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  • Writer's pictureEmma Woods

Who's afraid of the people?

Earlier this week I received an email inviting me to an event. It claims to be a powerful, unifying voice for the region, with delegates asked to design a manifesto for said region, but the tickets aren't open to the public and the event agenda isn't publicly available because in the event organiser's words its a "closed event".

How can you write a manifesto that excludes the people that live there?

This is not an attack on that specific event, but more a plea - why are politicians and policy makers so afraid of the people?

Growing up in the UK, we are told that our democractic system is the best in the world. First Past the Post ensures one party has the political majority needed to get stuff done. Having lived and worked in Germany I wondered how they made their Parliament work with 8 different political parties working together through proportional representation; through a UK lens it sounds like a nightmare.

Similarly with participatory democracies and participatory budgeting. Despite the fact these have been piloted with success and in others worked well for years, we are constantly told that these would never work.

Campaigners have been arguing for years that the UK needs electoral reform; automatic voter registration, proportionally representative voting and reform of the House of Lords are just some of the suggested improvements to the UK's democracy.

So why does this matter?

According to 70% of voters, or 22 million people had no influence over the outcome of the 2019 election. Their votes went towards candidates that didn't get represented at all or they voted for candidates who already met the threshold to receive a seat.

Whilst trust in politicians has always been low, almost 50% of people say they don't trust UK government, with further research showing UK citizens are deeply concerned about democracy.

If 70% of votes don't count and half of us don't trust our Government, how can we address the polycrises facing society today?

It's easy to feel discouraged by the data above, but this should serve to radicalise and spur us into action. So what actions can you take to reclaim your voice, find community and solidarity with others and effect change?

  1. Reflect and Educate Stories are powerful. What stories have you been told, or tell yourself that prevents you from taking action? Reflect on these. Are these stories true? Who told you them? Do alternatives already exist? Then comes education; read books, find blogs and social media that help to broaden our perspectives. Even better, find book clubs and other community groups to learn with.

  2. Find Community If you're outspoken it's likely you've been quietened at least a few times. Silenced and discouraged, but there are others out there that want change. Humans are fundamentally social beings and finding your people is powerful. That can be online or in-person but making connections and community helps to build your resilience to feelings of powerlessness.

  3. Take Action and organise Taking action does not have to mean changing your whole life. It can be posting on social media, handing out leaflets, joining a protest or emailing your MP. It can mean reaching out to your neighbours to set up a Whatsapp group for your stress, planting some plants for the bees or doing a litter pick. Again, finding local groups undertaking these activities can help to build community, solidarity and resilience which are desperately needed in these anxious and overwhelming times.

Even though we generally distrust politicians, the overwhelming majority of us do trust other people. People and their voices matter, let's not forget that nor exclude them from our conversations. Keep the faith, reach out and make those connections.

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