This is a draft of the underlying principles that could form the basis of a new democratic constitution. It's out for
consultation, amendment and improvement.
Please send your comments and suggestions to:
email@example.com or comment on the sections.
W hereas the current British state political system is undemocratic and unjust in that:
The state is a highly centralised, alienating power that has established itself above society as a whole.
This power is exercised primarily on behalf of dominant capitalist economic and financial interests as demonstrated by anti-people austerity measures.
Legal authority does not come from the people as citizens, but from the Monarchy, Lords and Commons.
The House of Commons is a powerless assembly rather than an independent transforming legislature instructed by the will of the electorate.
Members of Parliament do not exercise any real control over ministers or civil servants.
The devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales play a similar role to the Westminster parliament.
A surveillance state secretly monitors and tracks the legitimate activities of activists, trade unionists and protesters.
Increasing numbers of “arms-length” quasi-state agencies have been created which are totally unaccountable at central and local level.
Local government has lost its relative autonomy and is now reduced to carrying out central government orders and decisions.
The state has abandoned primary responsibility in a number of areas including housing, higher education and care in older age in favour of markets for public services.
The state refuses to take steps to cut carbon emissions and other measures to meet the challenge of climate change.
The capitalist state increasingly resorts to violence to prevent change internally and externally perpetuates a condition of continuous war to promote illegal regime change.
Power at national level increasingly exists only in relation to an unaccountable, unelected transnational state that includes the EU, the IMF and the WTO.
We therefore declare that the present state is a barrier to the real democratic control of society and has effectively disenfranchised the 99%. The right to vote, won in centuries of struggle, has been undermined.
We therefore propose an initiative that has as its aim the transformation of the present political system along democratic lines. We favour a transition from representation without power to a popular sovereignty.
We propose the goals of:
building a new, independent and decentralised democracy, from below
creating an inclusive written constitution that serves to protect and enhance our liberty and embraces the aspirations of the powerless majority.
To reach these goals we aim to:
encourage the building of a new, nation-wide democratic tradition from the ground up through, for example, diverse Peoples’ Assemblies, as a means of transforming the state
develop a working network of civil and human rights activists, constitution campaigners and all those interested in decentralisation, self-organisation and complete electoral reform
carry out actions by non-violent means in support of the rights and issues we stand for
develop a peoples’ constitution that will defend existing rights under attack and create new ones that deepen and extend democracy.
We advocate a new constitution for a 21st century democracy, moving from a constitutional monarchy to a constitutional democracy. This new constitution should have as its guiding principles:
justice, transparency and accountability from those elected by the people to govern
a decentralised, participatory and inclusive democracy
absolute equality before the law
an independent, democratically-appointed judiciary to uphold the new constitution and the rule of law
a rejection of state violence both in Britain and abroad
the right to self-determination of peoples and nations within and without Britain
the promotion of equality and diversity internationally.
The rights set out below, which a new constitution would incorporate, should form the basis of the new democratic state:
Human and social rights
the right to organise, associate, demonstrate and strike independently of the state
the right to a representative electoral process in balance with a new participatory system and direct, democratic decision-making
the right of minority communities to equality in all areas of social life
the right to affordable housing for all those in need
the right to free continuing education and training
the right to health
the right to information.
the right to co-operative ownership in place of shareholder control
the right to democracy and self-management in all areas/activities of the workplace
the right to common land ownership in towns and rural areas.
the right to live in an environment shaped by ecological care and not profits
the right of nature, including human beings, to exist free from abuse and despoliation.
the right to hold and use land held in common
the right of communities to continuity of culture, traditions and habitat
the right to the free movement of people.
You can make a general comment on the agreement below or specific comments on the relevant sections:
John Farrar says:
I hope that this initiative encourages people to engage in the political process and empowers people to believe in a society for the common good and work for this to become reality .
David Heywood says:
Abolish the House of Lords and in it's place have regional assemblies covering all parts of England together with the devolved Assemblies. Before laws can be promulgated covering the whole country they would have to be approved by every regional assembly and devolved Assembly. No longer could Parliament impose it's will.
David Smith says:
I am a member of the Green Party which I believe is closest of UK political parties to your position in its philosophy and policies. This not to say we have got it all right and my comments in any case do not necessarily follow Green Party policy.
