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Sunday, 23 July 2017

Plans for Port Royal and the Sterling architecture prize: staying true to the history and roots of a building with a highly considered and creative project that brings to life a previously-unloved pocket of the town.

This year's nominations for the RIBA architecture prize include three buildings which are either in a conservation area, are a restoration project, or have been refurbished:
Futures Forum: Sterling architecture prize shortlist: restore and refurbish

Last year's prize went to a converted building:
New and old are bound together at Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery | Buildings | Architectural Review

The press latched onto the bete-noir of YBAs:
Damien Hirst gallery wins Riba Stirling Prize - BBC News

The point being that one can be creative with old buildings:
Futures Forum: Creative re-use at Port Royal: championing 'adaptation of original architecture to contemporary functions'
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: contemporary and vernacular

It's all about 'staying true to the history and roots of a building':

Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery wins 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize

Isabelle Fraser 6 OCTOBER 2016 


Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, south London, has won the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize for the UK’s best new building. The 37,000 sq ft gallery is made up of almost an entire street of listed Victorian industrial buildings which had been carpentry and scenery painting workshops for West End theatres.

The building was conceived by architecture firm Caruso St John. The industrial buildings are bookended by new structures, one of which has a spiky saw-tooth roof.

The gallery faces onto a railway, which is greeted with a giant LED panel on the building's façade, encouraging commuters to visit. Entry to the gallery is free, and it holds some of Damien Hirst's private art collection of 3,000 works; it is currently showing an exhibition of Jeff Koons.

The president of RIBA, Jane Duncan, said that the building "exemplifies the best of UK architecture", adding that it was "a highly considered and creative project that brings to life a previously-unloved pocket of the city".


Damien Hirst said: "Newport Street Gallery has realized my ambition to create an unobtrusive and beautiful series of buildings that work perfectly as a space to exhibit great art. I wanted to stay true to the history and roots of the building and Caruso St John understood that from the start."

Peter St John, a partner Caruso St John Architects, said: “We see the building as a palace for direct, intimate and luxurious encounters with contemporary art, and we are very pleased that this award will bring more people to see this extraordinary collection.”

Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery wins 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize

With more photos here:
Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John
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Sidmouth without deckchairs >>> Beer with responsibility for everything on the seafront

It is now one month on since deckchairs disappeared from Sidmouth's Esplanade - and we are now entering high season:
Calls to bring back Sidmouth’s iconic deckchairs - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald (14 June)
Sidmouth seafront without deckchairs as concession operator quits | Devon Live (15 June)
Sadness as Sidmouth remains without deckchairs as town council looks into taking the concession on | Devon Live (29 June)

At the time, the Town Clerk made a very pertinent observation:

Could deckchairs be offered for free in Sidmouth?

PUBLISHED: 16:49 21 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 21 June 2017



Deck chairs along Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton Photography


Civic leaders could step in to restore the quintessentially English sight of deckchairs along Sidmouth’s Esplanade – but they will also press to take on other seafront services

A concession for the 250 iconic seats is currently up for grabs after the last operators ended their agreement with East Devon District Council (EDDC).
Monday’s tourism and economy meeting heard suggestions Sidmouth Town Council could take it on, and the deckchairs could even be offered for free.
Councillor John Rayson said: “Tourism is the main industry in Sidmouth but unfortunately it seems to be going backwards. It doesn’t look like there are going to be any coach trips or boat trips from Sidmouth this year. Now there’s the possibility of not having deckchairs. We should do something about it.”
Representing Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, Richard Eley said the problem for most private individuals taking on the concession was that the seafront amenities – the deckchairs, beach huts and toilets – had been ‘compartmentalised’ so the risk is greater and there is no ‘mutual insurance’. He added: “The town council could sign a contract because clearly the risk is more widely borne.”
Cllr Paul Wright said: “Having a free deckchair offer would be a brilliant tourism statement. We have a free Hopper Bus and could have free deckchairs. We could run it as a town council. It’s a service to our visitors. We could employ someone directly to do it.”
Town clerk Christopher Holland said: “EDDC like to hang onto things that make them money or is a neutral cost. Anything that doesn’t make money they want to push onto the town council or not provide any more. There’s a pilot in Beer where they’ve handed responsibility to the parish council for everything on the seafront.
“My issue with taking on the deckchairs is it’s one compartmentalised issue. We should be looking bigger than that. We don’t want EDDC to cherry-pick what they want to get rid of – we want to take something and make of go of it.”
The concession covers the Esplanade and Connaught Gardens. Applications for the next three seasons should be submitted before next Friday (June 30) by emailing property@eastdevon.gov.uk


