We need a new Magna Carta to give power to the people

Summary

In the 21st Century we face the greatest challenges in human history. We are confronted with the possibility of self-extinction. To meet these challenges we need collaborative, not adversarial, government. Like other species we need to evolve in order to survive. Just as Britain inspired the world with Magna Carta, Britain now needs to work, alongside other nations, in developing a model democracy that will give power to people and inspire the world.

The greatest problem of our age is disempowerment – part of a political project to shift ordinary people out of power and out of politics, to leave them content to judge their identity by the brand of smart phone they rent.
Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now

We face the greatest challenges in our history
They’re all interrelated:

  • The Environmental Crisis: Climate Chaos, Destruction of the Ecosystem and Pollution (Early death pa: World 9.5m, UK almost 30k, London nearly 9k.)
  • Growing Economic Injustice, fuelled by debt and the way money is created (UK is a Divided Nation: real wages have fallen by more than 8% between 2007 and 2014. Yet CEO pay has steadily risen. BP CEO, pay settlement £14m for one year despite losses.)
  • Resolving Conflict without Violence (More than 470,000 Syrians dead, 6.5m displaced, 12m in urgent need and 3m refugees. Europe has a huge migration crisis that is likely to grow, not only as a result of violence but also drought caused by climate chaos.)
  • Out-dated Democracy in urgent need of comprehensive constitutional reform
  • Leadership – the lack of it and, that key part, the need for “ordinary people” to inform and empower themselves.

The world is currently on a trajectory that leads to 3.6 to 4.5°C warming. If this continues it could prove fatal for the human race. The Agreement at COP 21 in Paris is just the start. 195 nations agreed a long-term goal, from 2050, to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5ºC. $100bn of annual climate finance will be provided to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. There is a legally binding process to review and report on efforts to achieve national targets. The hard work of securing radically lower greenhouse gas emissions lies ahead. It remains to be seen what the short-sighted and environmentally illiterate UK government will do.

At the root of the environmental and economic crises is the belief in continuous growth, measured by GDP instead of wellbeing, as the measure of progress.

Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. Kenneth Boulding

We need to live lightly on our planet. We’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ as Will Hutton says. There is enough for everybody. The problem is the way it’s distributed. Another major factor is that 97% of our money is created by the banks for profit. That incentivises banks to create debt that enables us to consume more. This system is a major cause of escalating property prices. Personal debt and irresponsible lending pose the risks of another financial collapse. Aid in the form of loans impoverishes poorer countries. Debt extracts wealth from Africa and has impoverished Greece.

Austerity and cuts to public services result in further indebtedness, needlessly damaging our society and causing huge suffering. People are dying as a result. Austerity has failed to eliminate the deficit. Moreover, this is a flawed policy goal. It is economic illiteracy. The goal should be wellbeing for all. All over Europe, in UK, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland, and in the Americas, the policies of the past thirty five years are being challenged, especially by younger people. Many people dislike the abusive and adversarial behaviour of political leaders. People want a better way. They want vision and hope. Ultimately violence is created when there is no hope. When people think it worthwhile, they come out in droves and vote as they did in the Scottish referendum.

Powerlessness is the biggest obstacle to progress. People frequently tell me they are angry about what is happening but there is nothing I can do. In the UK, they see an out of touch government without a mandate imposing extreme ideological policies on the nation whilst failing to grasp the opportunities to build a prosperous green economy that would benefit everyone. This is an outrage; we need to feel our anger and act. There are 7.3bn of us, 1% of them.

We are 21st century citizens, doing our best to interact with 19th century-designed institutions …. based on information technology of the 15th century… which has no dialogue capacity. Pia Mancini, DemocracyOS at TED Global 2014

Governing without a mandate Less than a quarter of the electorate backed the current government. The Conservatives gained 51% of seats in the House of Commons with the support of only 24% of those eligible to vote. 34% of those eligible to vote did not do so. Most votes were wasted. Of the almost 31 million people who voted, 19 million voted for losing candidates. 63% backed a candidate that didn’t win. 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 still under-represented. First past the post leaves a vast number of people feeling unrepresented. It breeds powerlessness and disengagement. That is a fundamental issue.

