There is a strong case for saying that our present political structures and system are not fit for purpose.
One reason is that public trust in the government in the UK is very low, as reported by numerous surveys in recent years including the Edelman Trust Barometer. There are many possible reasons for this: the MP’s expenses scandal; the misleading and rancorous campaigns run by both Leave and Remain groups during the Brexit referendum; the economic and social deprivation that has affected many part of the UK outside London and the south east; and unpopular policy catastrophes such as Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, the Windrush scandal and the bodged rollout of Universal Credit. Whatever the reasons, the decline in trust calls into question the fundamental relationship of consent that has to exist if a representative democracy is to function.
Another, even more compelling, is that in recent decades both Conservative and Labour governments have failed to show any real leadership about the increasingly urgent threats to society posed by climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Both parties have been gripped by a “business as usual” mindset that has accepted the globalised free market economy and the pursuit of GDP growth as the norm and has largely ignored the social and environmental consequences. They have also presided over growing and grotesque inequalities in the distributions of income and wealth, with the richest 10% of households now holding 45% of all wealth and the poorest 50%, by contrast, owning just 8.7%.
It is tempting to conclude that the basis for any viable future for humanity has to be a major shift of power back to the level of local communities, where ordinary people are able to be much more easily involved in discussing policy priorities and options and to contribute to the decision making process more directly. This is, in fact, Big Mirror’s “working hypothesis”. However, we are all too aware of the challenges that such a shift would bring with it, even supposing the existing political establishment would be willing to countenance it. How might people best be engaged? How might their understandable scepticism be overcome? What processes and structures would be needed to ensure that the power that was transferred was really put to constructive, progressive use and not dissipated in party-based squabbling?
These and many more questions would need careful thought, examination and a lot of intelligent experimentation to be answered properly. We are starting out with a belief that “people power” really is the way that humanity will need to go if we are to have any chance of building a more sane and sustainable society, with a sober recognition of the scale of the challenge but a sense of excitement and optimism about the possibilities it offers!