It is now obvious that only one party stands any chance of being elected in June this year. Traditional party loyalties have dissolved in the face of Brexit and our opposition now lacks coherence. Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens each have their own ‘tribe’ of supporters backing a particular agenda and, bar a little inconsequential horse trading, they are incapable of meaningful collaboration.
So where is the future of British politics? I believe there may be a future in a renewed localism. This would take the form of an alliance that calls together all who are concerned to work together in practical action towards becoming a welcoming, earth-friendly city region.
In Bristol we already have thousands of committed people daring to say ‘there is an alternative’ and working as co-operatives in initiatives around food, finance, energy, housing and land. It would take just a spark for these people to become a movement that could ultimately form a new political reality. This alliance would be committed to localising those parts of the economy that, in an earth-friendly world, should be localised. It would be committed to an openness to a rich diversity of people, welcoming those who are fleeing persecution and hardship abroad and including humanity in all its vibrant complexity.
City regions are the place to do this. Many have just elected their first Metro Mayor, but the local political processes otherwise remain moribund. This movement would begin below the radar. It would not try to be part of conventional politics, but would be open to everyone to join. It could include all political parties, religious groups and social enterprises that wanted to affiliate, because it would cut across the old invisible barriers. The focus would always be practice, creating new expressions of co-operation, like community food systems, local finance and renewable energy. Political discussion would then focus on politics in practice. Things that could be achieved and which have a substantial track record would be persuasive. Idealisms would fall away. That is part of the magic of the city. It forces a certain pragmatism that can duck the dogmatism. A new spirit of co-operation would emerge as more and more people found meaningful lives working with others to achieve things that everyone could see were good and worthwhile. No longer would we be content to be ‘consumers’. We would be citizens, forming powerful communities across the city region, creating new avenues of co-operation and creating a city region we can genuinely be proud of.
I think it could happen. And now might be the moment to start.