Swansea visits Big Democracy’s day at the Senedd

Four members of Swansea’s A4D planning group travelled on Saturday 19th March to Cardiff’s Senedd – the home of the National Assembly for Wales. They’d been invited to take part in a special day of events celebrating the end of the first phase of the National Theatre of Wales’ 3-year long Big Democracy Project.

In a programme including performances by theatre groups, poets and musicians, A4D’s invitation to a half-hour slot attracted around 60 people:

Democracy, if ever alive is now ‘more dead’ than living; its semblance just a sham. The little life left in it is being stealthily stifled by the greed and manipulative grip of the corporations controlling people’s freedom and gravely endangering this planet.

So join us in designing, building and operating a richer, deeper form of direct democracy.

This half-hour introductory session shares a snapshot of what has already begun.

We’ll be using all the means available to explore a fairer future based on people powered free expression and collaborative actions for sustainable living.’

Helen Johns, from the teachers union NASUWT, gave a passionate account of the battle with Swansea Council to prevent the termination, without any consultation of parents and children, of an Education Service in Trehafod clinic, for some of Swansea’s most vulnerable children – Child and Adolescent Mental Health pupils, that led her to A4D after she realised that local democracy is broken.

A4D convenor Gerry Gold widened the focus from the local to the national and global explaining that we were re-imagining democracy in response to the rapid growth of inequality, showing how the system of corporations had merged with parliamentary democracy transferring wealth from the 99% to the 1%.

With the majority of the audience waving mobile phones in the air, Peter Anderson invited them to sign-on there and then to the Wales country group on digital democracy platform Vocaleyes and respond to the question ‘How can we bring democracy to life in Wales? First up was a seven year-old, showing everyone the way, with a proposal for a free Legoland in Cardiff!!

A4D’s performance evoked a lively participation – vocally, digitally and on paper, with the local Women’s Equality Party candidate Ruth Williams sharing a photo-opportunity on facebook and twitter.

The People’s Plan

The People’s Plan – an exercise in participative democracy: 15th November 2015

By Rashid Mihar

The People’s Plan for Manchester is an ambitious learning exercise in how to listen and understand the views, ideas and priorities of as many people as are willing to share them with a view towards changing what’s going on around us.

This is democracy in action, by contrast with the flawed version of devolution which was dressed up as an offer but has essentially been imposed on Greater Manchester by the government without even a semblance of consultation.

This is a region where the conversation of identity, destiny, autonomy and democratic vision had already begun before George Osborne stepped in with the so-called Northern Powerhouse, which local authority leaders fell over themselves in their unseemly haste to sign up to. Continue reading

The Charter of the Forest: its importance for today

By Julie Timbrell, of The New Putney Debates and Occupy London

Celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary next year of the Charter of the Forest get underway next month in preparation for some big events next year. While the Magna Carta of 1215 is now much more famous, the Charter of the Forest of 1217 at the time was certainly as important, maybe more so, because it gave commoners rights, privileges and protection against the abuses of the king, his sheriffs and the encroaching aristocracy. Crucially it allowed people to subsist and have access to the commonwealth, in the forests, chases and heaths. Continue reading


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 22nd 2016

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 2016
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, 16th  July 2016, 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