A review of 2023 and a New Year Resolution

14 December 2023 , categories: News

As 2023 draws to a close we look back on the progress we've made this year and suggest a New Year's resolution.

Looking back on 2023

2023 has been an eventful year for Politics in Pubs: growing our membership, launching new groups and forging relationships with other free speech groups. We now have three active groups in Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, as well as affiliations with the Cancelling Cancel Culture group in Manchester, Croydon Constitutionalists in Surrey and Salons in Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. We also support many activities of The Together Declaration, the campaigning organisation started by Alan Miller, as well as the Academy of Ideas, founded by Baroness Claire Fox.

What did we talk about?

Over the last 12 months we have hosted a fascinating series of discussions:

  • What caused the UK to become a ‘lockdown autocracy’ in March 2020, with one of the worst pandemic outcomes in the world – and were we really ‘following the science’?
  • Gender identity ideology – we were delighted to welcome guest speaker Cath, from the Greater Manchester branch of the Women’s Rights Network.
  • 15 minute cities and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods sound like a great idea but why do people have concerns?
  • Nick Buckley, mayoral candidate for the next mayoral election in Manchester asked us why do we have city mayors? Nick is standing on a platform to abolish the post.
  • The UK’s constitutional monarchy, with a particular focus on whether it is becoming too political.
  • Digital currency is gaining a bad reputation for many but what are the benefits of a cashless society?
  • Does the UK housing crisis mean that we need to review our policies on the Greenbelt and Localism?
  • NATO was formed in 1949 with Britain as a founding member but is it about time to reconsider our membership?
  • Do people need state intervention to protect them from ‘gambling harm’? Or is the threat to individual freedom and privacy a greater risk?
  • Tim O’Rourke, chair of the North West region of the Social Democratic Party joined us to explain what the SDP stands for.
  • The right to die – the ultimate civil right? Does assisted suicide relieve suffering and give people ultimate control over their own life and death? Or is acceptance by the state of the premeditated killing of a human being always wrong?
  • NetZero. The news is full of items about climate change and the climate ’emergency’. We are told the science behind these topics is ‘settled’ and there is no need for debate.  Is this true?
  • NetZero. Dr Benny Peiser, Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, discussed the cost of Net Zero and why the policy is likely to fail.
  • Can we trust the news media? UK and US surveys show that only 1 in 3 adults trust the news media most of the time. If modern journalism really has gone awry, how do we get it back on track?
  • Taking control: sovereignty and democracy after Brexit. Professor Peter Ramsay talked about how Brexit exposed the chasm between rulers and the ruled, and the void where representative politics used to be.
  • Is Nudge policy a force for positive change or a threat to freedom? What are the moral and social implications?
  • What are Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria and how do they shape the financial and working environment for individuals, businesses and countries?
  • We have a broken country, built by broken politicians, supported by a broken establishment and formed using a broken political system. Steve Alder of the Reform UK Party suggested that the first step to recovery is the realisation that we have a problem.
  • Men and women ARE different. That’s an obvious fact – or is it? This topic led to an animated discussion about the differences – and similarities – between the sexes – filled with indignation and laughter in equal measure!
  • Is being offensive an offence? What is the legality of a peculiar but unexplored phenomenon in policing known as non-crime hate incidents (NCHIs)?

If you haven’t attended one of our meetings yet, we hope that you can see something here which peeks your interest and encourages you to join us next year. You can suggest topics and even lead discussions if you have something you feel isn’t being discussed enough. No one gets cancelled at our meetings and all input is treated anonymously unless you want to highlight your participation. We often get experts in politics, science, culture and economics as speakers, so discussions are in depth and well-informed.

Battling with Ideas

We were delighted to be asked to take part again in the Battle of Ideas festivals in London and Buxton, where we hosted table top stands at each. We met lots of people, including old friends and many new faces and managed to recruit lots of new group members. At the Buxton event our Manchester group chair, Joan Mulvenna, spoke on a panel debate on ESG and Niall Clarke, who is helping to organise our Sheffield group, took part in the panel looking at our “Freedom to gamble”.

The festivals are organised each year by The Academy of Ideas and if you haven’t come across them yet, please do take a look as they are leading the way in intelligent, open-minded public debates that explore culture, current events and new ideas.

Affiliate activity

Many Manchester members attended the Cancelling Cancel Culture Meetup in November at The Britains Protection pub, to discuss the terrible situation in the Middle East. The meeting room was packed and it had the potential to become highly emotional as many different viewpoints were aired. However, Rob the American hosted it magnificently, reminding everyone at the start to be courteous and that he was the Sheriff! It really was a case study in how to discuss difficult topics and stay friends! Find out more about them.

Croydon Constitutionalist hosted interviews with several SDP candidates and one Reform UK with the argument that elections require real choices not just the same policies under different party colours. You can find a selection of these interviews on their website. And this leads neatly into our suggestion for a New Year resolution.

A New Year resolution

At Politics in Pubs we will never tell people what to vote. We are not affiliated with any political party and have no funding, being run entirely by volunteers. That said, a common feeling that unites us is that UK politics is fundamentally broken and many of us feel politically homeless. For example, which mainstream party do you vote for if you don’t support NetZero?

Several times this year, we have asked “do we really want more of the same from the mainstream parties which have got the country into its present state?” Of course, our First Past the Post system makes change very hard, but not impossible. We have to start somewhere so why not start by saying “No” to all the mainstream parties at the next General Election? Therefore, at the next election please consider whether it is time to support one of the smaller, alternative parties. There are many options to choose from including SDP, Reform UK, Reclaim, Libertarian, English Democrats, Heritage or even the Monster Raving Loony party!

Think about it as a protest vote if you like, but let’s be more hopeful! Let’s see if we can shake up the traditional 2.5 party system and start a wider discussion about the need for proper democracy. Let’s show that there is a strong appetite for changing the electoral system and fundamentally reforming both the House of Commons and The House of Lords. Let’s put ourselves, the people, back in charge of decisions taken in parliament and make sure that politicians are held accountable for the decisions they take on our behalf.

After all what have we got to lose?

Thanks to our pubs!

Given our dependence on the generosity of several pubs we must thank the following for their support over the last twelve months and in particular the staff who work hard to look after us during our meetings:

Even if you don’t plan to attend one of our meetings do think about giving them some of your custom if you are in the area. Alternatively, if you have a pub with a room suitable for public meetings and would like to be a host, please let us know at our email info@politicsinpubs.org.uk.

Join us!

We are expanding our activities via regional Politics in Pubs groups and have created a map where you can search for a group near you. If you live near Salisbury or Northampton we have members who wants to start new groups in those towns, so please let us know if this of interest.

Don’t worry if you can’t find anything nearby as you can start your own group. If you would like to be put in touch with other people interested in talking about politics, please emailing us at info@politicsinpubs.org.uk and letting us know your location and we’ll help to get the conversation started.

In parallel with developing our own network we are working with other free speech groups to encourage more open debate and discussion. We are continually adding groups to our map here and this year added Croydon Constitutionalists, the Manchester Cancelling Cancel Culture group and Solons in Leeds, Liverpool, and Birmingham.