Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Democracy in Decay: School battle may give a glimmer of hope


AFTER the Christmas festivities there comes a few days where the pause button can be hit. We may find some time to reflect on our own affairs and mull over those of the world. This bubble seems to be putting a full-stop to the year, a definite end from which we can begin anew. In doing so, the touching words of the carol, ‘the hopes and fears of all the years’, hit home.

As a survivor of the school of hard knocks, I believe it is crucial to see things as they are, as only then can our fears be addressed and our hopes brought into being. As an old soldier, I also know history is still ours to make; that our fate lies in our hands. It is hope that fuels our future and powers our plans and dreams for a better one. Today, the societies that comprise Western civilisation are facing internal collapse as divisions grow, morale plummets and challengers gather. However, there is hope for us, and it stokes the fears of the power elite and their lieutenants in the political class. That hope is a democracy that is in tune with the wishes of the people and controlled by us. The narcissist power-seekers and their masters should fear it.

Battle has been joined on the western edge of Brighton for a hybrid, part-representative, part-direct democracy like the successful Swiss model. South Portslade is hardly Waterloo, but the ramifications of victory there will be era-defining. This is because the threat coming from Georgia Mckinley Fitch, a supporter of the hybrid model, is to the system, not just a come-and-go controlling party. Labour recently won control of Brighton and Hove City Council from the Greens, and they are already facing a disgruntled electorate, particularly over the closure of schools and the financial burden of a white elephant tourist attraction, the 531ft i360 tower. Unfortunately, the latter is not that attractive and was foolishly financed to the tune of over £50million with other people’s money, that of the un-consulted voters by the un-commercial clots in the council.

As a member of the Direct Democracy Movement, I was naturally delighted when Georgia placed the aim to use direct democracy at the top of the list of goals on her campaign leaflet. She works in the ward, has always lived in the area and is a model ambassador, affable but firm in her conviction that what is needed is a hybrid democracy that is accountable to constituents, not party whips. This is most clearly demonstrated with Labour’s proposed closure of St Peter’s Primary School. Before the recent elections they promised to keep it open, but after being voted in they announced its closure. When this was revealed, a Labour councillor resigned, hence the by-election which Georgia is in the running to win.

As she noted herself, would this closure have happened if the council was answerable to the voters through the tools of direct democracy? Being able to hold referendums on legislators’ decisions being the prime one (when sufficient signatures are gathered to show that the issue is important to locals). The Swiss electorate vote about four times a year to ensure that they exert this kind of control, not a high price to pay to stop spending tens of millions on an eyesore of a soaring steel shaft, some of which could have been used to save the school. What do you think the voters would have chosen? And doesn’t that say it all?

What is also very noticeable in this campaign is the enthusiasm of the candidate and her team. The aim to make councils and Parliament responsive and accountable to the desires of the people is a great one, a motivation fired by the failure that ‘representative’ democracy has shown itself to be. Georgia is committed to looking after the people of the area she calls home, not seeing the role as a step on the path to another party post. Her team want to stop the abuses of power, the reckless spending on baubles whilst schools are closed and global agendas are enforced. The realisation of their efforts will be an elected councillor using paper and technical means to gather votes on ideas coming from the bottom up, driving her ward in the direction that its residents wish it to go. Blocvote is a secure blockchain publicly verifiable app that hosts moderated votes which will help guide Georgia’s efforts in council.

We in the Direct Democracy Movement know that this example will inspire adjoining and remote wards and constituencies to adopt her ideas, as they will be both popular and effective. Hence the Swiss success story, and ours of ever-increasing social decline and debts. The single most important feature of the hybrid model is the constant scrutiny of the politicians in power, and their need to address the concerns of the voters. It is only through direct democracy that the answer is provided to the question, ‘who guards the guardians?’ We all do.

Nigel Furness, the campaign’s manager, worked for many years in the NHS and alluded to the need to lance a boil, to release the poison in the political system. The lack of real interest in the hopes and fears of constituents is clear to all, with St Peter’s Primary School being a local echo of the failure of the state at national level. Now we cannot recruit enough sailors to man the vessels of our Royal Marines Commandos, probably because our foreign and financial-interest driven governments are not thought worth defending.

I believe that the confrontation over St Peter’s in South Portslade, with the by-election vote today, is the first skirmish in the battle to re-establish our civil society, one in which the state will be directly held to account by another authority – us. And we will win.

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Neil Petrie
Neil Petrie
Neil Petrie was an officer in the Army Intelligence Corps for 16 years and is a former regional director and manager for the world's largest security and remote services companies.

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