP PHOTO / Anna Turley MP via Twitter

The infamous scene of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House, lying asleep on the front bench symbolised the contempt Government is showing for Parliament and MPs.

 

Summary Basically there is a battle between the Executive and Parliament. It is a fight to protect the sovereignty of Parliament. It is an outrage that Johnson was put in office by 0.14 per cent of Britain’s population. I shall include Will Hutton’s arguments for a written constitution, summarise Unlock Democracy’s, quote some of Lisa Nandy MP’s address on Compassion on Line and finally summarise my own proposals for constitutional reform.

 

The Case for a New Written Constitution.

 In his article, The sheer scale of the crisis facing Britain’s decrepit constitution has been laid bare , Will Hutton exposes the weaknesses of an unwritten constitution. Here I summarise his key arguments.

 

Whoever commands a majority in parliament today too easily collapses into a highly centralised executive acting dictatorially ….and becomes toxic if that dictatorial dimension becomes legitimised by the “will of the people” in a referendum. It is only unwritten, uncodified understandings that protect the body politic from regressing to government with minimal checks, balances and accountability. They depend upon a political class that, whatever its differences, accepts common rules of the game, especially making sure that any recourse to direct democracy by referendum is firmly subordinated to rule by parliament. But the idea of common rules has been exploded by the passionate Brexiter conviction that their referendum victory empowers them to use any ruse available to achieve their goal, even a no-deal Brexit, against the scrutiny of a “Remain” parliament.

 

Proroguing parliament to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of a no-deal Brexit may have been an intolerable abuse of power, and an affront to democracy, but in Britain it is constitutionally possible. Despite the threats of judicial review and court actions, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge.

 

No super-majority was required for this fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with Europe. There were no requirements for Leave to spell out its case, the policing of how money was raised was feeble and there were no sanctions for outright misrepresentation.

 

Countries that use referendums a lot have elaborate rules for how they are conducted, Switzerland and Ireland, for example. In Britain, typically, there are no pre-agreed rules, just ad-hoc legislation arising from the particular power conjuncture of the day.

 

What is happening is the culmination of a right-wing coup that has deployed the weakness of Britain’s constitution to drive through toxic, divisive change, the manipulated will of the people trumping representative democracy.

 

To win then and now, those in favour of EU membership needed to recognise they had to trump the narrative of an undemocratic Europe by recognising more profound democratic failings at home. Remain instead found itself the advocate of a hard-to-justify status quo; an archaic state, a decaying democracy and rampant social inequality inflamed by fears of immigration. Leave was allowed to blame it all on the EU – cover for their ultra-right-wing ambitions.

 

A wholesale change of mind set was needed. Remain should have stood for a re-democratised Britain that put power in the hands of the people and for transformative economic and social change that would make Britain better, not worse. To leave the EU, it should have said, would be to abandon that prospect.

 

The Annual Report of Unlock Democracy

 

The Annual Report of Unlock Democracy makes valuable reading. Their polling found that there is a huge gap between what people of the UK want from their democracy and what they get.74% of people think Britain needs a written constitution. 66% agreed that the old way of doing politics no longer works. 58% think Britain’s system of government doesn’t work. They outline the way forward. This included building a movement to raise awareness, a Parliamentary process, a Constitutional Convention and implementation. They will be publishing a new pamphlet Building a New Democratic Settlement in Autumn 2019. There is a crisis of confidence in our current political settlement. Most people, 63 %, (Audit of Political Engagement, 2019 ) believe the system is rigged to advantage the interests of the rich and powerful. 68 % feel that none of the main political parties speak for them (Hope Not Hate, 2019 ).

 

Meanwhile there is the existential threat of the climate crisis. We are more concerned about global warming than ever before. Some 85% of respondents to a recent survey registered their concern around climate change, while 52% noted that they are ‘very concerned’. The United Kingdom became the first nation to officially declare an environmental and climate emergency in May. This measure was a great symbolic victory, with Extinction Rebellion achieving only one of its three initial demands.

  1. Tell the truth Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Act Now Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Beyond Politics Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice

 

Yet, while a useful step, this sadly does not legally require that the government take any particular action on climate change. Surely such a requirement must be part of our written constitution.

Climate and environmental protection. Caroline Lucas MP has made clear to Chancellor, Sajid Javid, that there should be at least a doubling of spending on climate and environmental protectionInstead there was almost nothing – another £30m for decarbonisation schemes.  If the Government were serious about tackling the crisis, they would have announced a Green New Deal and a mass programme of zero-carbon housing.

Unlock Democracy’s Proposals

This is a shortened version of their proposals

We need a New Constitution.

 Right now, most people don’t think politics works for them. Decisions are too often made for people and communities, not with them. At every election we replace politicians, but the old way of doing things stays in power.

Together, we want to rewrite the UK’s entire political system. Instead of Westminster handing down instructions, communities have more say over their futures. Instead of serving the interests of corporations and the super-rich, politicians could work in the public interest.

We’re building a movement of people who will convince politicians it’s time for a new national founding document. This new constitution, written by and for the people, say what the government can do in our name. The process of writing it will let us decide which of our rights need extra protection, and how the different parts of the UK will work together in the future. If we want a fairer society, we need to start with a fairer political system.

