Peter Macfadyen: the muscle emerges in local democracy
Peter Macfadyen of Flatpack Democracy reports from the burgeoning of local power.
In various parts of my garden the earth is rising up and an army of green shoots are forcing through into the light. If I filmed them in slow motion, the mix of power and beauty would be awesome.
I've had the same buzz of energy from people seeking the light in a mass of meetings and conversations over the last few weeks.
This morning I'm planning trips to meet more emergent muscle in Cynon Valley and Monmouth. The former is where the Labour movement was born but has gone sadly awry... and Monmouth has rebellion written all over it.
People who definitely 'don't do politics' have been expressing to me a level of anger and frustration not about the specifics of policies, but about their exclusion from access to the decisions which affect them.
Last week in Lewes the town hall notice board gave me a perfect introduction to a later conversation. There are two notices: The first that tells me where the Mayor and Mayoress will dine and with whom. The second is over a page of the rules you'll need to obey to speak to the council as a member of the public - '... no more than two questions; no question for someone else...' etc.
It doesn't have to be like this.
What we need are vibrant communities in which councils are but one actor amongst many, playing a key role in networking, supporting, catalysing. In which 'ordinary' people can hear and share the real views of those in the community.
What we have is a totally dysfunctional democracy at the national level, and a remote and neglected one in the community. The vacuum between these two remnants is perfect territory for populism and (dare I say it) the dangerous roots of terrorism.
There is an alternative: Truly participative democracy in genuine partnership. If we put our energy into the new shoots and remove the jump leads from the dinosaurs of party politics, maybe spring will follow winter.