Could deckchairs be offered for free in Sidmouth? - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

The Town Clerk is referring to beach huts
Futures Forum: East Devon beach huts: "If they are losing 26 per cent, and next year want another 50 per cent rent increase, it only goes to show it was a very bad decision in the first place."
Futures Forum: The East Devon beach hut story: very much in the news

... and a deal done with Beer last year:
Futures Forum: Transferring assets from the District Council >>> >>> >>> It would be easier for the village to give more to tourists and keep them in the area if the council had control of assets

As the District Council says:
Beer beach - East Devon
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Life without government >>> in East Devon

LIFE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT:

This evening, BBC Four will be looking at how 'life without government' - both the idea and the practice - seems to be gaining traction:
Futures Forum: Life without government >>> Carne Ross, the 'Accidental Anarchist' @ BBC Four

However, the question for us living in 'the West', let alone East Devon, is whether these ideas are relevant or of real use...

So, to what extent can we organise 'life without government'?

THE LEADERLESS REVOLUTION:

Carne Ross had already written about these practicalities five years ago:
The Leaderless Revolution
The Leaderless RevolutioN - Financial Times
The Leaderless Revolution - YouTube

It comes down to on-the-ground change. The most illuminating example Ross cites is the experiment conducted in Porto Alegre. In 1989 the Brazilian city was one of the most unequal in Latin America. It then embarked upon "participatory budgeting", with citizens encouraged to join debates about local spending priorities. Some 50,000 of its 1.5 million citizens take part. Apparently the number of schools has increased fourfold, while provision of sewerage and water is now comprehensive.
His message to the elite is that if they do not listen and act, they will face the consequences: "The less people have agency – control – over their own affairs, and the less command they feel over their futures and their circumstances, the more inclined they are to take to the street."

The Leaderless Revolution by Carne Ross – review | Books | The Guardian

LOCAL INITIATIVES IN THE SID VALLEY:

Many local initiatives have been 'bottom-up':
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Markets
Sidmouth Arboretum
Sidmouth Science Festival
Sidmouth Sea Fest
Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub
sidmouthfairtrade

PEOPLE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES IN EAST DEVON:

With more local initiatives of people doing it for themselves, whether on

housing:
Futures Forum: Community Land Trusts and affordable housing: part three: residents developing their own plans to build

economic resilience:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >> Scoping Study consultation > Economic Evidence Report

community:
Futures Forum: Festival town Sidmouth

or small businesses:
Futures Forum: The Trials and Tribulations of running a small Devon farm

REDEFINING 'LOCALISM':

Although to be really 'bottom-up', it should not be at the behest of government:
Sidmouth communities to get ‘planning power’ - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

And it should certainly not mean that 'bottom-up' means 'the state is turning to volunteers to do its dirty work':
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps in the Jurassic Coast >>> "We need communities to be part of this process which is why we’re asking for their views."
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps by filling the potholes...
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps by cutting the verges

And vigilantism is not always the way forward:
Futures Forum: An uncertain future for policing: "It is the fact that places such as genteel Frinton no longer feel they can rely on the state."