Today, it’s hard to make our voices heard in politics, but if we’re united, we can win the change needed to make it work for us, just like when our ancestors won the vote for everybody.

 

To end the political crisis we need a new constitution. We want a new constitution for the UK that replaces the unwritten, Westminster system of gentlemen’s agreements.

The constitution would:

  • Set out the rules for how the Westminster parliament and government works, and what they can and can’t to.
  • Set out how Westminster deals with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Secure citizens’ rights so that they can’t be overruled by the government of the day with a majority of one.

The details would be decided by a citizen-led constitutional convention, and be put to the public to endorse. We believe this process is critical to rebuilding trust in our politics, and permanently rebalancing power so all of us have more say.

 

What is a constitutional convention?

A constitutional convention is where a group of people meet with the express purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing one. They have met in Iceland after the financial crash, and recently in Ireland to consider big changes such as legalising abortion.

Unlock Democracy wants to see a citizen-led convention, given the access to experts and the resources needed to do the job.

How it works

Members of the convention should be randomly selected citizens and should be representative of the UK’s population. Public debate, discussion and consultation should be widespread. There should be a maximum of 200 people in the convention. It should provide ample opportunities for individuals or groups to present their perspective and/or provide evidence throughout the process. Any proposals about the future of the UK should also have a majority of each national group within the convention.

Once the process has finished, we want to see the new constitution put to a referendum.

 

What difference would it make?

Protecting our rights

MPs can take away our rights at any time with a majority of one, and there’s no real limit to what the government can do in our name.

  • In 2016, MPs passed the Investigatory Powers Act, “The most intrusive surveillance law ever introduced in a democratic country” according to Liberty.
  • In 2018, a small majority of MPs voted to scrap a swathe of our rights in the EU Withdrawal Act. Politics isn’t done with us, it’s done to us. It’s time for us as a nation to decide what our fundamental rights should be, and protect them from over-zealous governments.

 

Letting communities decide local services

The UK is one of the most centralised countries in the developed world. Councils and communities have very little say in how much money they raise to spend on local services.

For the last 8 years, Westminster has forced Councils to impose enormous cuts to local services. Without proper powers to raise money from elsewhere, local government increasingly has few genuine choices to make. Libraries have been closing across the UK, while schools and social services are under unprecedented pressure.

We want to see a system where instead of Westminster passing down orders, communities and citizens have a genuine conversation about local needs, with the powers needed to deliver.

 

Here I quote from Lisa Nandy MP’s inspirational talk (with thanks to Compassion on Line ). “We have allowed our institutions – parliament, political parties, the media, technology – to encourage the worst of humanity. But there in Ireland, as Seamus Heaney captures in those short lines, is hope flickering back to life. For all the signs we have reached the end of representative politics, I think we have merely reached the limits.

 

We need power, more accountable, and much closer to home. Electoral systems that bring in new voices rather than just shut them out. New democratic tools, like citizen’s assemblies, that create both tables and bridges. Power in the media dispersed across the country …….so the agenda is no longer set by a narrow few who live and work together in similar experiences and with similar backgrounds.

 

Even those tools that seem at present to divide us, offer hope. Social media has brought a range of voices to the fore but in that roar of noise people are encouraged to move to extremes to be heard. Our traditional media has followed suit. We have mistaken the debate online for a real debate anchored out there in our communities, and become adrift from the voices, grievances and potential in those places.

 

But it could be different.

 

It needs regulation…..to revolutionise a system in which technology is developed by a small number of private individuals, who can direct its ends. It should be a national priority. Because the potential it offers is enormous.….. Above all, able to do away with the greatest tragedy of our era. The centuries old waste of human talent that we wouldn’t or couldn’t use. Utopia? Why? If as I’ve said all along the universe is at any time what you say it is, then say. This is the new settlement of which I think might start to live up to an Attlee settlement for this next era. “Because “socialists” he said “are not concerned solely with material things. They do not think of human beings as a herd to be fed and watered and kept in security. They think of them as individuals co-operating together to make a fine collective life. For this reason socialism is a more exacting creed than that of its competitors. It does not demand submission and acquiescence, but active and constant participation in common activities.”

And this is where the hope lies. For all of the anxiety, anger, and despair that characterises modern times out there is better, if we seek build it. For all the efforts to divide us those values of tolerance and decency that point to a plural, diverse, open country are alive and well. We feel that we are greater than we know. We have learnt in recent years that progress is not inevitable and that the arc of history does not always bend to the left. If we want a hopeful, open, confident country we must build the institutions that allow us to create it the only way we can-together. In the end, our best hope is each other.”

 

Re-imagining Democracy A Collaborative Democracy

The sensible way forward is to collaborate for change – not to divide ourselves in opposition but find common ground by Consensus Design ).  

 

Here is a summary of my proposals;

  • 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, local government and communities – the principle of subsidiarity
  • An elected reviewing chamber
  • Total recall for all elected politicians
  • A cap on individual funding and complete disclosure
  • A fully empowered Electoral Commission
  • End the so-called “revolving door”
  • Votes from age 16
  • The Rights of Future Generations to be recognised*

*The importance of this is eloquently expressed in fourteen year old William Wale’s article Time to listen to UK’s youth  .

