Notes of meeting on Saturday 14th March 2015 at the Forge, Camden.
Present: Elisabeth Bond (chair), Eddie Farrell, Alan Spence, Michael Mulvey, Janos Abel, Clive Menzies, Carol McNicholl, James Richmond, Cynthia Williams, Mary Fee (note-taker). Apologies Peter McGinty, Denise
Peter McGinty organised the communications within the group, so need to discuss how to recommence, can be done on mail chimp. James will talk to Peter – he has said there is a password, Michael says he got the list on excel, should be sent to everyone on list, and can proceed with ordinary email, using blind copies.
Connection with 38 Degrees
Michael met with Bryony Walker during the week, (Michael’s report)
1. Given the continuing situation of democratic subversion and deficit now becoming critical in the UK, does 38 Degrees see as its essential role that of democratic fire fighter involved in a series of damage-limitation exercises?
2. How does 38 Degrees relate to the existing parliamentary system of representation through MPs? Is it designed to be a permanent digital complement to such a system, or a temporary, albeit at present very necessary, democratic expedient until representativeness has been restored to the existing system?
3. Should not one of 38 Degrees’ key functions be to canvass “grass roots” opinion about what constitutes properly functioning and sustainable democracy? About, for example, what the role of the press and media should be (about the possibility even of media-ownership legislation designed to limit concentration of influence and preserve democratic diversity), or about the content of much-needed education for democracy in UK schools?
4. I notice that on your About 38% website under What is 38 Degrees you state that: “… We’re united by a set of shared values; to defend fairness, protect rights, promote peace, preserve the planet and deepen democracy.” Should not that be adjusted to read: “We are committed to deepening democracy whereby the better to promote the values we share: defend fairness, protect rights, promote peace and preserve our planet”?
38% Election-Hub Campaign Issues:
Saving our NHS
Stopping the EU-US trade deal TTIP Cracking down on tax dodging
38%’s Finances – These are published. Bryony will supply information regarding the link to the relevant documents on the 38% website
Meeting Report (40 minutes 10-02-2015 at the 38% Headquarters, 40 Bowling Green Lane, EC1, 3rd Floor. Tel: 0207 970 6023) with Bryony Walker responsible among other things for Local Groups. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In response to the first 3 questions above, Bryony confirmed that 38 Degrees is very definitely a “grass-roots”, member-led, movement and strictly non party-political in nature. Membership is solely a function of peoples’ willingness to “get stuck in”, i.e. to set up campaigns and to sign petitions and in no way reflects any financial contribution made. The 38% Team acts as “facilitator” of the movement and decides which issues shall become “national” 38% campaigns solely on the basis of opinion-polls with the membership (e.g. the 3 issues chosen for the focus of the Election Hubs).
Bryony undertook to bring all 3 questions and my suggestion in 4 regarding a rewording of their mission statement to the attention of the Team.
38% Degrees is preparing and now launching a series of pilot sessions for training local groups in Meeting Techniques. It will shortly be posting on-line a list of local groups that have already benefited from the scheme or have asked to participate.
Democafe-Camden could benefit from this scheme. Meantime, someone from 38% would be delighted to attend one of our Saturday afternoon meetings to “converse” with members. MBM – 10 March 2015
-Clive; Graham Roddick is behind 38 degrees. They have been building up their balance sheet and now have in excess of a million pounds on it, which raises the question as to why they keep raising money. 38 degrees may be non-partisan, but the way you ask the question may influence the way people vote.
-Alan suggests they are building up a fund in case needed for legal action.
-Michael, we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
Elizabeth asks what Democafe is?
-Eddie; It’s a name for the group meeting, there had been suggestions in earlier meetings including Riptide,Trimtab and one based on the name Forge, where we presently hold the meetings. He likes the name Democafe, as it works on two levels, one suggesting, to demonstrate and the other because it’s a play on the word democracy. As a visual artist he had begun to play around with an image/logo using letterpress and screen print. ( while also thinking about the artist El Lissitzky)
-Janos- the name’s important it should encourage face-to-face dialogue, to defend democracy. -Mary asks for clarity of how this fits in with 38 degrees
-Michael; many of us got together through the initiative of 38 degrees but Democafe is autonomous too.
-Elisabeth understands she is attending as 38 degrees.
-Carol, does it matter if it’s both, as long as we are here now and meeting
– Michael suggests we adopt the DemoCafe-Camden and holds up the bag (the triangle might refer to 38 degrees?)