Excellent first draft but I believe there are a number of areas I feel you have not covered adequately. The comments should not be interpreted as an amendment to the draft but rather things to be taken into account.
a. Money, banking, debt and inequality: All these things are related. Excessive PRIVATE debt is a recipe for instability, and in turn is largely due to growing inequality. Growing inequality is justified by the dangerous religion of neo classical economics, which is NOT a science. Money should be nationalised; banks need not be, but there must be strict credit controls and periodic debt jubilees. The constitutional measures required to achieve this need some thought.
b. Corporate Rights: the poisonous doctrine that artificial persons such as corporation should enjoy the same (and in practice greater) rights than human beings must be abandoned. Corporate rights should not be entrenched but designed and modified as necessary to ensure that corporations further social ends. whereas the principle of limited liability should continue to apply to human shareholders, corporations liability for the debts of their subsidiaries should not be limited. There would have to be some exceptions to this rule. For example the liability of pension funds for the debts of companies in which they hold shares would still be limited. No corporate body whether profit making company, ‘political action committee’ or trade union should be allowed to contribute funds to political parties, and individual contributions should be capped. The remuneration and nomination committees of plcs should not be committees of the main board and should not contain a majority of members of the main board. The main board should be elected by share weighted Single Transferable Vote so that there is a realistic chance of member nominated candidates being elected.
c. International Trade agreements should be agreements between sovereign nations and not between corporations and nations as they now are. Corporations should be banned from any part in the negotiations. All nations’ parliaments should go through treaties line by line before ratification – fast tracking banned. This in turn would ensure that negotiations would have to be much more open. ISDS is an abomination that should be banned and removed from all existing agreements. In general, measures to reduce ‘non tariff barriers to trade’ should be viewed with suspicion.
d. mainstream media – democracy cannot work properly unless people are properly informed. the BBC is little better than a government and corporate propaganda machine. few important issues are covered at all. celebs and other trivia are covered at length as is pro Zionist propaganda. It is unacceptable to have to pay the BBC a licence fee in order to watch other channels such as channel 4, RT and Al Jazeera. As for the print media, (with one or two honourable exceptions) their coverage is determined by the whims and interests of their proprietors, the interests of advertisers, and the perceived need to sensationalise in order to increase readership, in so doing they stimulate suspicion and fear of the ‘other’ and thus contribute to the rise of racist and reactionary parties. There is little investigative journalism – it is perceived to be too expensive.
“News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising”, sometimes attributed to George Orwell. The trouble is that many people do not want to watch or listen to real news. We cannot make them, we have to convince them that things could be better and they could help.
The BBC should be scrapped and replaced with a public broadcasting service which is a producers co-operative. It would be funded to some extent by the government in return for broadcasting government announcements (which would be clearly identified as such), but other funding would be by ‘begfest’ as in the USA. It would be illegal for any representative of a creditor or bond holder to be on the board. Any government criticism of the PBS, whether in public or in parliament would be a criminal offence, and any collusion between PBS staff and government over content would also be a criminal offence.
All other print or broadcast media would by law be producers co-operatives, and their market share (as measured by sales or TAM) would be limited.
Sharon Collins says:
What about House of Lords and legislation.
Kim Smith says:
I agree with most of the above in principle, however I believe there should be a specific point about the representation of women, ethnicities, working class etc in elected power. Wether that be quotas to ensure fair representation or by another means, it's very important that it isn't only white men who are making the decisions going forward.
Charlie Michael says:
Looking good, but don't you think the issue of rampant, supranational corporate power with regards to tax avoidance and environmental destruction should be directly addressed within all four sections?
Ian Henshall says:
At Accountable Democracy we have been thinking along similar lines. It seems to me there is a risk in any compexity (eg trying to write a new constitution) and that Chartism is the way to go, with a very simple non-negotiable non-betrayable set of measures, eg handing back full prosecuting powers to local prosecutors which would ensure that most of the present crowd would be in jail before too long, democratising the media, change in the companies act to put consumers and supplers on the board, and so on.
Mr Carl J Boyd says:
I believe in a democratic Government of the people for the people. Headed by a peoples senate . No political parties, left or right and NO Monarchy ( this is outdated and follows a class system ) All are equal and nobody should be more equal than another. Government should be fair and equal to all.
Shaun Glossop says:
There's some really good stuff here, but it's a shame that it contains some elements of old-school "formulaic" thinking, and that it lacks a more creative vision.
For instance, the Draft and its associated text clearly values protecting indigenous peoples, their traditions and cultures (all very good stuff)...but it then goes on to propose abolishing monarchy here in Britain (arguably, a deeply entrenched aspect of the traditional culture and native tradition of these Islands). It's fairly apparent this dissonance is because the authors 'automatically' view monarchy as a necessarily "bad" and "regressive" thing, something that must always promote inequality. (Frankly, a rather old-school, knee-jerk and outdated "left-wing" way of thinking.) Surely a more radical (and truly progressive) approach would be to propose reforming and democratising the institution - there is sound historical precedent for an elective monarchy in Britain (the original, truly indigenous form of this very British institution [as first developed and operated by both the Celts and the Saxons] was elective - the concept of an hereditary monarchy was only introduced later, along with all forms of fixed "class" division, serfdom and feudalism, during the Norman occupation and the following tyranny). So, a return to a (modern) form of elective monarchy would be a far more "radical" and creative step: it would assert democratic principles, it would (symbolically) reject the ideas of division and subjugation left behind by the Normans and their European medieval feudalism, it would dodge the dreary, out-dated (and largely failed) 20th century model of a Republic/President, and it would (creatively) herald a new future that authentically builds (in a progressive way) on the indigenous heritage of the British peoples (instead of sweeping away aspects of that traditional culture).
A bigger worry, though, is that the Draft, etc., doesn't seem to build-in any real checks on the rise and power of professional, career politicians. These creatures are surely the curse of our age (so often the blind slaves to blinkered political dogma...and so very easily in the pockets of vested interests and the corporate elite). Leaving any grand new scheme for a better future potentially open to it being run by these vermin is just setting it up to fail. Were's the requirement that elective representatives (at any level) serve no more than 2 terms? Were's the rule that representatives must genuinely live and work in the location they represent (and must have done so for, say, 2 or 3 years BEFORE standing for office)? Were's the mechanism for some citizens to participate in decision-making (at all levels) by virtue of an open and transparent "jury service"-type system, one that is structured to ensure that the true demographic and "make-up" of the area is accurately reflected? (Such citizen participants could be a real check-and-balance on elected politicians.)
And, lastly, there doesn't seem to be too much regard for making any new, future system lean and efficient – probably essential if its to be truly workable. (Broad participation is, obviously, a good thing – but unwieldy is pretty certain to be a bad thing, and probably dangerous.) As an idea here, how about a single, highly flexible assembly/parliament-type body (instead of the multiple, separate bodies in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and, potentially, the English regions), one within which only the representatives of places that will actually be effected by the matter being discussed get to vote during that particular session (so, if its a UK-wide matter, all representatives get to vote, if the matter relates to Scotland only then only Scottish representatives get to vote, if the matter affects only the South-West of England then only the elected representatives from there get to vote, etc.)?
What this website proposes is a good start, but let's be more creative, imaginative and open in our thinking...
Mark Hammond says:
Time for change is now!
Dave Putson says:
We have all of the arguments as demonstrated by people such as Proff. Alex Nunn with "Countering the Cuts" and Dexter Whitfield's "In Place of Austerity" and "Global Auction of Public Assets". Now we need to assert some media profile rather than allowing the neo liberal right wing wafflers free reign.
I'm afraid the general problem is that I disagree with you on a few points, especially the economics. I honestly can't see the difference between this and liberal communism. Ugh, this is very good apart from the economics
Grattan Puxon says:
As a member of the presidium of the International Romani Union, committee member of the Gypsy Council and secretary of the Dale Farm Residents Association, I can assure you that these organizations are in favour of and actively promoting formation of co-operatives and believe in strengthening communities. We are therefore in spirit supporting the broad aims of the Agreement of the People and the Peoples Assemblies. Some of our difficulties arise from being nomadic or part-nomadic, and migrant, so that we need to have a voice where policies and positions of the Agreement may impact on our particular way of life.
Sue Upton says:
this is a global movement dreaming into being the world we want for our children and our children's children...
Steve Ballard says:
McCluskey's call to make Britain ungovernable needs
full support of those claiming allegiance to Marxism. Marx understood capitalists will continue their ungovernable armed ransacking of cultures until proletariats in reformed Christian states replace parliaments based on ungovernable philistinism with parliaments based on multi-cultural cooperation - populations cultivating themselves by teaching their young to meet their needs without exploitation.
Sharon Borthwick says:
Dissolve parliament every trace it resembles democracy not at all, governments collude with corporations and not even on a local scale do we gain our say. We rise against councils saying we don't want another hypermarket, another betting shop or money shop. We get those things and we lose the community spaces we like, the pubs, the streets, the libraries, afterschools clubs... We don't want our governments bombing people all over the world for sake of profits... people don't want that, corporation/governments want that. They can see nothing beyond a profit motive. They are blind and you would be led by them?
Colin Wilkes says:
Capitalism has failed yet again. Its time to move to a society based on mutual ownership of the economic system.
Bob Officer says:
end the frustration of no choice in politics, reclaim the power of the working people, out with the greedy capitalists who line their pockets while others starve!
Sarah Staynings says:
I like the idea of the agreement of the people and I agree with a lot of it's aims, but I am really concerned that there is not enough interest in the areas of environmental concerns and protecting animal rights, as well as the issue of over population. If we are to continue to live on this planet successfully and in harmony with other species, we cannot continue to reproduce at the rate we do. I personally see Earth as an eco system in fine balance and don't want to live in a world almost exclusively populated by humans, to the detriment of all other species. What will the agreement of the people do to tackle over population, animal rights and species destruction due to the expanding population?
Runnymede Messenger April 2013 says:
Agreement of the People This is a relatively new group which was brought to my attention by a contact. Do read the introduction when this section comes out during the course of the coming week. Please comment on their drafts. This is the best thought out discussion I have seen in all the years I have been part of this group. It is not perfect. It needs YOUR comments!
Dan Ashman says:
A timetable for synchronized meetings. A date for refining the agreement in different localities at the same time. Have them uploaded onto the website, proposed amendments. On a separate date with enough time to be given for people to consider amendments. Again in a sychronised meeting format. Each amendment to be voted on through a direct democracy vote. For simplicity sake each meeting group can decide on their methodology, it could be show of hands, ballot or electronic, counted and recorded there and then, then fed back. I believe it is down to the various assemblies to decide for themselves if they wish to cover the process with various medias.
In my personal opinion, it is much better that people meet physically in their community as oppose to participate online. Advise to keep each assembly relatively small so views can be heard and aired. Again this at the discretion of the attendees.
Might I suggest an objective of passing on petitions in each ward/borough with the aim of reaching the amount of signatures to match the amount of votes that put the MP in the position as a member of parliament.
A pledge page to the agreement which will be presented to the house of commons. Shortely after the lobbying of MPs.
A date or a number of pledges that initiates us to notify the various institutions of our agreement and a synchronized push from the various contributor groups to gain more pledges.
If all this is pulled off and fails to change things then we have proved beyond all doubt that this is not a democracy.
There are a few thoughts on the historical angle. Although the initial agreement was progressive the levelers were not pacifist in their code (Im not suggesting it should be stated for us one way or the other). The agreement never saw light of day in Parliament it remained just a proposal.
Frank Taylor of Runnymede Project says:
Dear Corinna et al,
Thanks for yr email. I will now be definite that the Runnymede Project is on board as a co-sponsor, and look forward to hearing about the Steering Group meeting..
I was impressed by what I saw of the new Putney Debates. I wd hope this is the beginning of a process which will culminate in a British version of the Philadelphia Convention or, closer to home, of the convention of 1688. At that convention, William asked the simple question, 'How do you wish to be governed?. A constitution is , and has to be, the answer to that question ,,, in this case the Declaration and Bill of Rights.
Whilst history did not stop either at the Magna Carta in did not start either. There is a crude view that the Magna Carta was simply engineered by a gang of barons looking after their own interests, and that 'rights' thuis enshrined were little more than an accidental by-product.
In fact the essential elements of the Magna Carta can be found in the Assize of Clarendon, the Charter of Liberties of 1101, and the Laws of Alfred. In turn, these reflect the lex non scripta of ancient European Tribal Law. In 1189, the statute of Richard I gave this lex non scrpta … defined as 'that law which has existed from before the time of memory' … equal status with written statue. Thus we derive that essential building block of Common Law (if Common Law were functioning as it should, that is now a powerful issue!), that all law must be rooted in natural morality, justice and common sense. If purported law does not so conform, than, according to Bereford, Coke and Hale, it is not law at all and is thus open to nullification.
I agree entirely with yr comment on, the World Trade Organisation, the European Union, and global corporations bigger than some states. I could at least add the World Bank, the Bank of International Settlements, NATO, and perhaps the UN itself is becoming increasingly a operational wing of the new 'post democratic' global oligarchy. We reap yet another whirlwind in this criminal chaos in our food supply.
We must stop gazing upwards in admiration at such great palaces in the stratosphere for our sources of governance, and instead start looking sideways, at one another, in our local communities.
This will be a difficult and vexed process. We might think of the arguments which raging in the Philadelphia Convention, with states threatening to walk out of the process altogether. Sometimes we need to find pathways to reconcile contrary interests.
2015 will be the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. That is a good date for the democratic resistance to work towards.