Perhaps government is 'withering away' anyway:
Futures Forum: Devolution deals 'mixed and inconclusive'
Futures Forum: "The solely economic focus of devolution – and the corresponding lack of attention to the democracy of devolution."
Futures Forum: 'The Christchurch question' >>> 'Austerity has made local government financially unviable. Radical reorganisation may be the only answer.'
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: of devolution and rising costs

TRANSITION TOWNS:

On the other hand, the Transition Town movement could be seen as all about 'organising life without government':
Futures Forum: Flatpack Democracy: 'Vote for Chaos'
Futures Forum: Transition towns and getting 'political'

THE WAY AHEAD:

And meanwhile the ideas being aired on tonight's BBC Four piece are taking root on the ground:
Futures Forum: Taking matters into their own hands in the face of seven years of austerity policies
Futures Forum: Life after the elections >>> "Anarchy in the UK? It could be the best government we’ve had"
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood Power: The New Localism
Futures Forum: Devon New Economy: at the forefront of new thinking

And these ideas go far and wide:
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy.. at a local level?
Futures Forum: Open Source Ecology >>> Homebrew Industrial Revolution >>> Do-it-yourself sustainable development
Futures Forum: Sharing economy or gift economy?
Futures Forum: The empty promises of 'Job creation' - and the real possibilities from 'entrepreneur-led revitalisation' and the 'return of a spirit of self-reliance'
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Life without government >>> Carne Ross, the 'Accidental Anarchist' @ BBC Four

'Anarchy' is thought of in terms of pirates off the 'dysfunctional state' of Somalia:
Pirates demand ransom for oil tanker captured off coast of Somalia | World news | The Guardian
The Wages of Anarchy | New Republic

As always, it's much more nuanced...

This is from 'Libertarianism.org':

Can Anarchy Work?

Free Thoughts Podcast – Mar 31, 2017 –

Peter T. Leeson joins us this week to discuss rational choice theory as it applies to self-governance. What happens in the absence of government?


The question of how is Somalia doing under anarchy by itself is not a particularly informative one, from a comparative perspective, right? What we want to know, for instance, is whether or not Somalia under anarchy is doing better or worse than Somalia was, not under some hypothetical government that we could imagine that would be great, like if they could have a government like we have in the United States, but under their actual government, the one that they actually had and, therefore, would likely have if they were to re-institute a government.


Can Anarchy Work? | Libertarianism.org
Free Thoughts, Episode 180: Can Anarchy Work? (with Peter T. Leeson) - YouTube

This evening on BBC Four, a former UK diplomat who has worked in such areas asks similar questions - and has come to similar conclusions:

Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government

Storyville

Carne Ross was a career diplomat who believed western democracy could save us all. But after the Iraq war he became disillusioned and resigned. This film traces Carne's worldwide quest to find a better way ofdoing things - from a farming collective in Spain, to Occupy Wall Street to Rojava in war-torn Syria - as he makes the epic journey from government insider to anarchist.


BBC Four - Storyville, Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government

This is his website:
Carne Ross

And this is one of his TED Talks:



The Accidental Anarchist | Carne Ross | TEDxSkoll - YouTube

And indeed, a film has been made of his book:
British Council Film: Accidental Anarchist
UK Premiere: Accidental Anarchist at Sheffield — Hopscotch Films

This is a piece in the Observer from a couple of weeks ago:


Ex-diplomat Carne Ross: the case for anarchism

How a high-flying diplomat and Middle East adviser lost his faith in western democracy – but put his trust in people power

Unlikely anarchist: Carne Ross photographed in Copenhagen, July 2017
 Unlikely anarchist: Carne Ross, Copenhagen, July 2017. Photograph: Claus Peuckert for the Observer

If you were to play a game of word association with the term “anarchism” what would be the likely responses? Perhaps the anarchy sign, with the capital A over a circle. Black flags. The turn-of-the-century bombers immortalised by Joseph Conrad in The Secret Agent. Or maybe Johnny Rotten singing Anarchy in the UK.
What it would be unlikely to evoke is the image of an English diplomat, a veteran of the Foreign Office and the United Nations, a man schooled in the subtle arts of negotiation and persuasion. But that is the profile of Carne Ross, a former Middle East expert in the UK’s delegation to the UN, who is said to be the inspiration for a character in John le Carré’s novel A Delicate Truth. For Ross, as a new film shows, is now of one of world’s most active proselytisers for the virtues of an anarchist revolution.
With anarchism hardly top of the political agenda, that may sound like a limited claim to fame, akin to being the world’s tallest pygmy. In fact, anarchist ideas are taking root everywhere from Grenfell Tower to Rojava, the Kurd-run area of northern Syria.
Anarchism as a political outlook is rooted in the notion of direct democracy, a polity in which power moves from the bottom upwards. Many of those protesting at the Grenfell Tower fire argue that it was a symptom of a politics that goes in the other direction, from the uncaring top down to the unheard bottom. Ross not only wants to reverse what he sees as a failed kind of democracy, but believes the crisis of “neoliberalism” has created the conditions in which people are beginning to voice their disapproval of the status quo.