Housing Study Group
-James has proposed a Democafe Housing study group that he would like to get off the ground.
-Janos would like to join it,
-Michael would like to be a corresponding member.
– Members discuss problems of “Buy to Let” increasing the rise in prices of housing. -Eddie shows plaques which he has made rough drafts of.
– Carol, these would be great as stickers…….
-Eddie, it might be difficult to identify individual houses but putting flyers up on hoardings of new developments which invite buy to leave investment might be just as effective at making a critical intervention. Stickers would be great but fear expensive, prints could certainly made a lot cheaper.
-Janos, this would go some way to identify the areas of development and people who are buying properties to leave them empty.
-Members ask about Camden Council’s policies on housing?
-Michael, naming and shaming may be a bit of a negative approach. A more positive approach is the Greens policy of introducing “smart” rent caps and security of tenure for private tenants, end ‘right to buy’, and introduce a land value tax to be fairer than council tax. As a short-cut we could confront parties, with an adoption of the Greens’ policy and asked what they are going to do on these issues?
-Elisabeth suggests that the group works on a statement in preparation.
-Clive suggests it would be good to include a repeal of recent anti-squatting legislation. -Elisabeth agrees
-Question of whether we should include idea of building more?
-Clive suggests if they freed up all the empty properties across the country there would be enough homes for everyone.
-Mention of the affordable properties they have to include and the “poor people’s entrances”. -Eddie asks if anyone knows about the big housing development currently underway at York Way, behind Kings Cross Station and also the Barratt, Courtyard development on Camden Road.
-Camden offers limitless possibilities. Every day a new bistro opens or another band plays its debut gig. Life here is constantly changing. The Courtyards is a unique opportunity to live in this iconic neighbourhood. Due to launch in early 2016 with anticipated prices from £475,000 – £900,000-
-How many ( what %) of the homes will be at an affordable price, what is an affordable price these days? will try to find out.
Michael suggests that we should say that houses are not for speculative, they are for housing. -Carol, this is exactly what the right-wing press uses to control the Labour Party agenda, so they dare not be outspoken.
-DemoCafe does not have to be held back.
-Clive, in the current political climate this would have no effect, politics is theatre, the direction of travel is irrespective of politics.
-Michael says we should state what we want, then examine the issue of how we get it.
-Clive, Land Value Tax, citizens income, and money creation have come onto the mainstream agenda because of Occupy, but are not part of the mainstream agenda. –Michael, mentioning them is progress.
-Clive, they will not be implemented without changes in structure.
-Michael, let’s come up with a draft position statement and circulate it for comment within this group.
-Michael sent out a paper to the group, Towards a Shared Vision of Democracy, and would welcome comments. The debate has to be had about democracy. This has to be on the Education agenda. ( Michael’s paper will be attached to this week’s minutes again )
-Alan says discussion about NHS is a peg upon which to hang a discussion about democracy, discussion of Health & Social Care Act, which was not put to the people before it was implemented. This was in contradiction to Magna Carta. We need a referendum to overturn what this government has done. He passes around copies of his paper about the NHS. -Michael; the parties are using democracy to put into practice their own policies without consultation.
-Alan; asks if he can put this paper to 38 Degrees, before we discuss it at the next meeting. This would put Magna Carta at the forefront of people’s thinking.
-Michael; they will only take notice if individuals put things forward, it should not come from a group, such as Democafe. As Alan has drafted the paper himself he should try and approach Bryony Walker with it before next week. If a group suggests something, they can still send it out for consultation to their members but 38degrees are very concerned to protect their democratic integrity.
-Alan will try and do that this week and report back next week.
-Eddie, two problems with internet communications from pressure groups, e.g. Stop the War, instantly ask for money from people with a regular income, this excludes a big percentage of the population. 38 Degrees allows people to “click” and think they have done something. -Janos- there is no requirement for the government take notice of petitions, this is why we need a constitution.
-Clive- problem with petitions is, for example that George Osborne was contemplating giving better tax breaks to charities. However this is more complex than it seems, because there are lots of charities that you might not want to support, e.g. public schools. Petitions do not always get the subtlety of the argument, and are not a good way of creating policy.
Michael repeats his question to Byrony Walker “are you fire-fighters, or are you trying to deepen democracy?”
-Carol,Perhaps that’s better than nothing. We should go to the meeting at Camden School for Girls, ( details below) and ask some of these questions directly to the candidates standing in the coming election……..