Unrepresentative government obstructs the resolution of the big issues. The UK cannot be described as an effective democracy with an unrepresentative government heavily influenced by corporations who infiltrate government through the “revolving door” and party funding bribery. Democracy can only work when the electorate are well informed. Yet a predominantly right- wing press, owned by very wealthy individuals, misleads the public and leaves them ill-informed.

Proportional Representation Under Proportional Representation (such as the Single Transferable Vote STV system) the results in the 2015 election would have been (actual 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. The Conservatives would still be the largest party, but 37% of votes should never equal 51% of seats in a real democracy. It’s a condemnation of the political class that they have resisted reform for so long.

Is majority rule appropriate in the 21st Century given the challenges facing the world?

A fair democracy representing the nation’s full diversity is vital for resolving the great issues of our time. I believe it is axiomatic that we must get the whole system “into the room” in order to find effective solutions. We need to embrace diversity and difference. We need consensus building rather than adversarial politics. This, a sense of fairness, is also essential for people’s wellbeing. 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. That must be the lesson of recent world history. We need consensus rule.

A 21st Century Magna Carta – A collaborative democracy

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

Conclusion In the 21st Century we face the greatest challenges in human history. We are confronted with the possibility of self-extinction. To meet these challenges we need collaborative, not adversarial, government. Like other species we need to evolve in order to survive. Just as Britain inspired the world with Magna Carta, Britain now needs to work, alongside other nations, in developing a model democracy that will give power to people and inspire the world.

At a practical level, “ordinary people” need to exercise their power and lobby for an alliance of progressive parties committed to introducing a new constitution in the next Parliament by means of a Citizens Assembly http://citizensassembly.co.uk/home-page/about/ and not behind closed doors.

 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, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 5050Parliament 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 and writer; he gives participative talks. This article is based on Chapter 9 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/

 

The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness

This book is for people all over the world who want to prevent environmental catastrophe and create a happier, fairer, more peaceful world. It will help readers make sense of the situation, find solutions and decide how to participate in bringing about the radical changes that are needed.

 The greatest challenges in human history
Lime Walk

  • Climate Chaos and Destruction of the Eco-system
  • Growing Economic Injustice
  • Resolving Conflict without Violence and Valuing Difference
  • Radical Reform of out-dated Democracy
  • And, that key part, the need for “ordinary people” to inform and empower themselves.

All these are interrelated; everything is connected. For instance the tragedy of mass migration results from this mix. So this book offers whole system analysis and whole system solutions.

 We need a revolution If the human race is to prevent environmental catastrophe, we need a revolution, a peaceful one. The economic system has to be transformed. That includes the way most of our money is created through debt. This is driving unsustainable growth and systematically transfers wealth from those who create it to a super-rich elite who get richer whilst the rest of us get poorer. In short we are being colonised.

In the UK, a government without a mandate (supported by under 24 percent of eligible voters), is imposing ideological policies on the nation. They are destroying what many hold dear whilst failing to tackle the biggest threats or grasp the opportunities to build a prosperous green economy that would benefit everyone. This is an outrage; we need to feel it.

Austerity is economic illiteracy. It is political ideology, not sound economics. All over Europe, in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland, the economic policies of the past thirty five years are being challenged, especially by younger people; so is the way we have done politics for the past seventy years. People want a better way. They dislike the abusive behaviour of many politicians. A new politics is emerging.

The challenges are enormous. So are the opportunities. Change is in the wind. It springs out of vision and hope. The book provides both. When great shifts come, they tend to come fast; the old order collapses. Remember the fall of the Berlin wall.