(Main sources Green Party and Electoral Reform Society )

 

For more, see my blog post Re-imagining Politics – A Collaborative Democracy

To take action, support organisations campaigning for democratic reform: Make Votes Matter, Compass-Together for a good society, Electoral Reform Society, The Citizens Assembly Project, Constitutional Convention, Unlock Democracy, Counting Women In, 5050 Parliament and Voice4 Change.

 

If you like what you read, please spread the word and use Twitter or Facebook.

 

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

 

Review and Synopsis of Brexit without the Bullshit – By Gavin Esler.

Brexit without the Bullshit

Review and Synopsis of Brexit without the Bullshit – By Gavin Esler.

Gavin Esler is a Scottish journalist, television presenter, author and Chancellor of the University of Kent.

 The book Nigel Farage doesn’t want you to read. Published by the Canbury Press and available from Blackwell’s.

 

This is an account of the damage Brexit has already done, continues to do and will do to Britain and its people especially in the worst case scenario of a no deal unless we stop it. A highly readable book, of 172 pages, packed with information, it offers a thorough and well-researched analysis.  Reading this book, at first I felt depressed. Then angry. That made me determined to publish this review and synopsis. It’s the least I can do.

 

Britain has long been admired for its institutions, its universities, enterprise, arts and culture. Many foreign leaders have studied here. Hitherto it has been a tolerant multi-cultural society though a lot of abusive, even violent behaviour has been let loose since Brexit emerged. It has enjoyed soft power, able to punch above its size. Despite its out-dated democracy, people can protest without being imprisoned, tortured or shot. We have a free, though predominantly right-wing, press, much of it a poor source if you wish to be well-informed. Britain has been seen as a good place to do business and a place to “get on”. It has a long history of migrants coming here and making valuable contributions.

 

Britain is a representative democracy. We elect MPs to make decisions on our behalf. Yet David Cameron called a referendum which produced an almost equally divided result. It also divided the United Kingdom and divided the people. Importantly, for many people it was an opportunity to express their anger at Westminster for having failed to address their concerns for over a generation, the failure to rebuild the economy outside London. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1% and the UK as a whole is now deeply divided. Instead, Citizens’ Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions provide useful ways of bringing people together, getting to the root of discontents, reaching consensus and deciding the way forward.

 

Now our government and parliament are seen as incompetent, a laughing stock. We have lost the respect of other nations. Our place in the global world is small. Our soft power diminished. Throughout the world Prime Minister Boris Johnson is regarded as a sad joke. Many business leaders no longer see the UK as a good place to do business and are moving elsewhere or shifting parts of their business to EU countries. We have been misled and hijacked by a group of selfish, ambitious people ignorant of the facts, and likely consequences of Brexit, careless of the truth, unconcerned about the future of young people and those who will suffer most.

 

Leadership. Our country is full of inspiring, visionary leaders in all walks of life, people who create great initiatives and are essentially servant leaders. But, partly because of the flaws in our out-dated unwritten constitution, they are not represented at the top of levels government. Thus far no great political leaders have emerged capable of putting the nation’s interests first and getting us out of this mess. That does not mean they are not there. We have a narcissist Prime Minister, full of bluster but light on truth and competence, elected by 92,153 members of the Tory Party or 0.13 percent of the population. How could a democratic constitution produce such a result? Many people are in despair.

 

Benefits from EU Membership It is important to understand the benefits Britain and other EU countries gain from membership and the financial contributions we make. This Commons Library briefing looks at the funding received by the UK from EU institutions and considers the implications of Brexit on the EU as a source of funding for regional development, agriculture support, research and innovation and other areas. The EU funds its economically disadvantaged regions . The EU spends a fifth of its budget on “regional development”: That’s €200 billion to support universities, roads, businesses, banks and more. This analysis shows how the European Union’s regions benefit from EU funding.

 

Chapter by Chapter

The Facts on Food, Health and the NHS, Our Money and Our Jobs and Our Children’s Education. Frequently I shall paraphrase Gavin Esler’s text.

 

Chapter 1: Brexit & Our Food

Britain imports more food than it produces. Half our food comes from other countries, 30% from the EU. Depending on the form of Brexit, our food will become more expensive. Tariffs at borders will not help get fresh food onto the shelves. We are already suffering a shortfall of seasonal workers, 12.5 % by 2017, as a result of Brexit related uncertainty, “Brexodus”, and the fall in the value of the pound. Our farmers export a lot of food to EU countries, especially meat. It is fantasy to imagine that we can easily negotiate trade deals with countries such as the USA. But most importantly in a warming world, it is vital that we cut “food miles”. So it is better to buy from nearby Europe when possible. Of course there are flaws in the EU policy of subsidising large farmers most (95% goes to the wealthiest farmers). The EU policy of registering only a few varieties of seeds for sale reduces food diversity. That endangers food security . The fishery policy makes no sense to many fishermen. We need to be at the table and press for reform.

 

Food poverty. The continuing slide in the pound means higher prices that will affect the poorest citizens most severely. Food inflation hit a five-year high of 2.5% in 2019, partly as a result of bad weather. The Trussell Trust runs 400 food banks but the total may be around 2000 and users may be half a million. 10% of children in UK are living in severe food uncertainty. Higher prices will lead to more hungry families and more hungry children unable to concentrate at school. Certainly we could and should produce more of our own food but not all of it. We need variety.

