A free election, but not a fair one – by Dr Peter Evans for openDemocracy

So, the results are in, and an unexpected outcome in some ways. Slim as it is, I don’t think many would have predicted the Tories getting an overall majority! However, in other ways the results of this election were entirely predictable, and one of the most predictable elements was that the distribution of seats would in no way match the distribution of the national share of votes. The SNP, with 1.45 million votes, has received 56 seats. That’s 8.6% of the seats with 4.8% of the votes. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile got 2.41 million votes and 8 seats – 1.23% of the seats with 7.9% of the votes. Continue reading

Planning Democracy – by Clare Symmonds

The referendum and now the general election have brought greater scrutiny of one of the most historical and influential political systems in the world. In a certain sense, the referendum is holding the Scottish political system to account.  Furthermore, the debates generated have gone into very meaty issues: economics, currency, taxation, nuclear issues, among many others. Continue reading

Democracy in Britain is under siege – by Damien Quigg, London Planning Group

Only 24% of the electorate or 11.3 million people voted Conservative, yet we have a majority Conservative government. UKIP got 3.8 million votes, while the Green party got 1.1 million votes, but both ended up with only one MP each. Compare that with SNP who received 1.5 million votes and have 56 MPs. The Liberal Democrats received 2.4 million votes, yet returned eight MPs.

Then we have the roughly 35% of the electorate who did not cast a vote. Are they really apathetic about what way they are governed, or is it they feel disillusioned with British politics and that none of the parties represent what they stand for or believe in? I suggest it is the latter and they in fact did cast a vote on 7th May not to endorse the policies of any of the political parties. Surely all of these facts tell us that our first past the post voting system is unfit for a 21st century democracy. Continue reading

After the election: Why we must break through to a real democracy – A World to Win’s view

The Tory election victory cannot disguise the continuing break-up of the political-state system of rule and will actually hasten it. Over 75% of the UK electorate is unrepresented in any meaningful way while Scotland’s anti-austerity aspirations are blocked. What appears as a shock result belies a deep-going process of transformation, opening a period of political volatility of rising demands for rights that test and will break the limits of parliamentary democracy.

Although turn-out was up slightly, a third of voters stayed at home, feeling that their votes counted for little. A system that produces a dominant government which has the backing of under a quarter of those entitled to vote is democratic in name only. Safe to say, however, the mainstream parties have no intention of changing this.

Read more

Guide to Facilitation: Discover – Discuss – Decide, Enabling a Route to Consensus.

In discussion the sharing of information and views trigger recall of relevant details and experiences that are hard to do alone. Having many perspectives available reveals the flaws of arguments that can falsely appear well defined and bring to light missed interpretations. However people are complex, they don’t just use words in discussion, they use most of their being, they manage their presence, use cue signals, facial expressions, vary their emotional responses, use humour, aggression, distraction and focus.

As we get to know people better over time, we learn those things about them and how to take them into account. When people know each other well, the strategies and barriers fall away and communication becomes an easier and more relaxing process. When working with people who are unknown to us we don’t have time to achieve that. Here I’ve collated some methods, ideas and insights from a number of years working in many different situations, that all had a need for objective and forward looking focus in a context of bringing together diverse and challenging viewpoints.

Read or download full Guide to Facilitation

Visions of a democratic reality – by Rashid Mhar for openDemocracy & NatCAN

Do you have things in your life that you truly love? I am sure you do, I am sure that the very question conjures their image into your mind. Though I can’t guarantee it, I truly believe that those images would all be the faces of the people close to you. Do you have ideas, principles and ideals you truly love? Does that question conjure something into your mind, or does it give pause for reflection?

For myself I have to say, unlike my first question where I would confidently imagine what the question would conjure in your mind, to my second question I don’t know. Many years ago, I would have said freedom, equality, friendship, civilisation, community and perhaps most certainly I would have thought one of the ideas that would be dear to your heart would be democracy. As you already know this is no comment about how I see you, it is something that causes me to reflect upon myself. I have to ask myself what has changed to change me. Read more

Assembling for democracy: part 1, learning from the Blanketeers – by Dr Peter Evans for OpenDemocracy

Throughout Britain’s history her people have had to organise and assemble to fight for meaningful democracy. Blanketeers, Chartists, and Radicals; trade unions and the labour movement; suffragists and suffragettes – all of these movements over the past 200 years emerged as the people of this country recognised that they were being denied a political voice, and excluded from exercising meaningful political power.

In 1793 a Convention was organised at Edinburgh called ‘The British Convention of the Delegates of the People associated to obtain Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments’ – an assembly for democracy. As its title declared, its purpose was to discuss how best to achieve Universal Suffrage in this country (albeit to be exercised by males on behalf of family units). It was quickly shut down by the government, and the participants were arrested and put on trial for sedition (seeking to overthrow the government). They were show trials. In the case of Joseph Gerrald, for example, the case was presided over by a judge candid in expressing his belief that calling for universal male suffrage constituted sedition, or worse. The jury was hand-picked: each one a member of a group that had already publicly denounced Gerrald for his political views. Needless to say he was found guilty, and sentenced to 15 years ‘transportation’, i.e. exile, to New South Wales, where he died from tuberculosis. Along with the other ‘Scottish martyrs’ became the example the government wanted – evidence of the consequences of seeking democratic reform for political empowerment. Read more

Wanted: A Magna Carta for the 21st century

The attacks on the rule of law and access to justice – two key principles of the Magna Carta – by successive governments should lead us to rethink the existing relationship between the state and citizens and then to reimagine democracy.

Eventually, everyone came to enjoy the rights enshrined in the constitutional settlement between King John and powerful barons signed at Runnymede 800 years ago. This was no smooth process, however. The mass of the people had to struggle over many centuries for the rule of law – as opposed to the unbridled power of the state – to apply to them and their activities. Continue reading