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A New Style of Politics, Maya de Souza

A new style of politics: From Tribalism to Dialogue-based Decision-making

The question that looms large over us, that prompted this discussion, is whether our current style of politics is fit for the huge life-threatening global challenges we face? Poverty and starvation (let’s tell it as it is - from war in Yemen and Burma to locust ravaged East Africa), climate change which exacerbates the above, technological change that could put us all out of jobs as well as put us into enclosed echo chambers. Now to top this we have a pandemic. Is the system that we have - politics riven by division, party politics sustained by social media which widens rifts rather than healing – fit for purpose? If not, what must change?

For the progressive left, the re-emergence of populist politics worldwide means a backward step in many hard-fought areas: safeguarding our environment, indigenous people’s rights, multi-culturalism, and feminism. Compass and others in that sphere are facing up to the challenge with plenty of tough debate and discussion.

However, across the political spectrum people acknowledge the need to address the pressing problems of our time including climate change, poverty and pandemics too. The stakes are high – the loss to the planet and to human life as we know it from inaction is potentially devastating.

I’ve drawn out some key points that hit home from our excellent speakers and participants.

For Neal Lawson, Chief Executive of Compass Think Tank, this is an epochal moment. We have never experienced anything like this in recent times. On the one hand we have a Conservative government that has recognised the need for state intervention to save people and the economy – challenging the role of state in relationship to civil society. On the other, we have technology that democratises, but creates dangerous echo chambers. There is a bubbling vitality in society creating space and energy for a shift to a new paradigm.

From Kirsten de Keyser, what we need is trust. The distrust of the intelligentsia and experts is the big problem. We need to rebuild this trust to enable reform: trust in institutions, in the banks, in colleagues, the police, the politicians, the media. This baffles visitors to Scandinavia, New Zealand and Germany, but the deep sense of trust in these countries is not naivety, it enables action. We need to build back that trust in our own communities. Proportional representation and a fairer electoral system can help build that trust and get people across the political divide talking to each other.

Kathie Conn, XR spoke about deliberative forums – how people from all walks of life, randomly selected, like for a jury and then stratified to be a representation of the population in terms of age, gender, levels of education, where they live, ethnicity etc. come together. Listening to a wide perspective of evidence, questioning, discussing, considering pros, cons and trade-offs before making recommendations.The collective intelligence of citizens will help transform our political landscape, with more voices included in the conversation, sitting around the table and making long term decisions. Deepening democracy in these turbulent times, rebuilding trust and reviving citizen engagement. For more information: https://xrcitizensassembly.uk/

The audience were in agreement with the vision of collaboration, information and trust. The questions were mainly about how we get from A to B. Some saw Labour Party discussions as critical, others stressed political education, and personal and group action to develop a negotiated collaborative culture. Legislation like the Welsh Future Generations Bill that embedded longer-term thinking were regarded as hopeful!

So we are past first base on this discussion. To me, action will be necessary on all levels to get from A to B: developing a new culture of collaborative solution finding in our own institutions and organisations – from school to offices, working within political parties to rethink positions, and working across them to agree on necessary change.

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