 

British shoppers have benefitted from low taxes on goods from other EU states and trade deals made by EU negotiators with countries such as Japan which would otherwise have taken years. It is folly to think that we, a small country, could rapidly replicate these, to the same high standards as in the case of food, on our own. Do we really want chlorinated chicken, GM crops, industrial agriculture, with its reliance on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation that has come at a cost to the environment and local communities.

 

Chapter 2: Brexit and the NHS

“We send the EU £350 million a week” written on the side of a bus as if this might be available for extra spending on the NHS when we left the EU was a big untruth. It took no account of all the payments currently made by the EU for the support of agriculture and scientific research and much more. More reliable figures are here .

Two thirds of us would be prepared to pay more for a better NHS .

 

However these figures are just part of the total picture. There is unhappiness in UK with the services we receive, long delays and the shortage of hospital beds. Bed crises are unknown in Germany. The UK has fewer than three beds per 1000 citizens whereas Germany has eight and France six. We are being squeezed. The NHS is at the top of the league of efficiency and in 11 advanced countries and its resilience and efficiency are outstanding. But because of Brexit the economy is being squeezed. From having the highest growth rate in the G7 we have slipped to the lowest and productivity has suffered, much of this as a result of Brexit uncertainty. This means the money available to fund the NHS is less and health care funding is likely to come from a shrinking cake.

 

Drugs The post-referendum drop in the pound has made importing pharmaceuticals more expensive. The NHS is the biggest byer of drugs in the world. That means it can drive a hard bargain but the cost of drugs is rising above inflation. A fall in the pound makes drugs more expensive if they are not available in the UK. The book gives details of where various drugs come from many of which come from the EU. Supplies could be held up at the border if we are outside the EU.

 

Staff shortages Long waiting times caused by staff shortages and lack of facilities are a key concern. So is a lack of social care. Some 10% of staff come from the EU. The author gives Homerton University Hospital as an example. Motivated staff from all over the world happy working together. Staff comment on enjoying working with people from around the world. The NHS is proud of its diversity. Since Brexit, staff are harder to find. Many have returned to Europe.

 

Patients waiting more than four hours to be treated in NHS Accident and Emergency units in England rose from 353,617 in 2010 to 2,778,687 in 2018. The NHS employs around 1.7 million people, 1.2 million in England. It is unclear to what extent staff shortages are attributable to Brexit as opposed to the policy of “austerity” and an incoherent approach to workforce policy at a national level, poor workforce planning and inadequate training places.

 

Social care 400,000 people live in adult social care homes. Finding caring people to work in 11,000 adult care homes has never been easy. Pay is low. In 2018 the vacancy rate in the 1.4 million jobs was 6.6%.  And the Nuffield Trust calculates that by 2025-6 we may be short of as many as 70,000 care workers if migration of unskilled workers is halted or seriously disrupted. Post-Brexit, the situation may be even worse. If EU workers are replaced they will have to come from Asia or Africa or wages will have to be substantially raised.

 

The cost of medicines. There is considerable information about the damage already done and what more we stand to lose here. Briefly, the European Medicines Agency has already quit London. Financing for the NHS from European sources will dry up. UK will be less attractive to launch new medicines and their availability in UK could be delayed. Brexit will harm the UK’s European and global leadership in health. US Big Pharm will see opportunities to “invade” the NHS and remove barriers such as and the independence of NICE (National Institute for Health Care Excellence.  Nigel Farage’s statements about moving from a tax-payer funded NHS to private health insurance are noted. Finally, under the withdrawal agreement reciprocal health care arrangements will end after 2020 and those of us who travel to Europe will need private health insurance.

 

Chapter 3: Brexit, Our Jobs & Our Money

“Brexit has profoundly affected our money, our family finances, our jobs, our economic security and our future prosperity since 2016”. The drop in the value of the pound is only part of it. The actual or looming departure of manufacturers, entrepreneurs, financial services and other employers has done lasting damage to the UK economy, jobs, businesses and capacity to innovate all pointing to a poorer Britain. How can a responsible government allow this and indeed help it happen?

The Jobs Lost Index estimates that from June 2016 to April 2019, 218,839 jobs have been lost due to Brexit and annual wages lost add up to £6.27 bn. Losses in annual income tax and national insurance amount to 1.8 bn. Top of the list of job losses by region are Midlands, London, South West Wales and North East in descending order. Sectors in the same order are Auto, Transport, Food and Drink, Finance and Construction. “Just in time “supply chains are part of it”.

 

Britain is poorer. We were seen as a land of opportunities. EU citizens working here bring value and put in more than they take out. They are not a drain. It is estimated they bring a net contribution of £78,000 to the exchequer over a lifetime. Predictions that Brexit would make us poorer were right. Altogether we are poorer than we would have been had it not been for Brexit. And any form of Brexit is likely to make us poorer still. GDP grew 2.3 % in 2015. In 2018 it fell to 1.4%. The London School of Economics estimated that since June 2016, the economy lost 2% of expected GDP, or £40bn per year, £800m per week – more than twice the £350 claimed on the side of the bus. We live in the world’s fifth largest economy but one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Close to 40 % of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Philip Alston, the UN’s poverty expert said “sustained and widespread cuts to social support” are “in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations”.

