Creating Independent Politics
On 7 May 2015, the small Somerset town of Frome voted against traditional party politics and gave a coalition of independents control of all 17 seats on its council. As the crucible of ‘flatpack democracy’, Frome is leading a small-scale political revolution — and it’s one that is spreading. On 7 May, after four years in power, the Independents for Frome (or IfF) group took all 17 seats on Frome’s town council, with vote-shares as high as 70%, and support from people who cast their other votes for the main political parties. Moreover, the IfF idea seems to be spreading, as people add their voices to a quiet rebellion that is materialising in some very unlikely places — from small commuter towns in Bedfordshire to the political home of George Osborne. There are two key elements to this very English revolt: a quest to revive the often moribund town and parish authorities long squashed by county, borough and district councils, and give them a new energy and purpose; and in the places where party politics has dominated even this lowly tier of government, the shoving aside of the big parties in pursuit of new ways of doing things.
Peter Macfadyen is the Mayor of Frome, northeast Somerset, and the author of Flatpack Democracy: A DIY Guide to Creating Independent Politics. He has worked in areas of social justice for 35 years. A consummate networker, he is constantly looking to find ways of bringing people and organisations together.
Trained as a gardener, he then worked with disabled people and disability rights organisations in Africa and India. His work with Comic Relief over the last 20 years has focussed on grants assessing and most recently supporting ways to reduce the impact of climate change on poor people.
Back home, he founded Sustainable Frome and is a Director of Frome’s new Renewable Energy Co-op.
Through these he better understood both the missed opportunities and potential of local government, leading to his role in initiating Independents for Frome (IfF)
Recycling, reusing, organic, growing, cooking, bicycling are all central to his activity, and Peter’s wife Annabelle and children Ben and Amy are also all variously engaged in creating a more sustainable future.