Stop the Coup: Turning crisis into opportunity

“We can take this crisis and use it to demand that we make the UK a modern, functional democracy, one in which power and resources are held in local communities, and is only transferred upwards when necessary.” Sheffield Green Councillor Peter Garbutt calls on the people of the UK to use the parliamentary crisis to push for a democracy fit for the 21st century.

Peter Garbutt
Peter Garbutt

Sheffield Green Party Councillor Peter Garbutt

Peter Garbutt

Boris Johnson is a liar. More, he is a danger to the future of us all. He is recklessly playing with our fragile constitution, taking the country to the brink of a catastrophic crash-out Brexit and to a chaotic deadlock in the halls of Westminster.

That’s hardly a shock. He was a disaster as Mayor of London, a laughing stock as Foreign Secretary. He follows Theresa May, who had been labelled the “worst prime minister ever”. She followed David Cameron – the man who called rapid-fire Brexit referendum with rampant arrogance and scant regard for the possible consequences then tried to win it by relying on the arguments of economists. He was also, to that point, the “worst prime minister ever”.

How have we ended up with someone like Boris Johnson as our Prime Minister? A better question might be how could we not have?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Margaret Thatcher gave us the miners’ strike and being “economical with the truth”. Tony Blair gave us the dodgy dossier and the Iraq War. The demise of the weak and only too malleable UK constitution has been decades in the making.

The last significant reform in Westminster was women getting the vote. In the last election 68 per cent of votes didn’t count. In 2015 the Tories won 100 per cent of the power with the backing of 24 per cent of eligible voters.

What we have is the accidental accretion of centuries. It was handy when Speaker John Bercow dusted off a piece of vellum down in a Westminster basement to the find a 17th-century precedent for refusing to allow a third vote on Theresa May’s benighted deal.

But relying on such discoveries and games is no way to run a 21st-century country. Power is concentrated in the Westminster Parliament, with local government not only legally powerless but increasingly robbed by austerity of the power to do anything more than what London makes their statutory duties.

The current Brexit chaos is the final blow. The death of any meaningful democracy in this country has finally arrived, but the writing has been on the wall for decades.

For so many of us, this is the wake-up call we so desperately needed. And it’s more than a wake-up call. If we, the people, do this right, we can turn disaster to opportunity. We have to.

We can take this crisis and use it to demand that we make the UK a modern, functional democracy, one in which power and resources are held in local communities, and is only transferred upwards when necessary.

One in which councils and parliaments reflect the views of the voters, where every vote counts.

Where the structure itself is created by the people, through a people’s constitutional convention deciding what the future should look like.

The alternative, with all of this occurring in Britain as human civilisation is on a collision course with climate catastrophe, doesn’t bear thinking about.

So now we have the opportunity to create a real democracy, with real participation and widespread buy-in. A democracy with open arms, not closed doors. A democracy of co-operation, not competition. A democracy that acknowledges that it has to operate within the physical limits of this fragile planet, but that knows it can give everyone in our society as decent, secure life.

We, here today, are the start of this democracy.

Taken from a speech Peter Garbutt gave to the 3,000-strong Stop the Coup rally in Sheffield on 31 August.