 

Chapter 4: Brexit & Our Children’s Education

British schools and educationalists see problems ahead. Language teaching is important if we wish to be Global Britain. GCSE language learning courses have dropped by up to 50% since 2013.Germanand French have fallen most. Britain has a worldwide reputation for education. We have some of the best universities and schools in the world. This is part of soft power. Visitors generate 200,000 jobs in university towns and students and their visitors spending generate 25.8bn gross output in the UK and £10.8bn export earnings.

Teachers Membership of the EU has allowed teachers to come here with their qualifications recognised to teach. The knowledge economy has benefitted from free movement. State schools often short of teachers have relied on foreign teachers. Without EU teachers these shortages would have been much greater. There are about 450,000 full time equivalent EU teachers in England. However, from 2017 -18 EU teachers were 25% down including a drop of 33% from Poland partly as a result of bad publicity about racially motivated attacks. Leaving the EU is expected to worsen shortages.

 

Some £3bn European Structural Funding (ESF) helps pay for local projects with young people, libraries and adult learning will also come to an end.

 

Universities, Soft Power and Brexit Much of Britain’s success in the world depended on brain power and exchanging ideas and theories with other peoples. For decades Britain has attracted people from around the world. This pull is weakening. So instead, English private schools are exploring expansion on mainland Europe.

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Great leadership will ultimately emerge. And there is a good chance that this folly will be prevented. My conclusion is that no deal is better than remaining in the EU with a seat at the table. We have been let down by our government and collectively by our representatives. We ordinary citizens will have to use our power and fight for Remain, for reform of the EU and fundamental reform of the United Kingdom constitution. See my proposals Re-imagining Politics – A Collaborative Democracy

 

Actions I suggest are:

Talk with your MP

Campaigns to Stop Brexit

Another Europe is Possible, European Movement UK, People’s Vote Campaign, Scientists for EU, Remainer Now.

Support campaigns for political reform: The Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, The Electoral Reform Society , Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, People’s Vote and many more.

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

Bruce gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done. Contact me from my website Creating a just, sustainable, non-violent world .

 

 

 

 

ConnectedCities – A Global Sustainable Development Strategy – Planning for prosperity. Review of book and website.

This visionary proposal is made against the backdrop of the existential challenges facing all humanity. It makes inspiring reading in these otherwise depressing political times.

 

Challenges and opportunities Sir David Attenborough warns “Climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years.” “…time is running out.” “We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) COP 24 report October 2018 showed that CO2 emissions are on the rise again after stalling for four years. To limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, an essential goal, governments must slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030. Teresa May committed the UK to cut carbon emissions to almost zero by 2050. Much more drastic cuts are needed. The Extinction Rebellion demands that Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

 

The demands of humanity constantly increase. By 2050 global population is likely to be 9.7 billion, an increase from 7.7 billion today. The UN predicts that by 2030, almost 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. 95 percent of urban expansion will be take place in the developing world. Today cities account for 60-80 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions. Clearly we need to plan for sustainable growth worldwide.

These problems are not new. A century ago Ebenezer Howard identified three big problems for which Garden Cities were the solution: mass migration to cities from the countryside and the resulting slums; pollution; and the need for green spaces and access to the countryside. Today the world faces exactly the same forces, but now on a global scale. And the reason they are now global is because we have not done what Howard proposed.

 

The UK’s population, now 66.96 million, is expected to rise to 78 million. Population growth, poverty, extreme inequality , the housing crisis and the pressing need to address climate change and car dependency must be addressed. It is essential to reduce both emissions and traffic congestion. This offers an opportunity for a comprehensive new approach to strategic planning integrating brownfield and green field development.

 

The Future ConnectedCities draws its inspiration from Ebenezer Howard’s Social Cities . The vision, especially in developed countries, is for compact, high quality, walkable, sustainable developments focused around existing and new railway stations, providing frequent train services, clustered around “hub towns”. Disused railways could be re-opened.  There are some 2500 railway stations in the UK – a good place to start. Groups of settlements – some existing, some new – would be linked using existing rail corridors and clustered around a ‘hub town’. Together they would form a ConnectedCity. Local business could flourish. Local transport would become viable. Long, stressful, expensive daily rail travel would be reduced. See 2050 Travel.

 

There is a broad range of alternatives:

  • Town growth within an existing town
  • New green quarters on the edge of a town
  • Or a new green town

 

Unaffordable Housing is a major issue for the under forty year old generation. People being unable to live near their parents adversely affects family life. Public ownership of land and the removal of land cost could result in more affordable housing. The ConnectedCities approach could help avoid Green Belt controversies. We need to re-think local government. If people are fully involved in making decisions about their ConnectedCity, by means of Citizens Assemblies, it will be possible to avoid the situation in which Borough Councils are criticised for imposing unwelcome decisions on a neighbouring town like mine.

 

Wellbeing – not growth. Whilst helping to address these issues, the ConnectedCities proposals would help create a flourishing economy and greater wellbeing for all citizens. Clearly, constantly increasing GDP (Gross Domestic Product) drives overconsumption of the Earth’s resources when we should be reducing our ever growing footprint now exceeding 1.7 planets. New Zealand is eschewing GDP in favour of wellbeing as a guiding indicator . The Welsh government has a Well-being of Future Generations Act .

