Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saying goodbye to Unlock Democracy...

I'm on my way to London for a meeting of the Council of Unlock Democracy, almost certainly my last, given that elections take place shortly, and I am not minded to run for re-election.

Regrets? I have a few. But then again...

I've enjoyed much of my time on Council. The intellectual challenge presented by my colleagues, as well as subject matter that lies at the core of what I believe in, has allowed me a perhaps naïve sense that I am 'making a contribution'. I have been made to feel welcome by the staff and most of my fellow Council members, all of whom appear to be committed to the notion of democratic reform and renewal.

On that basis, it seems slightly odd to withdraw from active participation, I accept. But there are issues.

I've previously touched upon the issues of internal democracy within 'Unlock Democracy', and whilst I am reassured that the issues I raised then are to be addressed - indeed, I have been urged by members of the Management Board to put proposals to the Annual General Meeting in the Autumn - I have almost certainly burnt my bridges irrevocably. That, in itself, is enough to discourage me from seeking another term.

But I have also been made aware that, in some quarters of the organisation, albeit a minority, my presence is not entirely welcome. It is suggested by some of our stakeholders that the organisation needs to respond to a sense that it is has a strong affinity with the Liberal Democrats, by perhaps taking steps to make its pluralist nature more apparent.

One should not overreact. This does not send out a signal that 'Liberal Democrats need not apply', but it does imply that the culture of the New Politics Network, one of Unlock Democracy's predecessor organisations, remains pervasive. The Old Labour fears of infiltration and entryism, which appeared to impact on the choice of election rules, also militate against genuine pluralism, where the organisation should reflect the diversity of its members and activists, not of the people who have historically led it. Pluralism, by its very nature, demands fluidity and constancy in its demonstration. In short, there are those, albeit a minority, who believe that Unlock Democracy should have remained a campaigning group, of and for the Left.

But democracy is not an issue of the Left, or of the Centre or Right for that matter. It is a question of freedom, of participation, of the right to take power over your life, your future.

Sounds rather like a manifesto for another term, doesn't it?

And I hope that someone takes up the challenge. I have tried, over four years, to respect the underlying culture of Unlock Democracy, to support organic changes whilst acknowledging the work of those who came before me. Thankfully, the organisation has, for the most part, equally respected my idiocyncracies and occasional contrarian tendencies.

But two years of fighting against an obvious conflict of interest over Lords Reform, a subject over which I have decidedly mixed feelings, is not for me. I have other, likely more enjoyable, things to do. Time to get on, don't you think?...

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