This election has exposed just how far our political system has sunk. We need a democratic revolution – and in the most ignored parts of the country people like me are working to bring it about.    Guest post by Gully Bujak

The John Curtice report into political mistrust came as no surprise. It is the inevitable consequence of a decaying system, incapable of addressing the existential challenges of our age. As someone working to rebuild democracy from the ground up, starting in the north, I welcomed the report as a belated recognition of the dire state of play. Now we must seize the opportunity to be bold.

Source: Curtice Report

With 79% of the public agreeing that the system of government could be improved ‘a great deal’ and 45% saying they would ‘almost never’ trust a government to put the nation above their party, the report illustrates that the window for transformational change is here. Just like the walls in our schools, our democracy is crumbling, and if we intend to survive the coming decades with our civilization intact, we must resist the temptation to paint over the cracks.

We’re facing runaway climate change, crop failures, untenable wealth inequality, pandemics, war and the rise of fascism. This moment asks us to be visionary, and pinning our hopes on a new government, flirting with tweaks to the electoral process, or ‘teaching Labour a lesson’ by voting green all fall short of the mark. Worse than that, failing to do something radical now will leave room for a far right resurgence that capitalises on our mistakes.

What is needed is not reform, but a deep revolution in the way we think and feel about democracy. It is not something we’re entitled to, that exists in the background without our attention. It is a practice, and one that is fundamental to our future.

I was politicised by the climate crisis, but it is now clear to me that the collapse of our natural ecosystems is a symptom of something far more elemental: how we make decisions in society, and who gets to make them.

Changing this, by using people’s assemblies that are connected and confederated locally, regionally and even nationally and internationally, is not something that is going to be granted from above. Just like the turkey doesn’t vote for Christmas, unaccountable billionaires and careerist politicians are not going to deliver true democracy to the people. I have tried demanding, but now I know we have to build it ourselves.

Source: Extinction Rebellion

The BBC’s coverage of the Curtice report focused on Hull not just because we have the lowest voter turnout in the country, but because we are doing just that – Cooperation Hull has held 13 people’s assemblies in the past year. Inspired by movements around the world, we are experimenting with what a democratic revolution could look like here. And there are similar groups forming in other parts of the UK. Our vision for a city-level People’s Assembly in every major centre in the North, making decisions autonomously, sharing resources and coordinating efforts and eventually making the current political system obsolete, is not just a pipe dream.


Building it ourselves is hard work, but the potential is huge. Whether it is neighbours using mutual aid to undermine unchecked capitalism, workers deciding the future of their business via cooperatives, people taking money out of banks and sharing resources via credit unions, or communities using assemblies to have informed, nuanced discussion on complicated topics, re-democratising our lives will unlock new and necessary paths through collapse. Necessary, not just due to the physical reality of our changing planet, but also because if we don’t provide meaningful pathways through this mess, the extreme right will. They already are.

As well as practical outcomes, like choosing to create local food networks that are more resilient to shocks, there will be cultural ones, and these may be even more transformative.

There’s something missing from the John Curtice report. It’s not just trust in politicians that is eating away at us, but trust in ourselves. In Hull, as in countless other chronically underfunded parts of the industrialised world, we want to roll up our sleeves again. We all want to feel valued, and proud of our contributions to the world, especially against the backdrop of multiple crises which seem so impossible to see beyond.

Not only does this political system continue to feed the multiple crises of our time, it also fails to see the potential in everyday people to solve them. It’s up to us to seize this opportunity to reinstate our own agency, from the ground up. And we can do so happily, with a hope entirely lacking in current political discourse. Because once we come out from behind screens and ballot boxes and TV debates and start listening to and relying on each other, it all might not seem so impossible after all.



©2024 Gully Bujak