Localism and the web: a new era for England’s democracy?

Article originally published on opendemocracy.net February 2012

Local democracy in England is in a troubled state. Swingeing cuts to local government, voter apathy and declining civic involvement all suggest a parlous state of affairs and with no let up in the economic gloom, the prospect of double dip recession threatens to sideline every other issue.

That at least is one take on the current state of local democracy. But here’s another: new forms of democratic expression and action are emerging and new networks and nodes of power are being created through the organising power of the internet.  These will both disrupt existing democratic norms and reconfigure them in ways that strengthen them. Continue reading Localism and the web: a new era for England’s democracy?


No democracy without informed citizenship

What hope is there for a re-invigorated democracy in an age of press misinformation and data deluge?   The battle for democratic renewal is also a battle about the control of information: who owns it and what they do with it. We urgently need a ‘new commons of information’ in which Assemblies for Democracy takes a lead (two examples given)

A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth”.

So said Peter Oborne, the former chief political correspondent of the Daily Telegraph on his resignation from that paper following its fraudulent coverage of the recent HSBC tax dodging scandal. HSBC, one of Europe’s biggest banks, helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, while circumventing domestic tax authorities. HSBC also happens to be one of the Telegraph’s biggest advertising clients and recently lent its billionaire owners, the Barclay brothers, £250 million for one of their business ventures.  No small wonder then that the Telegraph refused to run stories on the HSBC scandal; it simply had too much to lose. Continue reading No democracy without informed citizenship

Holding MPs to account – a #Truro and #Falmouth experiment

first published on Assemblies for Democracy and later on Open Democracy website>>>

To hold our MPs to account we need to know what they promised to do before they were elected. We also need to have a clearer sense of what we expect them to do. How can we achieve these aims?

I want to share with others one approach to re-imagining democracy which may or may not work. It is small scale, experimental  and with no certainty of success but even its shortcomings and failures  will, I hope, afford some useful learning lessons for all of us. Continue reading Holding MPs to account – a #Truro and #Falmouth experiment

Social media in civil emergencies: two contrasting approaches

A shorter version of this article was printed in The Guardian in autumn 2013 

In early January 2013 bushfires blazed in southeast Tasmania and razed over 100 structures mostly in the community of Dunalley.  The response by emergency services extended well beyond the rapid deployment of fire fighting services to counter the blaze.  Central to its strategy was the successful application of social media tools, particularly Facebook and twitter, in ways that embraced a more open, collaborative approach that treated the public as an intelligence asset and resource. Continue reading Social media in civil emergencies: two contrasting approaches

Why the local economy matters

originally published on the Lewes Pound website

A lot of you, perhaps most of you, will have caught sight of the article in recent Sussex Express ‘Hotel application must be resisted’. It highlights proposals for a 62-bed hotel and shops on the site of the former Magistrates’ Court in Lewes.  Premier Inn are the front runners and while little detail is given about the retail mix, a separate article in the Argus quotes Ben Ellis, a director of Quora as saying “We believe this will not only increase footfall in Lewes town centre but also help to support the local economy” with the creation of 60 full and part time jobs.

That’s a powerful argument at a time of prolonged economic recession especially when it means turning a disused building in the town centre into a vibrant leisure and shopping centre. What’s not to like? Continue reading Why the local economy matters

The Circular economy: the shape of things to come?

Originally published on Lewes and Ouse Valley Eco-nomics website

Remember Ellen Macarthur? The solo long-distance yachtswoman who in 2005, circumnavigated the globe in a single handed non stop journey that broke the (then) world record of  71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds?

Well Dame Ellen Macarthur, as she is now known, is charting a new journey no less epic in its ambition  and design – only this time she wants to take us all with her. Continue reading The Circular economy: the shape of things to come?