 

One of the many advantages of a ConnectedCity is that people are generally able to travel by one means or another to their destinations within fifteen minutes and would not need to use a car. Globally, nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day, most of them young men. A Connected City would similarly provide access to countryside. We know how important a green environment, particularly one including trees, is to human wellbeing. No one should live in a totally urban environment. We also know how good it is for peoples’ mental health to grow food together. Agriculture, sustainable, would be nearby. Butterflies, moths and birds would re-appear. Countries could become more self- sufficient, cutting food miles .
Case Studies On the website, case studies are provided applying to a broad range of circumstances: a town growth zone, a new green quarter on the edge of an existing town or a new green town .

 

A Cities Act is required to confer on local authorities which adopt it powers to establish ConnectedCities, supervise their development, and eventually transfer the administration of each to a ConnectedCity council.

 

If you want to help make all this happen, sign up for the occasional newsletter , get the support of your MP, County Councillor and local representatives and contact ConnectedCity http://www.connectedcities.co.uk/contact-us . Buy the book from Connected Cities and access the excellent website which can be navigated to provide detailed information on every aspect of these proposals. You may also wish to support the New Garden Cities Alliance whose aim is to work in partnership with existing bodies to establish standards for Garden Cities that Britain can be proud of. Also to establish exemplars for an environmentally sustainable society that promotes the wellbeing of all citizens.

 

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness . Bruce Nixon https://brucenixon.com/

Bruce gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done. Contact me from my website Creating a just, sustainable, non-violent world .

 

Teresa May faced an Impossible Task.

Peoples Vote

Protesters carry a banner at the People’s Vote anti-Brexit march in London on March 23, 2019. Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images.                                     

She faced a deeply divided House of Commons and divided Tory and Labour parties, unwilling to agree to the Brexit proposals she negotiated with EU leaders. Almost certainly any other leader would have faced the same situation. Leaving the EU is the wrong diagnosis for a real crisis – see The dismantling of the state since the 1980s .  

 

Vote Leave was launched in October 2015 with the support of both right and left wing Eurosceptic politicians, leaders from the business world and trade unions and the European Research Group . It was arguably a campaign organised by politicians wanting more power. It was not about giving more power to the people.

 

The constantly repeated “Brexit is the will of the people” is propaganda. It was the will of people instigating the campaigns. It was the will of Nigel Farage, a narcissistic demagogue, hungry for power. Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, was de facto leader of the Conservatives, argue Messrs Hutton and Adonis in a chapter of their book Saving Britain. 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 – see Democracy and its crisis. It is important to note that just over 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted in the referendum backed Remain. I have argued elsewhere about the flaws in the referendum .

 

Citizens were grossly misled. For a democracy to work there must be standards of truth and integrity. Citizens, MPs and Ministers need to be well informed. Both Vote Leave and its rival organisation, Britain Stronger in Europe“, were severely criticised by sections of the media and academia for a campaign described by the Electoral Reform Society as “dire”, which left the public seriously lacking proper information. Now far more information is available, particularly about the damage to our country already taking place.

 

On 17 July 2018, Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and referred to police for breaking electoral spending laws. It was financed by Aaron Banks and other sources, now under investigation https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/16/arron-banks-allegedly-gave-450000-funding-to-nigel-farage-after-brexit-vote. Farage’s new Brexit Party, which has no manifesto, is in fact a company with shareholders . Boris Johnson is due to appear in court over Brexit misconduct claims. The Electoral Commission claims that urgent improvements are needed to ensure transparency for voters in the digital age .

 

Underlying the popular vote for Brexit was the failure of successive governments to create an industrial strategy that would bring prosperity to citizens outside the prosperous London area.  To a considerable extent, the Brexit vote was a protest against government from Westminster. Of course the issues were diverse. But the essential problem was that for over a generation successive governments had failed to create an industrial strategy that would bring prosperity to citizens throughout the UK.

 

Brexit is not a solution to the diverse problems of the UK.  Brexit revealed the UK as a deeply divided country. For Teresa May to devise a Brexit acceptable to all parties was impossible. Furthermore, Brexit was a supposed solution to problems that had not been systematically defined. The idea that departing the EU would be a solution is simplistic.

 

All solutions other than Remain are inferior, in my view, and offer less benefit. Remain provides a seat round the table so that we can work with our European colleagues for a better EU. There is absolutely no doubt that the EU needs considerable reform. It already faces criticisms from other member countries. Wealth is systematically extracted from southern countries of Europe to the north.  Some of its policies are flawed – such as the costly registration of seeds which reduces essential plant diversity, fishery policy and above all the farm subsidies mainly benefitting large landowners rather than the small farmers we need.  People also forget that the EU was formed, partly to prevent war between European nations. Today we need a united Europe to defend ourselves from the threats posed by China, Russia and Trump’s USA. The EU is a powerful representation of high standards for goods and services, sustainability, human rights, democracy and enlightenment.

 

When there are essentially three alternatives – in; out or some modified membership, and one is chosen, it is inevitable that large numbers of people, half the nation, will be dissatisfied and feel unrepresented. Win, win solutions are needed, not a compromises. This can be achieved through consensus design instead of ideological battles that divide our country.