“Aberrational political events such as Brexit, Trump and even the rise of Corbyn are functions of this frustration,” he tells me when we meet in a cafe 10 minutes’ walk from Grenfell Tower. The grandson of one of Bletchley Park’s wartime codebreakers, Ross had wanted to be a diplomat ever since he was a boy. One of his motivations, he says, was a desire to escape the English class system. “I wanted to live abroad in a relatively safe way,” he explains.
In Accidental Anarchist, a new documentary that details Ross’s political transformation, the former diplomat speaks of his disillusionment with his job following a visit to the British embassy in Kabul in 2002. When he got back, he says in the film, he had lost his faith in the British project. “I felt that the system I’d battled for and believed in wasn’t working, capitalism, democracy, the western model, whatever you called it.”His accent is now faultlessly demotic, but he says it wasn’t always like that. It’s not just the accent that’s changed. His politics were once firmly grounded in the liberalism of first the SDP and then the Lib Dems. What really altered his way of thinking were two major events: the invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraq war, specifically the role of the Blair government in leading the country into conflict.
He took a year’s sabbatical and read about political alternatives. Meanwhile the war in Iraq started, following an active campaign by the Blair government to ensure that Britain took part in the invasion. In the film, Ross is damning of this decision: “They had deliberately misled the public by claiming that Iraq was a threat when it wasn’t and that there were no alternatives to war when there were. To lie to the public and to the servicemen and women you’re sending to war is the gravest of disservices… that’s the worst thing any government can possibly do.”
Ross was a friend of the government scientist and weapons expert David Kelly, who took his own life after he was exposed for briefing a journalist about exaggerated claims in the government’s infamous “dodgy dossier” on Iraq’s weapons threat. It was a tragedy that personalised a much greater upheaval that had plunged Iraq into murderous turmoil. Ross went on to give evidence that explicitly contradicted the Blair government line in both the Butler and Chilcotinquiries and resigned from his job. His outspoken stand led Le Carré, who had befriended Ross, to say in the acknowledgments of A Delicate Truth that “his example demonstrates the perils of speaking a delicate truth to power”.
The perils in Ross’s case were largely that he had to give up his ambition to become an ambassador, but not before taking the senior management exam to prove to himself that he could have made it to the top. “Here’s an egotist’s confession,” he says. “I didn’t want my colleagues to think I’d left because I failed that exam.”
He passed on his second attempt. And then set up an NGO called Independent Diplomat, which advised non-state actors, such as the government of Somaliland and South Sudan, before it gained independence, on how to conduct themselves in international diplomacy.

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Watch the trailer for Accidental Anarchist here.

