A new citizen democracy initiative, aimed at offering every person in this country the opportunity to take part in an unprecedented reform-and-rebuild programme, was publicly launched in a webinar last week. The initiative is named Alliance Now or ALL.
The reason for the launch is because ALL organiser, Liz Crosbie, believes more and more people in the UK are coming to the same conclusion – one she says that can be summed up in three short sentences:
- Britain is broken.
- We need to eliminate the toxic legacy of the last decade and more.
- We need radical and wide-ranging reform.
The webinar, hosted by Simon Pease, featured presentations from both Crosbie and philosopher A.C. Grayling.
Democracy has failed
Crosbie spoke of around 2000 civil society organisations in the UK focused on the nation’s most pressing problems (cost-of-living, health, the care sector, rentals, mortgages, and food shortages) that were not being heard because democracy has failed and there is no mechanism for corrective action.
She points to a government that isn’t listening, ignores petitions and has compromised the right to protest. “What redress is there?” Crosbie asks. “We are living in what the late Lord Hailsham – a Conservative Lord Chancellor – warned of decades ago: an elective dictatorship, where the Executive has unbridled power.” What Hailsham may not have foreseen has been the erosion of parliamentary customs and conventions that our unwritten constitution relies upon. Now that so many have been broken, a precedent has been set, and there is no guarantee a future governing party would revert back to observing them.
“Whatever happens,” says Crosbie, “just a change of rosette colour isn’t enough. We need to be planning for a long-term upgrade of the country. That change has to come with the consent of the people of the UK. And a vote every five years under a ‘winner takes all’ system was and is a travesty of representative democracy.”
“Let’s have a national conversation”
The aim is to kickstart a national conversation on what sort of country we should be. Crosbie wants to start the process by asking a series of questions: What does ‘good’ look like? What is good governance? Who decides? Where should power lie? What decisions should be taken, where? What is our role as individual citizens?
Professor Grayling believes the Tories’ 80-seat parliamentary majority from 43% of the votes cast by 29% of the electorate means they were ‘constitutionally unbridled’. “An incompetent, dishonest, corrupt, kleptocratic government could in that situation do what it wanted,” says Grayling, “and it’s very close to the situation we were witnessing now.” He spoke of democratic institutions that remained – parliament, civil service, independent courts – and said the BBC had been an independent public-service broadcaster until a few years ago, but added that these could not function properly under a government that was itself undemocratic.
Crosbie’s presentation featured the ALL Guide to Good Government – a set of principles which ALL believes should underpin the reform journey – and the ALL Citizens’ Declaration open to signature by individuals and organisations, which can be used as a lobbying tool during and after the general election campaign.
“We, the 99%, are more powerful than we know,” says Crosbie, “but only if we come together. There is strength in numbers and collective action. We need to take back control and be citizens, not just voters.”
By East Anglia Bylines from a press release by Alliance Now