Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Extinction Rebellion’s Sarah Lunnon, representative democracy, at least on climate policy and economic management, should be subordinated to citizens assemblies composed of people who are already running citizens assemblies, and people nominated by organisations invited to participate.
Farage: Do you understand the argument, if I was a London taxi driver, right, I would say there are people being paid to sit in the street to stop me earning a living. Do you understand how upset some people in central London are about your behaviour?
Sarah: Yes of course, and the whole philosophy of Extinction Rebellion is to disrupt, that is what we set out to do. There is no easy way of saying that, and every time I say that I am sitting in studios and I say to somebody, I am setting out to disrupt your every day life. I feel very, very uncomfortable about it. And it’s accepting that it has been the lack of action for over 30 years from our governments that has meant we have had to take this action to raise this action to raise these issues. If we stand on the streets and hand out leaflets, nobody takes any notice of us, the politicians don’t take any notice of us, and interestingly Nigel, the only reason I am on this programme today is because we’ve camped out on the streets of London for the last week.
Farage: To some extent that is true. But if you really want to move this on, I am somebody who 26-7 years ago, I took the view that our relationship with the European Union was heading in the wrong direction, I wanted to do something about it, I found at the time there were no more than a couple of dozen people in Westminster who were even interest frankly in the issue, and so I had a point of view that was very, very very polar opposite to where political debate in Britain was, and so what did I do, I went out and campaigned around the country, helped formed political parties, gained elected representation, and managed to succeed. I don’t think I’ve ever broken the law in doing what I am doing, so isn’t the real argument here that we are a peaceful democratic society, and that what you have brought to London is frankly anarchy in the last week.
Sarah: So, that’s a really good question. And you, and the idea that we can address the ecological emergency via our democratic system has been one that has been taken forward over the last 30 years. We’ve tried very very hard, like through the green party, through motions, through campaigning, through marching, we’ve tried very very hard to do that, to raise it up the agenda, and to be honest, we haven’t done it as well as you raised the issue of our relationship with Europe,
Farage. Maybe your problem Sarah, maybe your problem is you are making claims which are frankly hysterical. Your website says that there is the possibility of billions dying. That is just not credible, is it?
Farage: … What is it you actually want the government to do? Would people be able to go to Marbeya on their holidays? Would they be able to to own a 4×4 motor car? What is it you actually think government needs to do? Government here has actually already made a commitment which is impossible to keep, by saying that by 2050 we shall be zero net neutral on carbon, but you want this to happen by 2025. To do that we would effectively have to close down the whole of British industry, wouldn’t we?
Sarah: We should have to totally refocus British industry, it would be a mobilisation like we did in 1939…
Farage: Hang on, hang on, it’s the opposite, isn’t it, in 1939 we built factories to produce munitions for war…
Sarah: Actually we refocussed our factories, Nigel is what we did. We took the infrastructure that was in place, and refocussed it towards the war effort, and also what we also did was we rationed what was available, and brought the country together, we unified the country and we mobilised to fight a common enemy. Unfortunately the enemy that we’re looking at at the moment, we can’t see it. But it is there, and that is why we are calling for zero carbon by 2025, to defend and protect.
Farage.: So steel would go, chemical production would go, refining would go, what would we have left?
Sarah: So the choices that we’re looking at are really, really grim. And that’s why Extinction Rebellion is asking for a citizens assembly, so the people come together to decide how and what the change that is required looks like. Rather than politicians sitting in Westminster and saying you have to do this, and need to do that, we bring together a…
Sarah: Well we do it in various ways, we already do it for juries for example, and in the past juries decided life or death of people, we bring it together using um…
Farage: Who? Who brings them together?
Sarah: Well there are a number of people who are already running citizen’s assemblies, there are external bodies, you ask a body of people to set up the citizens assembly, you bring together people from across the united kingdom so it represents people in terms of their age, in terms of their social status, in terms of their wealth, you get a cross section of people, you explain to them, you educate, and then you ask their opinion of how to move forward. Its what the Irish did in terms of their abortion question, which was very controversial…
Farage: And then what do you do, do you put this to a referendum?
Sarah: You implement it through government. You have to keep the structures of the state in place…
Farage: An appointed citizen’s assembly would tell government what to do?
Sarah: They would lead and advise government, and it then becomes very difficult for government to say we are not going to do this, because it has been requested by the people, by representatives of the people.
Farage: I have to say I am very skeptical about that.
British politician Nigel Farage, a friend and supporter of President Trump, is living proof that the democratic process works if your cause is legitimate.
Over 30 years Farage has overcome every obstacle, and built what is hopefully irresistible public support for Britain to leave the European Union.
By contrast Extinction Rebellion’s Sarah Lunnon has experienced 30 years of utter frustration. People simply don’t care about her cause. She is so fed up with people not listening to her she wants to change the rules of the game, to force people to listen.
Sarah demands elected government representatives subordinate their decision making to self appointed citizens assemblies, at least when it comes to climate change and economic policy.
If I have understood correctly, Sarah intends that Citizen’s Assembly members would be composed of people who already call their group a citizens’ assembly, and representatives nominated by organizations invited to participate.
Citizens assemblies would advise on the “grim” task of imposing wartime levels of rationing, and would decide what economic activity would be allowed to continue, to fulfil their paramount goal of drastically cutting Britain’s carbon footprint to address the climate crisis by 2025.
Sarah compares citizens assemblies to court jurors, who once decided on whether people could live or die, before Britain abolished the death penalty.
Extinction Rebellion’s intention is that “advice” provided by the assemblies would be very difficult for elected politicians to refuse.
Breaking news: the British Conservative Government has just agreed Extinction Rebellion’s demand to form a climate change citizen’s assembly. 30,000 invitations will be sent at random, then 110 of the respondents will be chosen to sit on the assembly. The budget allocated for the assembly is £520,000. £120,000 will be provided by the government, the rest will provided by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the European Climate Foundation.