From: Natasha Clayton When I came along about three weeks ago, I mentioned that I was planning to organise a hustings focusing on climate change. This is now going ahead on the evening of 8 April at Camden School for Girls. And Natalie Bennett (Greens), Will Blair (Conservative) and Sir Keir Starmer (Labour) have all confirmed they will attend. I would be grateful if you could share with the 38 degrees Camden chapter as I think it’s a great opportunity for democratic engagement. There’s a short blog on the website (below) which also links to an eventbrite event. We are asking people to register so we can keep an eye on numbers. http://www.camdencan.org/what- does-your-candidate-say-about-climate-change/
-Alan says the NHS proposal started from their residents association.
-Michael, the NHS may be the best possible lever to deepen democracy.
-The NHS was the sacred cow.
-at a book reading at the Owl Bookshop ( Kentish Town Road) last week Jacky Davis, one of the authors of NHS for sale. Said clearly If the conservatives get in at the next election we can all kiss goodbye to the NHS .
-Michael- in France the private sector works with the government, because there is a proper interface between the government and the private institutions. Experience in France, private care was paid for by the government budget. In the UK, the government is prepared to give chunks of the NHS to the private sector as cash-cow, and they are able to determine its parameters and its goals.
-Eddie, follow the line, we used to mine minerals now we mine ourselves, the housing market is a perfect example and health insurance is potentially the massive market that will provide cash to our casino economy so it can stumble along for some more years.
–Carol, the private sector cherry-picks and if they are not making any money they drop it. -Eddie mentions about Ray Sheath’s encounter with a few young people while collecting signatures for 38 degrees NHS petition. They asked what the NHS was.
-Carol says her son knows how things work,
-Mary says government is not on the curriculum. -Carol- and it never was when I was at school either!
-Clive, it should be mentioned that 38 degrees have done some great work in highlighting some issues, they have a good track record in drawing people’s attention to TTIP.
-Eddie, drawing attention to a new leaflet from the Greens that was pushed through the letterbox this morning, makes a suggestion that Democafe Camden could produce a similar leaflet. This could be a practical way for the group to lay out its position for the upcoming election and beyond. Perhaps everyone could work on a section each, eg James- housing, Alan-NHS….
-Elisabeth points out that printing involves money, and asks Eddie to look into this -Michael wonders if we should be asking people to vote for the Greens.
-Elisabeth says the problem is they are not going to get elected.
-Carol, suggests she could write something on the legalisation of drugs.
-Janos, it’s a myth that drugs are habit-forming.
-Michael, this would be too much of a gift to the right-wing press.
-Clive- you should not be afraid of proposing things that are controversial. The more of us who speak out in words of truth, the quicker we will see some change.
-Janos- if the media is rubbishing our proposals, we should challenge them. –Michael- tactically speaking this is not the first proposal to come up with.
-Clive- Russell Brand has 9 million followers on Twitter, he tackles this issue. If we want to engage with young people of all ethnicities, we should not be afraid to tackle it.
-It’s a medical and social problem, not the kind of problem it’s held out to be. -James says the legislation against drugs did not come in until 1921, and people used to send them in packages to soldiers in the front in the first world war.
Book Recommendation: Clive says in Critical Thinking, they are looking at the whole issue of democracy, Murray Bookchin, “The Ecology of Freedom” written in 1971. For example we are led to believe that competition is natural, whereas in fact co-operation is more natural, and commends this book in tackling these basic issues. has four slides summarising it which he will pass on, (contact Clive through Critical Thinking) also a video online explaining it. Clive says he is one of the most unrecognised minds that have graced this planet and one of the first people to talk about decentralised power.
-Elisabeth, likes Will Hutton’s work .
-Clive says that when he spoke to him a couple of years back he disputed that banks create money.
-Michael, he’s a good economist and should be listened to.
-Clive says if he doesn’t acknowledge that banks create money out of nothing, he has no foundation to build on.
Janos ends with a word about the group process -All groups fail at the stage of “storming”. No group will be effective unless there is a foundation. There has to be foundation to enable people to discover how the others are thinking. It could take several meetings. -It would be productive if we had ten minutes doing business and the rest of the time as a series of one-to-ones.
-Mary mentions about knowledge of group psychotherapy, which could address these problems which is not known within the political arena, and the difficulties we now face with the onslaught from social media, which takes the place of genuine personal connections.
Michael- apologies for next week, he’s off to France, will remain in touch by email.