Yet radical new proposals, large scale events and campaigns involving thousands go largely unreported in the mainstream media. There is so much positive news that the conventional media doesn’t give us. This will be remedied in this book.

A Call to Greatness At a time of great danger, where will great leaders come from, people with the stature of those who served the world after World War 2? Today it will be a different kind of leadership: leadership that inspires and transforms by enabling “ordinary” people. Everyone needs to dare to be great.

Amongst the biggest obstacles to change is the feeling “there is nothing we can do”. An outdated political system that disenfranchises many people, and in which women are still grossly underrepresented, encourages this belief. For powerful vested interests to be overcome, millions of people need to use their power. We saw how people in Scotland came out in droves when they thought it worth voting. A 21st Century Magna Carta, a comprehensive written constitution, is needed to enable people to exercise their power. Chapter 9 offers proposals for comprehensive democratic reform.

The title of the first chapter is I listen to a lot of people in all walks of life. It was listening to people that decided me that the book must be written. The rest of the book emerged from there.

Published by Acorn Independent Publishing: £9.99 paperback; £4-99 e-book. Order from your local bookshop or via the following link: http://www.brucenixon.com/index.html Have a look at my Home Page http://www.brucenixon.com/index.html I think you will find it beautiful – Nature conveys a message.

The 21st Century Revolution - A Call to Greatness Book Cover

Endorsements

 This is a book jam-packed with solutions – hurrah! And, it all starts with the self; great change calls on each of us to step up and respond to the call of greatness. Whether it be changing our politics, our monetary system, our laws, our business ethics – at the heart of each resides something truly great. Bruce Nixon brings to life not only what is possible, what is already emerging, and also what could yet come into being. Polly Higgins, Barrister, International Ecocide law advocate.

 This is an amazing book – not just because it tells us what’s wrong with our society and how to put it right – but because it is full of hope and love for people and our planet.  The world is a better place for The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness and its author Bruce Nixon – the book inspires me to help make the 21st century revolution happen. Neal Lawson, Chair of Compass.

A fascinating read and a really good contribution to the debate about the future of democracy. Katie Ghose, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society

The greatest problem of our age is disempowerment – part of a political project to shift ordinary people out of power and out of politics, to leave them content to judge their identity by the brand of smart phone they rent. Bruce Nixon lays out the fullest dimension of this disempowerment and its fatal consequences. But he also outlines a way out; a way for all of us to become real citizens in a real democracy. The call to greatness not only refers to our own personal liberation from the shackles of disempowerment, but to the scale of the collective endeavour it will allow us to embark on – saving our species. It doesn’t get much bigger. Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now.

Read this excellent analysis of what’s gone wrong, take heart and fight for positive change! Yvonne Roberts, Journalist and Fellow of the Young Foundation

Don’t despair – read this book! We can have a new economic system that works for people and planet, if enough of us meet the current (huge) challenges head-on and summon the greatness that each of us are capable of.  Bruce Nixon brilliantly sets out a course of action and hope. Stewart Wallis, Executive Director, New Economics Foundation

We need to be both planning for a better world and actively setting out a route towards it. That needs the input of the many – and the democratic focus of this book is very much welcome, as is its understanding that our economic, social and environmental crises – and the solutions to them – are interlinked. Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party of England and Wales

Bruce highlights the harmful consequences of our debt-based money system and the need to change the way money is created. Ben Dyson, Founder of Positive Money.

 Bruce’s book is a comprehensive account of the social and political obstacles standing between us and a more sustainable future. In response to that, he proposes a collective approach, and that’s absolutely right – if we want change, people power is going to be at the heart of it. Dale Vince, Ecotricity Founder

This is an important and timely book and will be of great interest to trade unionists fighting austerity and inequality. The focus on a sustainable economy and good green jobs is particularly welcome. At a time of rising social, economic and environmental injustice, this book gives ordinary working people hope that a better, fairer future can be within our grasp. Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC