In my blog post “Brexit Blues – some ideas to sort out the mess” in June 2016 I called for what I described as a “national unity conference”. What I had in mind was a gathering of ordinary people from all walks of life to figure out what would be best for the whole country. A sort of bottom-up conversation about how to move forward together.
After 2 years of Brexit comedy-tragedy, such a gathering more than ever appears to be a good idea. And not just in the UK. The noise and hype playing out on social and mainstream media platforms across Europe are drowning out citizens’ voices. Meanwhile politicians walk in circles, most are afraid to lose their hold on power if they make a bold choice. Even coalition-experienced German politicians seem to dance about. Germany voted for a new Bundestag in September. 4 months and one round of failed talks later, the chance for new elections are 50:50.
Ordinary citizens deserve better and they deserve to be heard in equal measure.
I’m delighted to find out that others are thinking along the same lines.
At the end of 2017 a group of universities ran a project named “Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit“. Its 50 members “were selected randomly to reflect the socio-demographic characteristics of the broader population and their vote in the Brexit referendum in 2016, so included more Leave than Remain voters”.
2 outcomes: Very clear and valuable insights on 1) what the UK needs through the eyes of ordinary people, and 2) on how to work through polarising issues and indeed to preserve and improve the democratic process.
” As the citizens’ assembly considered the issues, the participants became more tolerant and generous towards each others’ perspectives, and more liberal in outlook. Participants became slightly more inclined to think immigration enriched rather than undermined cultural life and the economy, and substantially more prepared to give priority to trade over immigration in Brexit negotiations.”
Nicholas Gruen puts the experiment into the context of the social and mainstream media hysteria around Brexit in his piece “An Ancient Greek idea could foil Brexit’s democratic tragedy”:
“…the Ancient Greeks had a word for what’s missing: isegoria, which they thought must accompany freedom of speech, and which means equality of speech – people need to hear their own voices reflected in political discourse….”
“….all the evidence suggests that involving ordinary citizens in democratic deliberation – as is becoming more common in Ireland, Canada and Oregon – can help us do democracy so much better.”
I want the spirit of Isegoria to throw a bright light onto the fascist shadows of Hungarian PM Orbán’s “Illiberal Democracy“.
I will carry these thoughts on my own political journey as Green party candidate for Muehldorf and Upper Bavaria in the Bavarian elections on 14. October 2018.
My insights are especially poignant in this election year as we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the proclamation of the Bavarian Free State – an urgent reminder from the past about the value of citizens’ sovereignty and democratic freedom rights.
©️Judith Bogner, 16 January 2018