Following our Assembly in London on November 14, a planning group was created to continue work on plans for a Citizens Convention on the Constitution. The first meeting was held on December 12. A second meeting on January 9 agreed the following principle and aims:
Principle: “We affirm the democratic principle that power should rest with the people”
i) campaign for a Citizens Convention on the Constitution
ii) work with other campaigns, organisations & individuals on practical steps that lead to the holding of a Convention
iii) launch a citizen/people-led constitutional democratic process
Here are the notes from our the January 9 meeting which was facilitated by Julie and Andy.
17 people attended. Apologies from Martha, Malcolm, Susan, Frances, Fiona, Adnan, Gloria.
Discussion on what strategies to adopt given our aims and the work of other groups:
(All the points are proposals and not consensus statements)
– Get principles (aims) solid at the beginning otherwise whole thing will fall apart. We need to keep discussing to get clear on that
– Are we trying to reform constitutional monarchy or start something anew?
– There are 2 strands: some feel we can’t reform the constitution without fundamentally changing the state (revolutionary perspective)
Others feel we have to reform the present constitution. In the end this would be something for the convention to decide.
Our task is to hold together different points of view. We maintain an independent point of view so that all point of view can be represented in the convention.)
We take the initiative but don’t promote one strand or another.
– What is our unique role? We’re a citizens led grassroots movement under nobody’s umbrella – an independent process.
– To strengthen our identity we could create a document to set out what we’re trying to achieve
– Are we trying to be politically neutral? (is there an ideology driving this?) (how do we engage with people of varying perspectives?)
– We should organize in terms of process to make it citizen led. Principles should not be preordained. To make it inclusive – regardless of people’s politics.
– We want to be able to bring in people/working class who might otherwise be swayed by right wing rhetoric eg UKIP
– It is possible to have a both and approach rather than an either or one. We have both a neutral process that sets up a convention whilst simultaneously having a working group that works on the content of a new constitution as an input into the convention.
– If we focus on the issue of power resting in the people rather than attacking the monarchy it will be more inclusive for building a movement.
– What is the purpose of the convention itself? Will it launch a constitutional process? Lobby govt? Or create the actual content of the constitution?
– It could be fun to organize groups to come in and actually start working on creating a constitution – it would be a chance to learn how to reach consensus in small groups
– If the people are in power there’s a completely different relationship between people and state
– One fundamental question is how do we involve people in local communities in the decision making process?
– There are some people that want to start work on creating a new constitution so we shouldn’t waste that energy – they can get to work researching and understanding the present constitution
– The idea that power rests with the people confronts the idea that it rests in Parliament. So a constitution has to be decided upon by the people e.g via a referendum rather than by Parliament.
– We could do actions like putting on music and dance which would bring in other kinds of people so it’s not just a talking shop
– Following on the idea of having events on designing a constitution this would be a way of learning by doing so that we work out how to hold the actual convention
– There is a lot of expertise in people in communities, in workers, in hospitals, schools etc- part of our job is to unlock that expertise and make it available for solutions
– What kinds of processes would be inclusive? Regional groups deliberating or in localities or an online platform such as Vocaleyes could be developed for
– Compass is currently pursuing a parliamentary route but is aware of grassroots alternatives so depending upon how radical it becomes it could relieve us of our aims!
– Having a group that creates the constitution whilst at the same time as creating a neutral inclusive process is a conflict of interests feels like a contradiction. E.g advocating rights for nature might alienate others
– How about a compromise – if we engage in process of inviting in different groups with differing perspectives. We could creae a database of ideas regarding the constitution. It wouldn’t subvert the process
– Could create a working group to explore different possibilities that would feed in to the constitution without running the danger of campaigning for any particular one.
– We could write alternatives that challenge our own assumptions – a kind of devil’s advocate approach
– We’re still talking about the Constitution of the United Kingdom. Are we writing this for the UK, for England, for Scotland/Wales. One strand is working on a reform approach the other on a republican.
– What are we citizens of? An oil spill in Gulf of Mexico has global repercussions. Focusing on the UK alone seems too narrow.
– There is a process going on outside this room regarding reshaping the constitution. Are we incorporating that or are we adding something more radical into what’s already going on outside?
– If we start of with a left wing bias it might be hard to bring other viewpoints in.
– Let’s look at what others have done first before we proceed.
– There is work going on in right wing as well – also progressive Tories who could be important to have on board as well
Rewording our agreed principle:
Concern and debate regarding the word ‘ultimately’ in the wording “We affirm the democratic principle of power resting ultimately with the people.”
Ultimately suggests we’re distanced. Or perhaps simply a problem of grammar! There was some debate and Paul, Phil and Steve got together to come up with the following update:
“We affirm the democratic principle that power should rest with the people”
Creation of Tasks and Groups
We broke out into the following groups and then each group gave feedback at the end. .
Holding Event in June – Corinna, Asha, Rashid
Online Platforms for Drafting Constitutions – Bev, Melvyn
Local Groups and Existing Ones – Tyra, Peter
Convening – Julie, Corinna, Andy
Internal Democracy Process – Julie, Andy
Finances – Robbie
Fundraising – ?
Website and Reporting on our Work – Paul
Collating constitutions, proposed models and solutions. Researching present constitution – Paul, Robbie, Colin, Adrian, Julie, Peter, David
Reaching out to other groups and understanding their work – Phil
INFO REGARDING OTHER GROUPS
Looking at constitutional assemblies (5 or 6 around the world including Iceland, Scotland, Canada etc) They are amending or rewriting their constitutions Compass focus increasingly focusing on people rather than parliament as route to change. Callled event on January 20 which Assemblies for Democracy will participte in.
Electoral Reform Society – 2 pilot schemes working out how that might happen.
Building a Party fit for 21st Century (looking at Podemos, Pirate party etc)
9th May Brighton – Creating a Better Democracy for Brighton
New Economics Foundation
In next edition of Red Pepper looking at the issue of devolution and constitutional issues
www.reset.org – to force constitutional change on parishes. There is an existing constitution that is being ignored and our rights are being ignored.
Website contains a series of communication tools.
Simpol: Simultaneous policy – bloc vote throughout Europe.
21st Jan Manchester
30th January – Venue tbc
27th Feb – The Hive, Dalston