Welcome to the Democracy Action Working Group (DAWG)
The formation of a Democracy Action working group received consensus at the OL General Assembly on March 1st. Immediately after the assembly interested people convened around a back table in Ye Olde London pub just down the road from St Paul’s Cathedral. These notes were taken:
First Meeting of DAWG – Ye Olde 5.30 to 7.00 pm 1st March 2014
With Mike, Simon, Louise, Sam, Ben, John, Avi, Sonal, George and Chris FD.
This inaugural meeting orientated the Group to its role for Occupy (London) Action to promote the goal of achieving Truer Democracy through reform of the current parliamentary system.
CFD Reiterated a brief outline of the general concept headed up by ‘A Vote that Counts’, which has been lightly represented as the ‘Arrowhead Campaign’ (fits well with the Target Logo of OL) to be an overarching or lead item that will be essential to initiate an overall agenda of challenge to change the many aspects a failed system (socio-economic, environment etc., etc., and democratic) on the brink of (or already in) terminal decline. This agenda should have resonance with electorate in the wake of ‘reneged’ policies on NHS and student grants and an important initial goal would be to organise an action focused on parliament on June 15th or in Oct. John favours the latter, but also something to celebrate the Chartists anniversary
During course of meeting added crude ideas as pump primer to initiate Debate upon how to make a vote worth having, and also repeated or added to this in response to those who came to the meeting a little late.
1) As manifestoes fundamentally unreliable, abolish them and replace with multi-mini referenda at time of election
2) Vote for best local candidate rather than the party and separate vote for Party of choice
3) Vote for PM of choice
4) Party funding formula and full controls of lobbying
5) Parliamentary voting integrity
6) As an afterthought since – Proportional representation
As an initial meeting which was informal and had not set an agenda, the contributions were inevitably somewhat random, but they served to offer opportunity to throw different ideas into the pot for consideration and to, so to speak, allow self examination of the group (including the inevitable reiteration of questions/ideas by those arriving late) in respect of spontaneously expressed attitudes to many different facets of the practical details to be confronted.
An early practical issue raised by John was that the ‘Right of Recall’ should be central to the platform to achieve greater accountability of parliamentarians to the electorate.
In respect of a Campaign header, it was suggested that it was necessary for it to embody a powerful message that would be readily identified with. It was suggested that The Pro-Democracy Movement should be favoured rather than something more than the message to everyman/woman conveyed by the slogan ‘A Vote that Counts’. It was argued that the former was overarching and avoided the distraction of engaging with individual facets, with the implication that this was suggested to be conveyed by the latter. Warmth for one as against the other fluctuated, the first being criticised for being so obvious and mundane as to offer no inspirational impact or perhaps even detracting from the message to be conveyed i.e. – “We live in a democracy don’t we?” and offers the challenge that explanation requires wide range of thought/discussion, whereas the latter has very immediate impact for the converted and disempowered and its ready immediacy of potential for door-stepping, with lead into anything and everything. Emphasised that this was simply a stimulus for a better phrase than ‘vote that counts’ if any can come up with it.
Invited comment from Louise. Change what’s there – show people care.
John suggested organising a conference orientated to Chartists ideas to draft Six Point set of demands.
Chris emphasised the fundamental need to do that which OL has completely failed to do since The Eviction, this being to capture public imagination in any significant way. Hence as complementary agenda to Initial Statement, it has been proposed that there should be a Campaign with key feature of a very powerful impact for a widely supported Action as window to force media interest to fuel a new and growing Public Debate, and John also brought the idea of co-ordinated Action to GA.
Chris offered an outline proposal for consideration to incorporate both the powerful historical imagery of the Magna Carta (Anniversary 2015) and the Chartists petition (15th June 175th anniversary).
First an Occupation at Runnymede of say 50 tents to be followed by an Arrowhead march along the Thames to Westminster to coincide with Marches under the same penumbra to cover any or all the single interest activist movements who so much need truer democracy to further their ends. All to be symbolic – e.g. Save our NHS starting from ’condemned’ hospital, EWG (Tom Lines) Reform of Banking (need to complete presentation to GA for approval as OL policy), TTIP from Department of Trade,
Plus War on Welfare, Social Cleansing, Housing +++++, Energy, Transport, Civil Rights – Legal aid, Environment – Fracking, Multinationals/Corporations (Carnival of Dirt), Tax Havens from the City of London, etc., etc., etc.
Mention of number of ‘events’ ?this/other groups. Can be too many, smaller and relatively ineffectual.
Simon emphasised that everyone wants participatory democracy – challenge on this by Chris.
Sonal emphasised need to avoid ambiguous terms.
Mention of Alternative vote
Mike emphasised relatively insecure mandate of ?any recent government based on figures he quoted for share of the vote (Mike is, as Dave, a good ‘Figures buff’ – my note). Also revealed hidden depths of diplomacy in urging some restraint of the enthusiastic contributions offered by Chris!!
Sam – Mention of Safe Seats
Democratic deficiency in context of recession
Ben spoke of matter of media and need for emphasis on Critical Thinking
All Issues. Sensible of feasibility
Need incisive policies such as forcing referenda – but see above
Then there was call for democracy from below and a need for GAs in every constituency – Engaged electorate.
Chris commented that may not yet be a wide current potential for this to gain adequate traction, but that an ultimate goal might be for a mutually respectful top down and bottom up partnership
Suggested that one could not have ban on manifestoes, – Chris said that they could be of general nature rather than specific on policies.
Concern about corporate meddling
Matter of legal powers responded to by Chris who said that this was to be part of the package for the Debate
Reiteration of need for assemblies – Occupy the squares – bottom up democracy again, despite the group initiative based on Vote that counts.
Consideration of long term and short term goals
Emphasis on informed decisions and availability of credible information
And WHAT PEOPLE WANT
Agenda for next meeting at 6.00 pm at Friends, Euston on 6th March.
One ?Simon opted for one item agenda = Aims and or etc., etc. Others for something more comprehensive.
?All agreed Clarification of Objectives
CFD to post a provisional agenda, but this to be agreed at start of next meeting.
He, at the end, emphasised the importance of a sense of a pressure to formulate diary and being diligent in hitting deadlines, along with the functional reality of meetings not being talk shops as a classical Occupy disease but a place to report back on progress achieved.
John Sinha – suggests a number of working groups – CFD says subgroups of DAWG.