Ten Day Occupation of Parliament Square During the Election Will Call For Real Democracy Now!

  • Occupy Democracy announce ten day festival of democracy during the election
  • Campaigners will demand system change not regime change
  • Disability protestors amongst those supporting the occupation
  • Leicester’s Jubilee Square occupied for democracy this morning

Occupy Democracy [1] will step up its campaign for radical reform of our democracy on 1st May when it will establish a ten day festival of democracy on Parliaiment Square [2]. A packed programme will feature speakers, workshops, direct democracy, entertainments and creative direct action.

Now the manifestos have been published we can see how little choice voters reallly have [3]. Labour and the Tories have been stealing each other’s policies and on the big questions such as climate change [4], austerity [5] and the secretive TTIP trade deal [6] there is very little to distinguish between them.

There are alternatives on offer, but the archaic First Past The Post system means that votes for these parties do not translate effectively into political power.

 Occupy Democracy will therefore be inviting people to join them in front of the seat of our broken democracy – the Houses of Parliament – for ten days to demand system change not regime change.

Our six core demands are as follows [7]:

  • reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
  • major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
  • a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
  • the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
  • MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
  • a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy.

Democracy means more than putting a cross on a ballot paper every five years. History  shows us that the extension of our democratic rights has not been led by politicians, but has been forced onto the agenda by the actions of mass movements such as the Chartists and the Suffragettes. We are asking people to join us and help build such a movement.

Disability Activists to Join Occupy Democracy

As with previous occupations [8] Occupy Democracy will draw support from right across civil society. Amongst those included will be those at the sharp end of the austerity programme such as disabled people who are hit hardest by policies which put corporate profits before the needs of ordinary people.

Even though the Work Capability Assessment process wrongly categorises disabled and seriously ill people as “fit for work” and was associated with 10,600 deaths in 2011 alone [9],  the Labour Party is only promising to “tweak” rather than end the regime. 

Labour may have opposed the closure of the Independent Living Fund – which helps disabled people with the highest support needs to live in the community – yet they will now happily provide the final nail in its coffin and push ahead with closure in England even though they know this is not necessary.

Linda Burnip of Disabled People Against Cuts explained why DPAC would be supporting the occupation: 

Disabled people see on a daily basis how corporate greed and corruption impacts negatively on our lives. We are being milked dry by companies like Maximus, Atos, Capita, A4e and Igneus to make profits for their rich shareholders. Regardless of whether the Tories or Labour get elected this corporate abuse will continue as both of the main parties are wedded to the idea that the private sector is better. Disabled People Against Cuts seek real and systemic change to ensure rights and justice for all disabled people so we are supporting the occupation of Parliament Square to highlight the current injustices we as well as others face.”

Leicester’s Jubilee Square Occupied for Democracy

Taking inspiration from Occupy Democracy, Leicester’s Jubilee Square was occupied this morning by Democracy A&E who will remain until the general election. [10] Michaela Smith, of the group, says:

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Politicians do not build communities, people do – this is why we have occupied part of Jubilee Square. We call on the people of Leicester to join Democracy A&E to engage in the issues that are important to them.” 

ENDS

Notes:

1. Occupy Democracy is a social movement for democracy free from corporate control that works for people and planet. Working by consensus decision-making, Occupy Democracy has a safer spaces policy and is dedicated to non-violence.

2. This follows a welcome development by the Greater London Authority who appear to have caved into pressure following the launch of our ongoing Judicial Review and fully re-opened the Square. For more information see: https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/press-releases/campaigners-given-go-ahead-legally-challenge-mayor-london-over-parliament-square

3. Examples of what won’t change whether the Labour Party or Conservative Party lead the next government include:

  • corporate control of our democracy
  • commitment to austerity
  • lack of effective climate action
  • commitment to fracking
  • unfair targeting of disabled people
  • benefit sanctions
  • NHS privatisation
  • adequate rent controls
  • absence of a living wage
  • mass surveillance
  • scapegoating of immigrants
  • commitment to Trident
  • morally unacceptable, socially and economically dysfunctional inequality.

4. Neither the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party are promising to take the urgent action needed to tackle climate change. Instead of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, both parties are committed to maximising revenues from UK petroleum reserves and the Labour Party manifesto promises “to safeguard the future of the offshore oil and gas industry.”

5. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party are committed to a low corporation tax regime with the Labour Party assuring the super-rich, “Britain will continue to have the most competitive rate of corporation tax in the G7.” Both parties voted for the Budget Responsibility Charter which commits them to balancing annual spending by 2017-18. The Labour Party has given no meaningful commitment to reversing the attacks on the poor and the cuts to public services.

6. Both Labour and the Conservative Party are happy to effectively hand over our democracy to corporations by signing the secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership  between Europe and the United States.

7. For more information about Occupy Democracy’s demands see here:  https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/demands/

8. Occupy Democracy’s previous occupations of Parliament Square have attracted thousands of people including prominent figures such as Russell Brand, Ken Loach, Vivienne Westwood and Jolyon Rubinstein; politicians such as Caroline Lucas MP, John McDonnell MP, Natalie Bennett, Baroness Jenny Jones and Michael Meacher MP; and representatives of dozens of civil society organisations who, in turn represent millions of people who have little voice in our democracy, including: Friends of the Earth, UK Uncut, Global Justice Now!, War on Want, Fuel Poverty Action and numerous others.

9. For references see: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/10/04/10600-sick-disabled-people-died-last-year-within-six-weeks-of-their-claim-ending/

10. Press Release: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1595768700707554&id=1593169910967433 Video: http://bambuser.com/v/5445474

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