Auto Rickshaws, a Naked Picnic, a Primary. Only in Totnes

I am in the 27th year of living in the same house in Totnes in a little street of 60 homes, a few minutes walk from the high street. I have had the delight of watching the town develop a progressive and thoughtful vision.

I stood as the candidate for the Green Party in 1986 and 1992 with a  supportive vote of perhaps one house in every 20 in Totnes out of our 1200 votes ifrom the whole constituency. There is an unusual degree of receptivity in Totnes to change, intentional and purposeful change, inner and outer developing year by year.

Seeds planted in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s are beginning to see fruits due to the efforts of the new generation of men and women in Totnes committed to real change. For example, there is the remarkable initiative of Transition Town Totnes that has inspired 600 towns around the world. Google Transition Town Totnes for update. We had the recent election of a Green Party councilor this part of south Devon and a whole host of thoughtful actions from organic forming, alternative medicine, disarmament and sustainable lifestyles that continue to be features of Totnes life. Only last year a local 90-year-old Communist activist sat down in the middle of Totnes high street to make a protest about an injustice. She and her husband are a regular presence whenever there is a local protest.

There are now two auto rickshaws, exactly as in India, in frequent use in the town, for pedestrians needing a lift somewhere while some couples use the auto rickshaw to take them to the church to get married. Totnes has never ceased to be eccentric. We have two Indian restaurants, a shop exclusively selling INdian goods and other shops selling Indian items as well as regular travellers to India from Totnes.

Totnes launched in August a new progressive step that brought national interest and a major news item on television and radio. The initial came from the most unlikely of quarters, namely the Totnes Conservative Association.

In July, the previous Member of Parliament for Totnes, Mr. Anthony Steen, took the decision to stand down when the Daily Telegraph newspaper exposed that he had claimed a total of £87,000 over four for his country home in the Totnes constituency. Hundreds of MPs maximised their claims to boost their income. He need not have stood down but took the honourable step in light of the protest.

Some local protestors took their protest about the claims for expenses to his home. They decided to have a naked picnic on his lawn and endeavoured to use the toilet on the basis, as taxpayers, they had helped pay for his home, the garden and the toilet.

The Totnes Conservative Party launched Britain’s first ever primary, based on the US style, to select a candidate. It was an historic decision as it was the first of its kind ever held in the country. The Party sent out 68,000 ballot papers to all constituents in Totnes offering the names and information about three candidates who could stand for election for the Conservative Party in Totnes to succeed Mr. Steen. All credit to the Tories. Instead of a bland committee behind closed doors selecting the candidate, the local Conservatives invited all the constituents to have a say as to who might well represent them in Parliament.

Around 25% of voters in the constituency voted for Dr. Sarah Woolston to be the parliamentary candidate. Parliament, especially the Conservative Party, desperately needs more women Parliamentarians though her views clearly represent the party faithful. She appears a little photogenic and happy. I wondered to what degree that helped her secure votes. It would have been splitting hairs to see a difference between the policies of the three candidates.

Let us see if other local political parties the UK follow the progressive example of Totnes.

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