Can you have a dream Kent? Yes you can.

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By Tim Garbutt on 19.1.2024

Can you have a dream Kent? Yes you can.

The strange quirks of history.

Today, the 19th of January, is Martin Luther King Day in the USA – a day to celebrate the world’s greatest civil rights campaigner.

And a day later, Barack Obama is officially inaugurated as the 44th President of America and the US’s first black President.

Martin Luther King was right that he wouldn’t get there himself to witness a new era in America’s history. Assassinated in 1968 by a white supremacist, the last major link to the King generation is now Jesse Jackson pictured dragging King’s body back from the Lorraine Motel balcony and now, a lifetime later, weeping at Obama’s election.

Obama marks a unique generational change in America to finally reverse the horrors of slavery and the resulting American Apartheid. Not even the Vietnam war hero John McCain could overcome the desire for change.

Obama’s victory is all the more powerful: few US presidents have a middle name like Hussein at the moment nor an upbringing in Asia.

And the impact on Kent? Obama’s policies of moving out of Iraq and helping the economy rather than the banks recover from Casino Capitalism are still to be fully announced. However, we’re already seeing the redeployment of our own troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Look at the changes in Kent’s sister state Virginia: solidly Republican for over 40 years and likely to remain so. Governor Kaine was front-runner at one point for a candidacy, as were Virginia Senators Warner and Senator “Marine-for-Life” Webb.

And as a former slave state Virginia is one of the first to renounce the legacy of the trade between America, Africa and Britain. While here in Canterbury, my colleague Rosey used to get very upset about the slavery image in the Cathedral.

There’s no apartheid here in Kent’s Deep South if Mike Fuller can rise to the top of our police force. America seems to have finally caught up with Britain’s distaste for racism where race and the colour of your skin does – or should – count for nothing except your own talent and experience.

Kent’s democracy not quite as good as America’s?

There’s a precedent for a democracy and economic deficit; type “Kent” a typical Kent surname (right?) into the World Name Profiler: and see where our ancestors went from England’s Garden.

In Kent, how can we vote for a County Council based on local elections rather than a US Senate-style system? It’s perhaps a situation as silly as an unelected UK Prime Minister – of any party – calling an election at a date of his own choosing rather than the US-style fixed date of 20th January.

Democracy is badly-served in Kent compared to US-style Town Hall politics.

When a US President regularly turns up at the local Town Hall with the elected Police Chief and Civil Servants, but not here, then something must be wrong in Kent’s polling stations.

It’s our democracy but the Americans seem to have improved it.

And if there are major flaws in democracy in Kent, just imagine what it must be like in Councils such as Birmingham or Liverpool or Thanet that are rated some of the worst in Britain.

Kent is falling behind in leading real reform.

Is the House of Kent beyond repair?

Nothing’s ever perfect – in our work with the UN we’re looking at the latest developments of a UN World Parliament to off-set the weight of nation-states and provide a more democratic voice.

The EU and various parliaments are already urging the establishment of a Democratic Assembly within the UN General Assembly. Hopefully Kent Youth Council will help lead the way after the success of their Freedom Bus Pass.

Industrial pollution and accidents require ever-greater transparency and scrutiny. Toxic spills such as Sericol, Infratil and Thor mercury across Kent’s water supply happen in USA but they’re cleared up far more effectively.

While Kent’s legal system is distinctly flawed with my recent Court opponents Integrity Design Management avoiding Kent’s Courts for trademarking the dictionary word “integrity” and then refusing to reissue blatantly duplicate lawyer costs.

Not requesting the disputed papers for the Bar Council investigation is an effective Bar Council investigation. Apparently.

While Kent’s Prosecutor, Roger Coe-Salazar seems reluctant to free the Margate Three from debtor jail for 77 days for £1,000 in unpaid council tax – in flagrant Court breach of the UN Bill of Rights, which is of course the US Bill of Rights in all but name.

A justice system seems deferred for a legal system. There is a difference.

A Kent 2009 Dream.

Imagine a better Kent in 2009 though.

Our county still has no asbestos maps publicly available. No road accident black-spots publicly detailed. No council “scores on the doors” ratings prominently displayed. No water quality ratings. No public sector headcounts and costs by department. It’s like taxation without representation never happened. That was legal too.

America runs the place pretty well but at least when Britain did people liked us. Neither may be an option in the Pacific Century future where the only Axis of Evil is a democracy deficit of the failed democracies like Belarus, Burma and Congo.

The maths is clear. More democracy equals more peace equals more prosperity in every area of human endeavour.

The potential for Twinning Kent with African towns expands on the good governance work already undertaken by KCC and Kent Police – to help create a Marshall Plan for peace and prosperity for Africa.

The benefit for Kent? Wouldn’t you want to visit, invest or live in a region that helped create a safer world? Or one investing public money in shares in tobacco and Burma’s Total petrol stations where British citizen Aung San Suu Kyi “the Asian Obama” is imprisoned?

Some older readers will remember how Martin Luther King’s generation helped save Europe in our hour of need. Not just investment in our broken cities but the black soldiers, sailors and airmen fighting and dying here to uphold the democracy that was not fully yet theirs in America.

Here’s a dream for Kent on Martin Luther King Day. Democracy better than America’s for the 2009 County elections. It can be done for Kent. The Americans even managed to improve on their own democracy for Japan. It can be done for Kent.

Yes it can.

Tim Garbutt is the Founder of Sincerity Agency: the leading Green and Ethical advertising agency in Canterbury. He sits at the back of the bus.


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