Friday, September 19, 2014

Illuminating our new dark age

I kept out of discussions on the Scottish referendum on social media or here because I didn't have a horse in the race. I have friends on both sides of the debate, not to mention a brother in Aberdeen and other family in the borders. But I didn't have a vote and so any opinion I might have had was somewhat impotent.

I was stirred by some of what I heard - I have to say I was particularly impressed by Gordon Brown's final speech. Perhaps it's true that he can now add saving the union to saving the financial sector that was already on his CV.

Sadly I awoke this morning to the UK's prime minister (not the English one as we don't have one of those yet) reneging on key parts of his promises ahead of the referendum. I guess I shouldn't be surprised but appointing William Hague to chair a cabinet committee to draw up legislation was not part of the offer made last week. At the very least, there needs to be an all-party committee or group tasked with moving devo max forward - Perhaps Gordon should chair it.

But here has to be a lot more than that. I lost count of the number of times over the past few months that I thought 'why can't we have this kind of fundamental conversation about our democracy where I live?' I envied the Scot's their vibrant carnival of democratic renewal and was suitably in awe of the turn-out (over 90% in some parts). I was also delighted by the maturity and engagement of the 16-17 year olds enfranchised for this vote. How can we resist calls for them to be given the vote across all elections?

We need a constitutional conference, a sort of Putney debates for the twenty-first century, where everyone gets a chance to meaningfully contribute to the kind of politics we want across our union. This is not dealt with by solving the west lothian question, which is a best a minor issue and at worst a massive distraction used by miffed little englanders to bash the devolution settlement, and getting on with business as usual.

We need to see democracy cascading down to the level that ordinary people operate at. Politics needs to be taken out of the hands of professionals, those with vested interests in maintaining the tawdry status quo. So let's start talking about the kind of society we'd like to see in our churches and pubs, let's get people together locally to talk about the things that matter to them, to discuss ideas, to dream dreams (and let's not get bogged down in what it'll cost - let's make plans and cost them later).

'In the new dark age no one puts up a fight,' sings Bill Mallonee on the wonderful In the new dark age on his new album, Winnowing. The indy referendum has lit a light hundreds of miles from me - but I can just about make out its glow. We need a lot of lamps being lit everywhere across our land. 'In the new dark age no one trusts anyone,' he sings (how sad but how true); 'the only lamp burning you.'

So step up, step up; come and see what is illuminated when we put all our lamps together.

1 comment:

L fairfax said...

"Perhaps it's true that he can now add saving the union to saving the financial sector that was already on his CV."
How many high street banks needed saving before Brown?
Before he created the Fundamentally Supine Authority (copyright Private Eye) British banks had not needed bailing out despite wars, oil shocks etc.