Reports of previous Democracy Café will be placed here.
For readers who would like to see some earlier reports of the successful Democracy Café which is run once a month at the Playhouse (currently), then below are some links to the previous meetings:
April The first topic was ‘Are human rights absolute or relative?’ followed by a second discussion – in a way linked to the first – (Should Julian Assange be extradited to the USA following his removal from the Ecuador embassy?’
March Two topics; populism and ‘Does the home secretary have the right to make someone stateless?’
February 2019 Two things were discussed: ‘does economics need a rethink?’ and ‘how best to manage projects in the public sector’.
March In which we discussed populism and then went on to debate ‘does the Home Secretary have the right to make someone stateless?
January A popular debate in view of the role of MPs in the Brexit debate: ‘is the role of your MP to represent the country, the party, constituency or his or her conscience?’ The second half moved onto Universal Credit.
December ‘Is it fair to have a second referendum on the same subject?’ was the first topic followed by ‘ID cards and their effects on democracy.’
November An unusual topic got selected namely: ‘the effects on the mid-terms elections in the USA’ and then Brexit for the second half.
October Here we discussed ‘what should our response be to events in Saudi Arabia?’ and then ‘how can we have real democracy?’ If you are interested in Saudi, then a post by the Salisbury Amnesty site on arms sales to that country might interest.
September Two topics: the first was ‘which came first – religion or morality?’ followed by the topical ‘should we have a second Referendum?’
August The first topic, brought about by the problems over the library in Salisbury was ‘improving local government’ followed by ‘political elites’ which moved onto discussing the City and fake news.
July ‘How do we build a defence (defense?) against Trumpism’ followed by the more ethically focused ‘are we better people than we were in the past?’
June We discussed the honours system in the UK as the recent set had just been announced and there had been a furore because the outgoing boss of Network Rail had been made a CBE immediately following chaos on the railways. The second debate was on short-termism.
May This was the ninth café and the first topic was ‘What lessons, if any, have we learnt from 1948?’ followed by ‘What do people mean when they say they want to put ‘Great’ back into Great Britain?’ This issue surfaced during the Brexit debate.
April We first discussed ‘Democracy and why we need it’ followed by something quite different but was topical at that time which was ‘Can Theresa May (the then prime minister) be forgiven for launching air strikes on Syria without consulting parliament?’
March Democracy was a topic on our minds in this meeting with the question ‘Is the digital age killing off democracy as we know it?’ and still on the democracy theme in the second half we debated ‘Is it helpful to have party politics at the local level.’
February The discussion was on the question ‘Should land be taxed?’ followed by ‘Inequality’.
January First café in the New Year and the first topic was recycling followed by ‘Should taxes be raised for better public services?’
December A lively debate around the topic of nationalisation of the utilities.
November The first topic was on proportional representations and the second on local politics. This was largely around the problem Salisbury experiences being remote from County Hall in Trowbridge.
October A more wide ranging series of topics for the second democracy café with social security, universal basic income, social media and tax all discussed in a wide ranging debate.
September The first democracy café! A well attended and successful debate which discussed decision making and then forms of democracy.
The 19th monthly Democracy Café meeting was held at the Playhouse, with a big turnout of regulars and new (and younger) faces. The two topics voted for discussion were “Populism” and “Does the Home Secretary have the right to make someone stateless?”
The definition of populism proved a difficult concept, but it was agreed that populists claimed to speak for “the people” while usually being part of the political elite. They thrive on the “them” and ”us” idea, and manipulate people’s legitimate grievances. A hot button issue will get support, but may not be the actual agenda of the manipulators. The distinction between “popular” and “populist” raised some issues, as populism need not have a particular ideology, or even wide support..
It was agreed that for all the difficulty of definition “we know it when we see it.” It was still suggested that this lack of definition was a dangerous state of affairs, as so much is encompassed by the term, and are populists actually interested in the outcome of their movements? . The French gilets jaunes movement began with a particular issue, and developed into something much larger, with people all protesting about different things.
So the general view of the meeting was to see populism as essentially negative, if not dangerous, especially as it thrives where people have grievances and feel they can’t do anything about them.
The second discussion, on statelessness turned more theoretical. There were two issues – 1) What is the morality of making someone effectively a non-person? And 2) How can a country cease to be responsible for a citizen, but pass the responsibility on to another state?
Clearly, if someone has dual nationality, one could be taken away without difficulty, but there was a feeling of pass the parcel about the government’s approach.
The Home Secretary’s action would be legal for someone coming over here and committing a crime, and then being sent back, but not for someone born here.
With the Shamima Begum case, the issue of the criminal’s remorse also arose. But the group questioned how we could expect people to equip themselves in such a situation, and felt it was hard to judge.
Further discussion centred on one’s right to be a citizen (or subject in the UK’s case!) as part of general human rights.
The usual thoughtful debate on weighty matters, then. Our thanks to all who took part, and we look forward to the April meeting.