 

The current way of doing politics is inappropriate when humanity faces existential threats such as irreversible climate change . Nor is it the way to do politics in a nation so divided in wealth. Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special rapporteur. We need entirely different ways of addressing the existential challenges we face. Instead of being tribal, political leaders need to collaborate in bringing about change. There needs to be continuity, not “all change” when government changes. Leaders need to be servant leaders.

 

There are ways in which the diverse needs of the United Kingdom can be met. Power needs to be devolved to the countries and regions of the United Kingdom under the principle of subsidiarity. More specifically we need to use Citizens Assemblies . Around the world people are innovating with new forms of democracy. Drawing from classical ideas of random selection and modern institutions such as juries, more deliberative and participative forms of democracy are taking shape”. And through Citizens Conventions Citizens should decide where power lies in this country”.

 

“Citizens Assemblies are in the news, from the assemblies that led to the referendums on equal marriage and https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/the-irish-abortion-referendum-how-a-citizens-assembly-helped-to-break-years-of-political-deadlock/, to demands for a Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit to sort out the blockages at Westminster. While the Electoral Reform Society has helped run two citizens’ assemblies recently, and political scientists have been studying them for years, to most people the phrase ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ means little. Firstly, Parliament and your local council are not citizens’ assemblies. Rather than elections, the members of a citizens’ assembly are typically selected at random from the general public – like a jury. It is still up to elected politicians whether or not to follow the assembly’s recommendations”.

 

To quote from the Electoral Reform Society website: “A constitutional convention is a process for involving members of the public in making decisions about the constitutional shape of a country, region, nation or state. Conventions and assemblies on constitutional issues have been held in a number of countries and regions, including Ireland, Iceland and British Columbia. The UK also has experience of constitutional conventions, most notably the Scottish Constitutional Convention which paved the way for the creation of the Scottish Parliament…..It’s time for a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention to decide the future shape of our country”.

 

For comprehensive proposals to bring about fundamental change in how we do politics, see my blogpost Re-imagining Politics – A Collaborative Democracy

 

What can you do? Lobby your MP, use your vote and support the many campaigns for reform of our outdated democracy including proportional representation and a new written constitution.

Support campaigns for political reform: The Institute for Public for Public Policy Research, The Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, Electoral Reform Society , Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, People’s Vote and many more.

 

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

I am so glad I was there at this historic event.

Stay in Europe Fix Britain

Over a million people came from all over the UK to demand a second peoples vote. It was such a happy event. It felt so good to be there with lovely people of good will, of all ages, in all their diversity, having a great time. Mark you, I was exhausted when I got home.

Me and My Friends from Berkhamsted

We may be at the beginning of a benign turning point after two and a half frustratiing and, for meny people, miserable years of uncertainty and political chaos. There is certainly a lack of great leadership. I remind myself that, in the history, sometimes things need to get disastously bad before a dramatic change comes about. We learn from our mistakes. Perhaps this is a 1940 moment. A National Government was formed, Churchill replaced Chamberlain and the nation was united in winning the war, ultimately with American help. Subsequently a number of great leaders created a post-war settlement including the NHS in UK and much later the Europen Union emerged after several forms of European collaboration. Part of the intention was to prevent further wars in Europe. Now is certainly a defining moment in the 21st Century for the UK and Europe. Europe will have to respond not only to some of the underlying causes of Brexit but other discontents such as the flaws in a system that extracts wealth from south to north.

Two little Girls with their Mum and Granny

As I write, signatures in the petition to revoke Article 50 approach six million. This can hardly be ignored by government or Parliament. So there is a good chance that there will not only be a Peoples Vote but that revoking article 50 will be included in it.

Music Maker

However, if the so – called Peoples Vote takes place it is vital we ensure that this time it is a properly conducted referendum.

Woman Sitting on Block

My view is that Brexit had no hope of working to the benefit of the nation. Inevitably it would lead to chaos and division. Furthermore it was a “solution” without a “problem”. The problems it was supposed to remedy had not been identified or properly defined first. No way to solve our problems. There were popular calls from certain politicians, such as the dubious “get back control”. Control for whom and for what purposes we may ask. Possibly to undo our high food standards and workers’ rights. Certainly there are many policies of the EU that need to be changed but that is not justify leaving. It requires vigorous action to bring about such changes.

 

The principle of subsidiarity applies to the European Union. Subsidiarity is a principle of social organization that holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate level that is consistent with their resolution. The principle of subsidiarity , laid down in the Treaty on European Union, defines the circumstances in which it is preferable for action to be taken by the Union, rather than the Member States.

 

Underlying the Leave vote are fundamental issues that have not been adressed for at least two generations. These problems would best be addressed by regional government supported by Westminster. Partly, Leave was a protest against Westminster, a centralising government seen as out of touch with the regions. Furthermore different parts of the UK wanted different things. People in the London area, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland largely wanted to remain. Likewise different generations had different views. The young whose future was at stake, some of whom were not eligible to vote, predominantly wanted to remain. In such circumsatances, with such a tiny majority of those who voted, no referendum could possiblly create a happy solution.

