Politics without Parties: Flatpack Democracy by Peter Macfadyen

the bookFrome. Rhymes with broom. Nice small town in Somerset. Home to the Guardian’s John Harris, who brought attention to the fact that in May 2015 the local electorate booted out political parties from the town council altogether, in favour of a loosely aligned group of independents known as Independents for Frome.

The ringleader behind it all – though leader is probably an unwelcome word – is Peter Macfadyen. He’s written a call to arms / guidebook on why and how to repeat their success.

The book’s only a 100 pages long – so you should probably just order a copy. But here’s a precis just in case.  Continue reading Politics without Parties: Flatpack Democracy by Peter Macfadyen

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How I (probably) failed to register my neighbours to vote…and how I might succeed next time

A door.

Last weekend I posted some leaflets through the letterboxes of all the flats in my 1930s building near Waterloo. I was supposed to be knocking on doors and asking people whether they’d registered to vote. But I’d run out of time – and, feeling it was too late to disturb people, posted the voter registration pack – a letter and form from Join The Vote (a non-partisan, charity-supported, 38 Degrees-led coalition) through the letterboxes instead.

I went back several days later – this time earlier in the evening – and knocked on the relatively few doors into flats which showed signs of life. No answers. Well, one answer – but he was the local activist type, who is often whipping up support for some petition or other. Not surprisingly, of course he’d registered to vote.

And really, it would be a surprise if many of the building residents had failed to vote – this locale is easy-pickings for local party activists, particularly Labour and Lib Dems who are battling it out to define who is more useless, ‘barmy’ or wasteful in regard to running Lambeth Council. We’ve all had a lot of leaflets. A lot. Flats are great for the letterbox/minute ratio. And canvassing too – at least twice in the last few months – and that’s only counting the times I’ve been in.

So was it likely that many people weren’t registered to vote? Did it matter that I failed miserably to allow enough time to do several rounds of door-knocking?

Who knows, but it’s worth looking a little more deeply at the Join the Vote campaign. Continue reading How I (probably) failed to register my neighbours to vote…and how I might succeed next time

‘The real objective is a greater life.’ Notes from Roberto Unger: The Progressive Agenda Now

Solidarity mural
Hands in Solidarity, Hands of Freedom mural on the side of the United Electrical Workers trade union building on West Monroe Street at Ashland Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. (BY-NC-ND 2.0 Terence Fairclough)

Roberto Unger is a Professor of Law at Harvard. He taught Barack Obama back in the day, and apparently urged Americans to reject Obama’s bid for a second-term. Ouch.

He’s also advised progressive movements and parties around the world – and he served in President Lula’s government in Brazil. Great lefty credentials. Huge Wikipedia bio here.

He spoke at LSE last week and was in the UK to lecture, sell books and talk with Ed Miliband (more on whom later). Continue reading ‘The real objective is a greater life.’ Notes from Roberto Unger: The Progressive Agenda Now

Tapscott vs Shirky (from Frog Design)

Selected quotes from a conversation between Don Tapscott (author of Wikinomics, prof. at Rotman) and Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody, Cognitive Surplus) in Frog’s corporate magazine ‘Design Mind‘.

Tapscott:

“The more appropriate metaphor for the growing loss of privacy today would be Frank Kafka’s The Trial, where the central character awaits trial and judgment from an inscrutable bureaucracy for a crime that he is not told about, using evidence that is never revealed to him, in a process that is equally random and inscrutable. Similarly, we could become the targets of social engineering, decisions and discrimination. And we will never really know what, or why… Continue reading Tapscott vs Shirky (from Frog Design)

Avaaz hits 20m members, Beppe Grillo, and digital lessons for political parties

Aside from an no-new-news Observer interview with co-founder Ricken Patel, Avaaz hasn’t shouted about its milestone of 20m members. According to the Observer, these members make Avaaz the world’s biggest online campaign group. You have to admire their out-of-nowhere exponential growth:

Avaaz growth curve
Avaaz’s growth curve, from an Avaaz email (note additional 2.5m in just a few months)

Continue reading Avaaz hits 20m members, Beppe Grillo, and digital lessons for political parties

Howard Zinn: A People’s History of the USA

After far too long, I finally finished Howard Zinn’s epic A People’s History of the USA. It’s a unique historical effort, a story of poverty, unrest and injustice. Compared to something like ‘The Penguin History of the USA‘, this is a story not focused on powerful men, but on unions, indigenous peoples, blacks and women. Continue reading Howard Zinn: A People’s History of the USA