Guest blog from Robin McAlpine, Director of Scottish think tank Common Weal

I don’t live in the North of England. In fact, sometimes I have to remind myself that it is a place and not just an event.

Because every time the BBC produces a documentary about Britain over the last 40 years, it seems to me that ‘the North’ is treated as something bad that happened in 1985. The pattern is consistent – pictures of places in the South of England looking a bit run down (that’s the 1970s), pictures of people in the South of England suddenly buying new things in the shops (that’s the start of the 1980s), picture of city traders in the South of England waving wads of money at the camera (that’s Thatchers economic ‘miracle’), pictures of miners and other poor people in the North of England suffering horrendously (that’s the unfortunate side effects of Thatcher’s miracle, or 1985 as people in the South seem to see it), pictures of young people in the South of England taking ecstasy and dancing in fields (thank heavens ‘the North’ stopped happening in time for rave culture). Continue reading

Greater Manchester, democracy and the People’s Plan – November 22

Devolution is coming to Greater Manchester – or is it? The government has imposed a ‘super mayor’ to rule over a combined authority and what is clear is the absence of democracy in the process. This is the case both in the way the original decision was made as well as how the new structure is planned to work.

The People’s Plan for Manchester is gathering people’s views about a range of issues that reflect what voters actually want. This is your opportunity to discuss what a democratic Manchester should look like and help shape the People’s Plan.

After some short introductions, the event will break into groups around tables to probe the issues in more detail and to give everyone a chance to speak and take part.

Tuesday, November 22
Friends Meeting House
6 Mount Street

Admission is free. You can reserve your place at Eventbrite

Supported by: The People’s Plan, Assemblies for Democracy, 38 Degrees and Unlock Democracy

Report on Constituting Democracy

“Our democracy would look like a creeping, crypto-oligarchy to the ancient Greeks – and many today may be coming to a similar conclusion.”
Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek Culture, Cambridge.


Reconstituting British democracy, a personal account by Dr Chris Forman, of the “Constituting Democracy” event organised by Assemblies for Democracy.


On Saturday, July 16, a diverse group of British citizens gathered to discuss how the entire population of the UK could contribute to, and legitimize, a new constitution for the UK. The event, held at Southbank University in London, was organised by Assemblies for Democracy in response to the growing corpus of individuals in the UK who are deeply unsatisfied with the fundamental relationship between citizens and the state in the UK. Continue reading

Time for a citizens’ convention on the constitution – letter to the Guardian

The EU referendum has raised important questions about where power lies and where it should lie, which won’t be seriously addressed without creating an independent process for change. There is a widespread perception that our political system is broken. Many feel that key decisions are made in the interests of corporations, banks and the super wealthy. Increasing inequality and an antiquated voting system, which has produced a majority government with the support of fewer than one in four registered voters, add to a growing discontent.

At the heart of this social disquiet lies our uncodified and somewhat mysterious constitution, whose essential features date back to the end of the 18th century. We have to take democracy into the 21st century, tackle the underlying problems of trust in our political system and address the constitutional issues about how countries within the UK relate to each other.

That is why we are supporting the proposal for the creation of a citizens’ convention on the constitution. This has to be an open, transparent and independent process, because those who hold the levers of power have too much of a vested interest in preserving the status quo. A citizen-led process could refound the UK on the democratic principle of popular sovereignty, where power truly does rest with the people and decisions are made in the public interest.

Neal Lawson Chair of Compass
Anthony Barnett Founder, openDemocracy
Natalie Bennett Leader, Green Party of England and Wales
Alexandra Runswick Director, Unlock Democracy
Michael Mansfield QC
Michael Sheen Actor
Klina Jordan Facilitator, Make Votes Matter
Stuart White Fellow in politics, Jesus College, Oxford
Nick Dearden Director, Global Justice Now
Corinna Lotz, Assemblies for Democracy

Published 2 July 2016

Designing Democracy for 21st Century

An Assemblies for Democracy meeting 10th May 2016 at the House of Commons, Westminster

Report by Julie Timbrell/Peter Arkell; Photos Peter Arkell

Designing Democracy for the 21st Century was called by Assemblies for Democracy, to talk about why we need a constitutional convention, and to consider how we design one that will have the best outcome for citizens.  Energy has been building for a citizens-led convention that looks critically at the present broken UK constitution and comes forward with proposals for democratic change amongst democracy groups, social justice campaigners, citizens and progressive parties. The Green party has called for one, and Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the constitutional convention, supports the idea. King’s College, University of London, is drafting a proposal to create and run a convention. This event was called to bring experts on designing conventions, democracy groups and citizens together to learn more about the process such a citizen-led convention could look like. Continue reading

A wide range of views on constitutional convention

The Purpose and Process of a Constitutional Convention – read the detailed results of a survey conducted by Assemblies for Democracy London. Those consulted included participants at the May 10 meeting at Parliament plus members of the Assemblies for Democracy planning group. It reveals a thought-provoking and wide range of views on what a convention should be about and how people might be consulted.

Here are the results which reveal both a common purpose and a wide range of ideas: Survey2016

Continue reading

General discussion on Alan Renwick’s six questions

Democracy for 21st Century, Assemblies for Democracy , 10th May 2016,  6-9pm Committee Room 5, House of Commons, Westminster

First general discussion on the first three of Alan Renwick’s six questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this process?
  2. Who is represented in this process?
  3. What is the basic structure of the body or set of bodies that debates the options and makes recommendations?

Continue reading

Demfest 2016 – a festival of ideas

DemFest 2016 was a 2-day celebration and discussion of democratic ideas. A wide range of people and groups assembled in the Flintshire countryside, with workshops and speakers looking at the crisis of democracy, and the alternatives.

It was held in Gladstone’s Library, a unique residential library in Hawarden, and co-organised by the library, the Raymond Williams Foundation and The Democratic Society. Continue reading

Julie Timbrell, Assemblies for Democracy full talk on the sovereignty of the people

Democracy for 21st Century, Assemblies for Democracy , 10th May 2016,  6-9pm Committee Room 5, House of Commons, Westminster

Assemblies for Democracy is a coalition of democratic groups & individuals, which include Occupy, A World to Win, and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Continue reading

Towards a citizens’ constitutional convention

Calls for a convention on the constitution, which emerged strongly in 2014 around the time of Scotland’s independence referendum, have taken on a new lease of life since last year’s general election. They are driven by a growing recognition that system-level change is needed if we are to tackle the pile-up of policies that are attacking the citizenry from every conceivable angle. And there is a clear recognition that the process should be citizen-led if the outcomes of a convention are to have real significance. Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow communities minister, whose brief includes the constitutional convention, put forward a bold proposal for an independent process at a Democracy Day event organised by Compass earlier this year.

Read the full article on openDemocracy