A new Political Party for the UK?

In September I moved back to England after 10 years away. (California, Wales, France).

I’ve been looking for a way to enact citizenship here. To participate politically, somehow. I was aware that I had been confusing my social media behaviour for political engagement. While moving information around within an echo chamber could be argued to be a somewhat political activity, I also don’t want to be deluded that this is particularly meaningful activity.

I want to see a progressive agenda actualised in the UK and beyond. I want to participate in politics in ways that contribute to progressive values getting voted into seats, and written into legislation and policy.

I wanted to join a political party, or a union. I wanted to find a body to whom I could pay a £16 monthly membership fee, who would represent my values in national politics.

I couldn’t find one.

I want to be a member of a body politic that is standing for:

> Wholesome Governance

> Inclusive Prosperity

> Bringing all of life into balance with all of life

> Reckoning / reconciling with our past

> Navigating our future

To these I could add:

> An emotionally safe working environment for all politicians

> Deep health — integrating food, farming and health:

- human health — physical, mental, emotional wellness

- more-than-human health — soils, waters, biodiversity

> Peace.

But really these 3 are subsets of the top items.

I could summarise this as “A progressive agenda”

So.

I’ve spoken with several people about this.

They say:

Why not the Labour Party?

I say: It seems toxic to me. Keir Starmer’s weird whipping on, e.g. the The Overseas Operations Bill, The Covert Human Intelligence Bill, the Review of Administrative Law… This can’t be my leader. Previously, anti-Semitic nonsense wtf?? Divided between an old labour that wants to ‘put the people in the penthouse into the basement and stamp on their heads’ — essentially expressing an us-and-them-violence — and a new labour that shares Hilary Clinton’s problem of being too in bed with Wall St — you know what I mean. Too in bed with modernity and Neo-liberalism. In short, labour is un-inspiring.

Plus, historically this separation of owners vs workers in Conservative vs Labour… is it fit for the day? I’m not sure.

I’m not inspired to join the Labour party.

The Green Party seems - and maybe I’m wrong — it seems little-ist and quagmired in consensus decision making. I’m not inspired to join the Green Party.

“Join Extinction Rebellion!” Some say. It’s not what I’m talking about, I tell them. XR has 3 fairly narrow demands, (Tell the Truth, Declare an (climate and ecological) Emergency, have citizen assemblies to deal with it) — which it lobbies from outside to politicians on the inside of formal power.

Friends, Authors, activists, IPPR fellows gather for lunches and discuss what the next XR might be. I don’t, as yet, get invited. But I leave them voice messages and say, I think it’s got to be about seats, and legislation, and policy. It’s got to be about formal power. About progressives getting and using formal political power in the UK. And they say, “that’s what we want too.”

As I speak to people, I notice a trend of progressives being turned away from formal power. Turned off by it, even and perhaps especially if they used to work in it. We’re focusing elsewhere. Producing books, blogs and podcasts; running or working in NGOs academia media business arts or as healers now, perhaps running for office independently; while others are singing, dancing, taking psychedelics, encouraging leaders to take psychedelics, rethinking spirituality, sexuality, and jumping naked in rivers.

Which is great. I do and love to do all of that.

And, something in me says, grow up and take on a little piece of administration of public life.

US progressives went through this after the shock of Trump’s election. Republicans, we realised, had pieces of formal power at every level. They were on the school board. They were the local magistrate. They ran the polling booths. If something happened, if someone needed a favour, if a decision was to be made in on or other direction, at every level from the local to the supreme court, there were Republicans tipping the arrows in one another’s favour.

Progressives had to show up for formal power too, we realised. People started running for local office, widening the debates, widening the political space, and to their great surprise and — gulp — reorganise my life a bit — many got elected. We now have all 3 houses of US power under Democratic control 6 years later, and I think it’s partly because of that.

Right now in the UK, if progressives have, for the most part, essentially left the central houses of government, who is left there are the nutters. Really.

Boris and the conservatives had a landslide victory in the last election. And are doing yucky things with their power.

I see this.

I see a nation with significant economic challenges. With 31% of children living below the poverty line — in the 5th largest economy on the planet — wtf? And that’s just the children. Lots of people are living in pressured or stark economic circumstances.

Graffiti in Lewisham today: “affordable rent” “homes for need not greed” “house homeless”

When I go to France, instantly, I’m like, o! The trains are so much nicer! The homes are bigger. And cheaper. In Toulouse there are no homeless people, no obese people, no cars in the city centre. Everyone has a pension. Everyone’s children can go to Uni for free. Everyone has health care.

I look up a few things. France has lower GDP per capita than the UK, but seems to have higher quality of life. Why is that? Is it the UK’s increasingly intense Neo-liberalism vs France’s Social Democracy? I wish I had capacity to do an essay.

The housing market is extreme. Inequality is extreme. Economic pressures are extreme. Our way of life is based on an extractive relationship with the rest of the world — and often, arguably, our own bodies, families and relationships, and ecology near and far. Our health isn’t great. On the TV news during COP, my brother in law David Dixon was interviewed about how to integrate sustainability into education, and was pitted against a conservative politician (in power) saying, ‘it’s too political to teach sustainability in schools, we need to focus on the 3 Rs.’ You couldn’t make it up. “Frankly,” replied David, “Heaven help us if we don’t.”

My sense of it, in sum, is that actuality is this big river of actuals going towards economic shit-ness, poor wellbeing, and environmental catastrophe, while the mantle of politics, media and education is marching off in quite another direction under a narrow set of narratives which I would call misguided and arguably dangerous. And 80% of our media owned by, what, 7 billionaires? Oof.

Now. We have to take a deep breath because we live in an actual democracy and politics is a real game that — arguably — anyone can play. (?). That these narratives and groups have power is a result of the work they have done to get that power. Anyone can run for office. Political activity can shape political debate and narratives, can shape political space. Political territory.

UK progressives, here is my proposal: that we need to take formal power seriously again, and organise ourselves to get it and do good things with it. Perhaps we are hospicing Modernity and mid-wifing Regenerative Culture. Perhaps we are in pulpy times between paradigms. Ok. It’s time to bring our values to bear on national leadership amid such times.

I have a next step in mind, and perhaps a real proposition.

The next step

Shall we talk about it? 90 mins, on Zoom, 2nd March 2022 at 2pm (UK time)?

(email me if so! briony dot greenhill at gmail dot com)

The real proposition

We could create a new party. Put the party back into party. Support for those running for office around the country. Shape and widen the political conversations. Membership dues £16 monthly (+ a low income option and a more option). If 1m of us joined in, we’d have an organisation with a £16m monthly budget. That’s some significant capacity to enact progressive values within formal and national politics.

I don’t personally want the job! I’m a musician and music teacher and a pretty busy one at that. But I want to pay £16 monthly membership fees to a body of collective action that reflects my values and if it doesn’t yet exist, I’m up for helping to create it.

Are you?

Thanks for reading this.

Yours sincerely,

Briony

(email me if so! briony dot greenhill at gmail dot com)

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