Occupy Democracy back in Parliament Square

13.02.2015 - Pressenza London

This Valentine’s weekend, occupy democracy will return to Parliament Square to mourn democracy’s death with a vigil for Nelson Mandela.

Mandela’s statue was placed behind bars when ‘Tarpaulin Square’ was fenced off during some of our previous assemblies – in a perfectly horrid/ironic demonstration of the very democratic deficit we’re trying to highlight.

But let’s not be too despondent – WE’LL ALSO BE DEMONSTRATING (and practicing) OUR LOVE FOR REAL DEMOCRACY THIS VALENTINE’S DAY!

Here’s some more info and facts to back it all up:

Mandela Vigil for the Death of UK Democracy
With the country counting down to the general election, Occupy Democracy returns to Parliament Square for its fifth occupation this Valentine’s weekend, continuing the campaign for democracy free from corporate control.

On Saturday 14th, demonstrators will conduct a symbolic funeral procession and vigil beside the statue of Nelson Mandela, marking the death of the UK’s democracy.

This follows Occupy Democracy’s experience of aggressive and disproportionate policing tactics deployed at previous Parliament Square occupations, which saw Nelson Mandela’s statue fenced off, symbolically placing Mandela behind bars again.

A coffin will be placed in a position of honour in front of Winston Churchill’s Statue at 2.30pm. At 5.30pm it will be taken in procession around ‘Tarpaulin Square’ to the statue of Nelson Mandela where a rally and vigil will be held.

Occupy supporter Donnachadh McCarthy said: “Britain’s democracy has been killed by a corporate clique of billionaires and extreme right-wing media moguls. No matter who we vote for the corporate lobbyists win.” He added, “This peaceful non-violent vigil will take inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s struggle for democracy, to relight its flame in the UK, for the sake of social and ecological justice for the 100% and not just the 1%.”

Equality and Representation
This collapse of democracy is echoed in statistics showing a dire discrepancy between those in parliament and the population they are supposed to represent. For this reason, February’s occupation focuses on the absence of equality and representation in parliament, which has contributed to the poor state of our democracy. Here are the facts:

· Only 22% of the House of Commons are women [1]
· Only 4% are from ethnic minorities [2]
· 62% of the total are white men aged over 40 [3]
· Over 33% attended private schools (including 20 Old Etonians) compared to 7% of the population as a whole [4]
· MPs earn at least £67,000 before expenses and second jobs are taken into account, putting them immediately in the top 5% of wage earners in this country [5]

It is clear that MPs are a privileged elite rather than a cross-section of ordinary people. Therefore they have no understanding of the pain and misery their policies inflict on the population in general, and our poor and vulnerable in particular. Furthermore, parliamentarians often have a direct financial interest in supporting policies that are against the public interest. For example:

· A third of MPs are buy-to-rent landlords [6]
· 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections and 142 Lords have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in private healthcare [7]
· 27 of the 59 wealthiest hedge fund managers have donated more than £19 million to the Conservative Party [8]
· 46% of the top 50 traded companies in the UK have a British parliamentarian as either a director or shareholder – six times the Western European average [9]

It’s no wonder that over 50% of Britons think MPs put their own interests first, that 72% don’t trust them to tell the truth and 65% think that at least half of MPs use their power for personal gain [10].

Frances Scott from campaigning group 50:50 Parliament who will speaking at the occupation said: “There have only ever been 370 women MPs, so with men having 502 seats right now, there are more men in the House of Commons than there have ever been women. The Mother of Parliaments needs modernising, it’s a democratic imperative.”

Educator and Occupy Democracy supporter Jamie Kelsey said: “Parliamentarians do not represent the people and instead, represent corporate interests first and foremost. By next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%. All major parties in this election are here to keep the “neo-liberal” gravy train running for the 1%.” [11] [12] [13]

To highlight these failures in equality and representation, Occupy Democracy will host talks by leading activists from Sisters Uncut, Disabled People Against The Cuts, London Black Revs and 50:50 Parliament, who will be leading discussions and workshops on the lack of representation with regard to gender, race and ability.

Notes for editors:
[1][2][3] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/the-new-parliament/characteristics-of-the-new-house-of-commons/
[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31140623
[5] http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/pay-mps/
[6] http://www.newstatesman.com/economics/2014/02/what-hope-there-generation-rent-when-third-mps-are-buy-let-landlords
[7] http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/p/key-facts-of-lords-and-mps-connections.html
[8] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/05/conservatives-bankrolled-hedge-fund-managers?CMP=share_btn_tw)
[9] Figure 7: https://democraticaudituk.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/exec-summary.pdf
[10] https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/June2013_Trust_Topline.pdf
[11] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/mar/22/stephen-byers-editorial
[12] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17503116
[13] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/19/global-wealth-oxfam-inequality-davos-economic-summit-switzerland


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