Halfway down the Adenauerallee in Bonn, the city that was home to the West German government from 1949 to 1990, there’s an anonymous modern office building, notable only for some sort of bookshop on the ground floor.
The building is home to a fascinating public body, the kind of which has no equivalent in the UK. It’s called the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. The BpB for short. In English: the Federal Agency for Civic Education. On a rainy Thursday afternoon in July, I met Daniel Kraft, Director of Comms at BpB, who kindly took time out to explain the institution to me.
Frome. 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 Prime Minister made much play last night with the rights of the individual and the dangers of people being ordered about by officials. I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom compatible with the freedom of others.
There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair.
There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the State, given to it by Parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners.
The Conservative Party remains as always a class Party. In twenty-three years in the House of Commons, I cannot recall more than half a dozen from the ranks of the wage earners. It represents today, as in the past, the forces of property and privilege.
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: