Flatpack democracy

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Flatpack Democracy is a social movement based on the experiences of a non-party-political approach to local politics the English market town of Frome, Somerset. The movement has since spread to other English town councils, and also been taken up by higher tiers of government including district and unitary authorities. It has much in common with municipalist movements in other countries.

History

In 2011, a group of non-party political independent councillors decided to reject the dominance of party-political councillors at the town council (Frome Town Council). In 2011, the Independents for Frome (IfF) won 10 out of 17 seats in the town council. In 2015 and 2019, IfF won all 17 seats. According to IfF founder Peter MacFayden, these experiences have become known as a 'shorthand for a methodology of running community-level councils'.[1]

In 2014, Peter Macfadyen published a book on the experiences of Frome in Flatpack Democracy, a DIY guide to creating independent politics which sold approximately x copies. Flatpack Democracy 2.0, published Sept 2019, tells the story of what happened between 2014 and 2019 which sold approximately x copies. So far, in the UK there are approximately 15-20 councils under majority independent control that have adopted the Flatpack model to various degrees, some borrowing heavily from the blueprint in Macfadyen's books, while others adapt it to their own local circumstances. There are also another 70-80 places where independent councillors have been elected but are not under majority independent control. This includes 7-8 higher tiers of government that have had independent councillors elected, in part adopting the ideas and strategies in the Flatpack model.

The movement has come to be known colloquially as ‘Flatpackery’, a term that describes taking over redundant or ineffective local councils with clear principles based on participation, enabling operating without a manifesto or political parties. The movement also reflects other campaigns to encourage greater participation in other countries, such as Podemos (Spain) and Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left - Progressive Alliance). These movements are also representative of wider movements in Municipalism in the UK and abroad. Flatpack Democracy (through Macfadyen) also actively collaborates with other international movements such as the Pirate Party (Iceland) - which now has representation in over 60 countries - and the Alternativet Party (Denmark) due to their similar aims in shaking up traditional party politics with non-partisan approaches.

Flatpack in the Media

Macfadyen also writes numerous blogs on his Flatpack Democracy website. News and views of Macfadyen and the wider movement have also been taking up by national media, including the BBC's Radio 4 programme, The Guardian and The Alternative. The Flatpack Democracy website also helpfully includes several relevant links about the UK political context, including the Indie-Town.uk website that documents other initiatives that have replicated Frome's approach and fall within the Flatpack Democracy banner. There are also several videos on YouTube published by Macfadyen and others about Flatpackery, democracy and experiences of those who have taken over their local town council.

Scaling up

In September 2020, Peter Macfadyen and a core team launched a Flatpack Democracy 2021 national campaign to try and encourage as many candidates to stand as independent councillors in the May 2021 local elections. There are also ties between Flatpack's calls for meaningful democracy and the Extinction Rebellion's (XR) call for deliberative People's Assemblies through XR's Future Democracy Hub.

References

  1. Leman, F., 2020. Flatpack Democracy. https://nowthenmagazine.com/articles/flatpack-democracy. Accessed March 1st 2020.