Lessons from Brexit

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

 

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

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

Brexit should be stopped in its tracks.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Is Majority Rule fit for the 21st Century?

https://brucenixonblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/is-majority-rule-fit-for-the-21st-century/

 

Building a Good Europe

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

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

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

Building a Good Europe

A more hopeful, imaginative, inspiring discussion about Europe

Executive summary

 

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

 

Visions of a Good Europe

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

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

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

Radical, feasible policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The EU could also:

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

How does change happen?

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

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

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

 

Is Majority Rule fit for the 21st Century?

I listen to a lot of people, dedicated people, who are angry about what is happening to their country. They are sick of the behaviour of political leaders and the constant distressing news. The whole manner of political discourse is offensive to many people. There is massive disengagement from politics. People think there is nothing they can do. We have a government supported by only 24% of those eligible to vote, imposing ideological policies. Senseless cuts are impoverishing the country and delaying economic recovery, Government fails to create a strategy for a prosperous, sustainable economy that will benefit everyone throughout the whole country and not contribute to the destruction of planet Earth. The same is true in different ways and varying degrees all over the world.

Governing without a mandate In last year’s election, the Conservatives gained 51% of seats in the House of Commons with only 37% of the vote. 34% of those eligible to vote did not do so – compare with the 84.5% turnout in the Scottish referendum. Most votes were wasted. Of almost 31 million people who voted, 19 million (63% of the total) did so for losing candidates. Many of the MPs who won failed to get the support of most voters. Of 650 winning candidates, 322 (49%) got less than 50% of the vote in their constituency. Women and BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) are under-represented. First past the post leaves a vast number of people feeling unrepresented. This breeds powerlessness and disengagement. Widespread feelings of powerlessness are bad for a nation.

Proportional Representation Under Proportional Representation, the results in the 2015 election would have been (actual seats in brackets): Conservatives 244 (331) seats, Labour 201 (232), UKIP 83 (1), Lib Dem 52 (8), SNP 31(56), Green 25(1), minor parties 14 including Plaid Cymru 3. The Conservatives would still be the largest party, but 37% of votes should never equal 51% of seats in a real democracy.

Advantages to voters As the Electoral Reform Society says, with the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and multi-member constituencies, parties have an incentive to present a balanced team of candidates in order to maximise the number of higher preferences that would go to their sponsored candidates. This supports the advancement of women and ethnic-minority candidates, who are often overlooked in favour of a ‘safer’ looking candidate. It is a candidate-centred electoral system and encourages local campaigning and a strong constituency link. STV also offers voters a choice of representatives to approach with their concerns post-election, rather than just the one, who may not be at all sympathetic to their views, or may even be the cause of their concerns. That is an enormous advantage over the present situation in which many voters feel their views will not be taken into account by an MP not of their party choice. Proportional representation in local government would be good for voters whose chances of casting a ballot which elects their chosen representative would rise dramatically.Proportional representation in local government in England would be good for voters whose chances of casting faa ballot which elects their chosen representative would rise dramatically. In December 2015, pollsters BMG found that 57 per cent of the public agree with the principle that “the number of seats a party gets should broadly reflect its proportion of the total votes cast” – compared to only 9 per cent who disagree.

There is a real opportunity now after the most disproportionate election result in history.

A fair voting system is not enough. The UK cannot be described as a democracy while wealthy donors dominate parties and government is infiltrated by big corporations, many of which are larger than national economies.  Furthermore, democracy can only work when the electorate is well informed. Yet a predominantly right- wing press, mostly owned by wealthy individuals, misleads the public and leaves them ill-informed. People who want to be well-informed would do better to get their news and information from reliable think tanks.

It’s a condemnation of the political class that they have put party interests ahead of the nation’s and resisted reform for so long.

 Is majority rule appropriate in the 21st Century? We face the greatest challenges in human history: climate chaos; destruction of the ecosystem; growing economic injustice; millions of early deaths issues related to poverty, pollution, diet and unhealthy lifestyles; and the need to resolve conflict without violence – all interconnected. Humanity is confronted with the possibility of self-extinction.

Consensus government To meet these challenges we need collaborative, not adversarial, government. Like other species we need to evolve in order to survive. A fair democracy representing the nation’s full diversity is vital for engaging our collective intelligence and creativity in resolving the great issues of our time. In order to find effective long-term solutions, I believe it is axiomatic that we must “get the whole system into the room”. We need to embrace diversity and difference. We need consensus building rather than adversarial politics (politics is too important to be a smart debating performance). This, and a sense of fairness, is essential for a national wellbeing and a successful economy. We need as many people as possible to be committed and engaged. Enabling, transformative leadership is required to bring out the best in people. The same principles apply at the international level. Ultimately, failure to build consensus leads to violence and violence breeds more violence and chaos. That must be the lesson of recent world history.

Consensus design I am very interested in applying the principles of Consensus Desighttp://www.christopherday.eu/consensus-design practiced by architect Christopher Day to politics. His idea is that as an architect you go in with one view of what needs to be done but having listened to all the stakeholders you may come out with something completely different. Could we be heading in that direction?

Co-creating Change Currently we have government that is illiterate in many ways: some ministers do not understand how to lead people and engage them in co-creating change. This is one of the reasons why valuable staff become disillusioned, are leaving in droves and the crises are worsening in key services such as the health and education.

A 21st Century Magna Carta – A collaborative democracy

We need a clear vision of what a good democracy looks like. This is what we have to demand.

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

(Main sources Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ Unlock Democracy http://www.unlockdemocracy.org/ and Green Party)

Clearly there are risks to party interests. But parties are likely to gain more support by being seen to do the right thing. People are yearning for political leaders who are visionary and strategic, putting the nation’s interests ahead of party advantage. How refreshing this will be.

At a practical level, thousands of ordinary people need to exercise their power and campaign for an alliance of progressive parties committed to introducing a new constitution in the next Parliament.

 Action

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

Bruce Nixon is an author, writer and speaker. He gives participative talks in communities, schools and at conferences. This article is based on Chapter 9 Transforming democracy in his new book The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness published by Acorn Independent Press.   https://brucenixonblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/the-21st-century-revolution-a-call-to-greatness/