A very English revolt

A very English revolt

The Guardian Weekly had an interesting article on June 6th. The title, “a very English revolt” with a lead in, “The people of Frome in Somerset call it ‘flatpack democracy’ and it has seen party politics cast aside in search for local solutions. See Guardian article here (26 June)

The basic aim seems both simple and benign: (says author John Harris) “Taking political power at a local level, then using it to enable people to have a greater say in the decisions that effect their lives” He further writes – But the results have been explosive: the routing of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives from Fome’s town council, and the arrival in power of a coalition of self-styled independents, united by belief that democracy needs a dramatic revival.

This movement to take charge was initiated when it was evident that the town council could not come to terms with environmental issues in any meaningful way. Like-minded residents came together and decided to use the democratic process to take total charge. They ran candidates in all ridings and these “independents” took all 17 seats on Frome’s council. Interestingly, several other towns have had similar movements to take over their local city councils.

When I read this article, I immediately felt that this grass roots idea was what we need to address the thousands of social and environmental issues that threaten our very survival on this planet. I was somewhat surprised when my letter was printed as I suggested a worldwide movement. I will paste it here just as it appeared:

The solution to everything

Within the article A very English revolt (26 June) is shown the key to addressing all (Yes! All!) of the thousands of social and environmental issues on the planet.

For years, I have been advocating that we need a worldwide movement to counter the power that business interests have over people and planet interests. The “Frome movement” suggests that to this, we need to add a political party element.

There are many voices that advocate change through revolution or civil disobedience to promote change. In Frome, these ordinary citizens have shown that what we need is people participation with the goal of making democracy work for both the people and planet.

How about we form a global support and advisory movement with a name like Civis Mundi? “World Citizen”(envision this in all language equivalents) is something we can universally rally under. And how about a political movement called Terra Cotta; as “burnt earth” seems to convey the message and urgency for some people-backed changes.

Just one suggestion: No prayer before meetings.
Matthew R Foster
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

If anyone wants to discuss or debate this idea, my email is on the site under Bio and Contact info, and my phone number is on 411 Canada



2 comments to A very English revolt

  • Anonymous

    I imagine Bob is right, at least in Ontario. However, perhaps the very fact that we don’t have to work with entrenched parties at the municipal level can be an advantage here. The trouble I see is that we’d have to have “policies” as a global party, and they’d have to be specific enough to be meaningful, which if you could get people in municipalities around the world to agree on one policy with specific benchmarks I’d be amazed. Otherwise, you’d be more likely talking about block voting, and that isn’t very democratic and, quite likely dangerous to have everyone elected on one issue, and no experience/expertise/knowledge about ANYTHING ELSE a municipality needs to deal with.

  • Flatpack Democracy is an interesting idea. But I’m not sure it would work for us here. Municipal politics in Ontario is officially nonpartisan, so everyone elected to a local council is technically an independent already.

    And we have far too few representatives to make this effective. Frome has 17 councillors for a population of 25,000. Contrast that with Woolwich, also population 25,000 with only four councillors and a mayor. I don’t think that even Kitchener with a population of some 300,000 has 17 councillors.

    And I’ll bet that Frome council elections are held with some kind of proportional, multi-member district voting system. Even if Ontario municipalities switch to ranked ballots they’re unlikely to switch to multimember districts. I’ll be advocating for multimember districts when I submit feedback for the Provincial Government’s Municipal Elections Act Review.

    But Flatpack Democracy is an interesting idea, and I like it. Maybe something for which we can have a Fair Vote discussion night.


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