It would be wrong to construe from all this that Ross is a staunch non-interventionist. He loathed Saddam Hussein, but believed there was a better way of removing him than going to war. By contrast he believes the west abandoned Syria to its bloody fate by ignoring democratic forces and allowing Russia and Iran to prop up Assad’s lethal regime.
“We worked with the Syrian opposition soon after the revolution with Independent Diplomat,” he says, “and their view has always been that the only way to stop Assad is to hit him militarily. He will only agree to discuss a transition to democracy when he believes himself to be under threat.
“People have got very confused about intervention, regime change, humanitarian intervention – all these terms are bandied about. But in all international law and moral law theory, the defence of people getting killed is legitimate, whether it’s in Srebrenica or Bosnia or in Iraq or Syria.”
He also supported intervention in Libya because Gaddafi’s tanks were at the gates of Benghazi and a massive war crime was about to be perpetrated. But on these points he is out of step with the majority in “progressive” politics, including Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership of the Labour party.
“I’ve got respect for Jeremy’s position,” he says. “If you look at the global history of western intervention in the Middle East, it’s pretty disastrous. But that doesn’t mean you reject intervention in defence of people who are subjected to daily violence. This is mass torture and civilians and children being killed indiscriminately every day. And that demands a little bit more thought and detailed analysis of what can be done rather than just wringing your hands and talking about diplomacy, because it’s just not enough.”
Öcalan used to be a communist but after being imprisoned by the Turks, and initially sentenced to death, he was greatly influenced by the late American anarchist Murray Bookchin, who combined an interest in ecology with libertarian socialism to create something that he called communalism. The imprisoned Kurdish leader drew heavily on Bookchin in developing his own political theory, known as “democratic confederalism”, which was adopted by the PKK in Rojava. There is an obvious irony, of course, in a leader such as Öcalan having the power to institute such a dramatic ideological about-turn in a political movement that supposedly rejects top-down decision making.Aside from advising the Syrian opposition, Ross has another interest in the country, namely the Kurdish-run region of Rojava. Bordered by unfriendly Turkey on one side, and maniacal Isis on the other, it’s not an easy place to get to or a comfortable one to stay. That Ross makes the journey is testament to his commitment in what’s taking place there. Rojava is run according to what Ross believes are anarchist principles: there are no hierarchies, even in the military, and political decisions are apparently determined by public meetings. The reason for this is down to a man who has been held in a Turkish prison since 1999. Abdullah Öcalan is a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which, ceasefires aside, has been waging a war of independence against Turkey since 1984.
But the Kurds do appear to have brought about a level of participatory politics that goes far beyond a vote every few years. In the film, Ross cites Rojava along with Spanish civil war-era Catalonia as shining examples of working anarchism. He also visits a commune in Spain and refers to the Brazilian experiment in the city of Porto Alegre, whose system of participatory budgeting has been praised by no less an authority than the World Bank.

Carne Ross with members of the women’s militia in Rojava, Syria. The film is dedicated to Vijan, second right, who was killed fighting Isis a few months after this photo was taken
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 Carne Ross with members of the women’s militia in Rojava, Syria. The film is dedicated to Vijan, second right, who was killed fighting Isis a few months after this photo was taken. Photograph: courtesy Carne Ross

Nonetheless, the success stories of anarchism are few and far between. Why is that?
“Those who have power have a strong interest in retaining it and have done a lot to suppress alternative modes of the economy or of politics. Power is a zero sum. We can’t all be more powerful. If people at the bottom are to be more powerful it means people at the top have to lose power and people don’t like giving up power.”
That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it raises several questions. How is it possible to take hold of power without violence (and Ross is opposed to violent change, he believes it’s self-defeating)? And if you do get power, how do you guard against elites emerging and subverting the process?
The answer to the second question, according to Ross and many theorists, is that you ensure the “people” retain power through mass participation. But the problem with that proviso is that, by and large, most people don’t really like sitting around in meetings for hours on end listening to other people’s arguments and complaints. If representative democracy has one overriding advantage, it’s that we appoint other people to sit in the boring meetings we don’t want to attend.
That may seem like a facile objection, but it’s surely no coincidence that direct participation of Rojava and Catalonia flourished in wartime, when the narrowed space between life and death lends urgency to the decision-making process.
“Your point is very serious,” says Ross. “I’ve looked at this question very closely – it’s a serious reservation about anarchist models. But I genuinely believe people are apathetic because they feel there’s no point in participating, that nobody will bother listening to them and decisions are taken by a tiny number in Westminster.”
He believes that if people had a say over the future of their local hospital or local school then they would show up, “however boring the meeting, because you really give a shit about it”.
Perhaps, but after a while a certain kind of person tends to show up much more than anyone else, the kind that enjoy and flourish in meetings. I tell Ross about my visit to Christiania, the hippy commune founded in Copenhagen that prided itself on its participatory meetings. After a while, only the most dedicated inhabitants who were prepared to spend their Tuesday nights discussing questions of refuse collection and how to deal with alcoholism could be bothered to attend.