 

There are also all kind of processes that could get us out of this mess. These include Citizens Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions. Currently what the public see in the House of Commons is out-moded, often abusive, adversarial debate rather than constructive dialogue in which people listen to eachother and arrive at consensus. The search needs to be for win;win slolutions in preference to compromises. For a rich source of ideas including these approaches go to the Constitution Unit at University College London and sign up for their newsletter.

 

The Long Revolution We need to see this period of chaos a part of what the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) calls The Long Revolution. We have thoroughly out-dated political system which has reached crisis point. Right now, at last, we may be at a historic turning point.

 

What can you do? Lobby your MP, use your vote and support the many campaigns for reform of our outdated democracy including proportional representation and a new written constitution.

Support campaigns for political reform: The Institute for Public for Public Policy Research, The Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, People’s Vote and many more.

 

I shall be posting another blog when there are further developments and a way forward has been agreed.

 

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness . He gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done.

Bruce Nixon brucenixon.com

 

 

Parliament is unable to see the wood for the trees. We need a second Brexit referendum.

Amidst all the daily chaos in a quarrelling House of Commons, one simple fact remains. The often quoted “will of the people” is unknown. The 2016 referendum asking the people of the UK whether they wanted the country either to remain a member of or leave the European Union was deeply flawed. The diverse economic and social issues underlying what was in part a protest vote had not been defined as top priorities. And will certainly not be remedied by Brexit. Indeed leaving the EU will only make the situation worse, as is already happening.

 

Meanwhile our Government fails to address with urgency the existential crisis facing the world. The latest Institute for Public Policy Research report This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown, argues that this is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown warns that mainstream political and policy debates have failed to recognise that human impacts on the environment have reached a critical stage, potentially eroding the conditions upon which socioeconomic stability is possible. Human-induced environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace and the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes in societies around the world is rapidly closing. These outcomes include economic instability, large-scale involuntary migration, conflict, famine and the potential collapse of social and economic systems. The historical disregard of environmental considerations in most areas of policy has been a catastrophic mistake.

Now, children as young as five are due to be among the thousands of pupils walking out of their lessons as part of a climate change protest.

 

Brexit was the work of a few egoistic men, backed by big illegal money, partly provided by Aaron Banks, who showed little concern for the interests of the nation. They might be called psychopathic or narcissistic. They misinformed the public and misused social networking and Russian interference is alleged. The concept of “taking back control” is very dubious. Control for whom and for what purpose? Have those who use this phrase not heard of the principle of subsidiarity?

 

Corruption Arron Banks is being investigated over the Brexit campaign. Banks is the biggest individual donor in British political history, pouring millions of pounds into referendum campaigns.  These are astonishing exposures of corruption that adds to the case for constitutional reform, up – to – date surveillance and a second peoples’ vote. Also see Arron Banks and why he’s being investigated over the Brexit campaigning investigated over the Brexit campaign .

 

The problem with Brexit is that it is a supposed solution without a problem. Under a systemic approach, problems and key issues are identified first; then the desired state is envisaged and a comprehensive strategy is developed to bring it about. Of course we know that the Brexit vote was a protest about the failure of successive governments to create a prosperous new 21st century economy for the whole of the UK that would benefit all citizens. Brexit will only make the situation worse. Different parts of the UK will want different solutions. So power and financial resources must be devolved to the different countries and regions.

 

Under the principle of subsidiarity , “in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.” So we use it to create a level playing field in key areas such as healthy food and sustainable and humane agriculture.

 

The constantly repeated mantra “Brexit is the will of the people” is either unwitting misinformation or clever propaganda designed to mesmerise us.  Certainly, 52% of those who voted, voted leave and 48% voted to remain, a tiny difference. 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 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. The referendum was poorly conceived and inappropriate for such a complex issue. And it was explicitly advisory.

 

People on both sides were misled and could not have known what the consequences would be. Now we know far more. Brexit is not the will of the Scottish people nor of those in London and the South East. Certainly it is not the will of most people under 45. The younger you are, the more likely you are to want Remain. 75% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted Remain. Most MPs, about 73%, are in favour of Remain.  Nowhere else in the world would 37% of an electorate constitute a mandate for major constitutional change. Generally a two thirds majority is required. The referendum was poorly conceived and inappropriate for such a complex issue.  This is another reason why we need a written constitution that sets out clearly how referenda must be conducted and the penalties for the sort of abuses set out above.

In these circumstances, a second referendum is the most democratic action for government to take.

A useful way of helping to reach consensus on issues such as membership of the European Union is the Citizens’ Assembly as described in these two articles: We can break the Brexit deadlock: with a citizens’ assembly. Put ordinary voters from both sides in a room and they may talk, listen and find a compromise. Such a process needs to be used in Parliament, instead of old-fashioned adversarial debate. People need to listen to each other. Consensus decision making decision-making is needed.

 

A very good analysis of the Brexit Referendum is provided by Wikipedia here

 

So what can people like you and I do?

  • Lobby your MP or candidate. Demand their commitment to PR, votes for 16-17 year olds and comprehensive constitutional reform in the next Parliament.

 

  • Support campaigns for political reform: Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, Young People’s Party, People’s Vote and many more. Young people’s campaign .

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness https://www.brucenixon.com/21stCenturyRevolution.html . He gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done.