Carne Ross at Marinaleda, Spain, a cooperative municipality that appears in the film Accidental Anarchist.
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 Carne Ross at Marinaleda, Spain, a cooperative municipality that appears in the film Accidental Anarchist. Photograph: Storyville, BBC4

And that’s not to mention the fact that some people – the most articulate – have a natural advantage in getting their opinion across, while others like nothing more than preventing anything they disagree with from happening. Ross is familiar with both tendencies from his time working with the Occupy movement in America.
In the first instance he says there are solutions. In Occupy they used what’s called the “reverse stack”, whereby the usual suspects, white men, are placed last in order of speaking and minorities and women go first. That sounds rather a crude system of identification, but Ross believes that over time these distinctions would fade as people got used to the idea that they had the right and power to speak.
As for the second: “Whenever you get a public opportunity you always get a contingent of arseholes who show up. That’s what happened at Occupy,” says Ross. Again he thinks this is symptomatic of our current situation rather than reflective of the human condition. “People are so angry now that when they get the opportunity to talk they just rage. But if you continue with the meetings, that begins to stop and you’re left with the people who want to get on and work.”
Except that wasn’t his experience in the Occupy movement, where he attempted to set up an alternative bank called the Occupy Money Cooperative. What, I ask, happened to that initiative?
“It failed for lots of reasons,” he says, and explains there were legal problems with a national credit union and it was difficult to find decent advice because all the lawyers in New York were in the pay of the banks. “There was also a lot of hostility within the Occupy movement, which had a lot of purists,” he acknowledges.
He had wanted to set up the co-operative bank by initiating a banking card that could reach the poor and marginalised, as well as everyone else, and be owned by all members. But there were only two national platforms in the US – Visa and MasterCard – and many within the movement were suspicious of working with such glaring symbols of capitalism. Ross was of the opinion that it was better to compromise and create something that actually worked.

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Ross Carne explains the Occupy Money Cooperative.

For his pains, he says, he was “vilified in the most unpleasant way” by some in Occupy, who said that he couldn’t be trusted because he had worked for the UK government. “I had all this ad hominem abuse from these purists who do fuck all. They love to sit on their high horses and condemn everyone else.”
That, of course, is the problem with working for “the people” – other people get in the way. Still, it’s easy to be cynical and do nothing, to ignore the obvious flaws of a sclerotic democratic system, and complacently accept that there is no alternative.
Ross’s idealism is the kind that strains to find some means of politics that recognises the deepest emotions. “With the most important things to humans we have only the vaguest terms to communicate them: love, community, solidarity, meaning, purpose, spirit, soul – the feeling of them is certainly not captured by a vote or a GDP statistic. I believe anarchism promotes these things.”
Perhaps it does, or perhaps it would if most people were as conscientious and motivated as Ross. What’s clear is that liberal democracy needs to reform and revive itself. Now relocated back in the UK, and continuing the work of Independent Diplomat, Carne Ross is doubtful about working to that end because it will help sustain the system he wants to see the back of, but realistically that’s exactly what he’s engaged in, which is no bad thing.
In an age when so many on the left have retreated into the realpolitik of the international status quo, it’s refreshing to hear a genuinely progressive voice who wants to change things at home and abroad. His brand of anarchism has little to do with the anarchy of lawlessness or failed states. Rather, he wants to see a world in which we all feel we have a stake.
I can’t see that a system of endless meetings will ever capture the popular imagination, but it’s an argument well worth having, and few will make it with more passion or intelligence than a middle-aged white man who spent a large part of his career making the case for the British establishment.
 The Accidental Anarchist airs on 23 July as part of BBC4’s Storyville series. Independent Diplomat by Carne Ross is published in paperback by Hurst, £9.99

Ex-diplomat Carne Ross: the case for anarchism | Politics | The Guardian
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