Something is unraveling before our eyes. From bankers to media-barons, private interests have bankrupted and corrupted the public realm. Power, for so long hidden in the pockets of a cosy elite, has been exposed. Those who wield it have been found wanting – in scruples, in morals and in decency.
Things are now in flux, but will not stay so for long.
Without decisive and sustained action, power will fall back into the hands of a small elite who have their own, and not the public's interest at heart.
They want to prevent public revulsion turning into public action. But, it's time for real change. Things cannot be allowed to turn back to business as usual.
Britain can no longer be just the plaything of a handful of powerful, remote interest groups treating the wider public with contempt.
The current press and political scandal is not an isolated event.
It's the third crisis in quick succession.
First, the bankers and their bonuses, then some politicians and their expenses and now there is the press, profiting from peoples' pain, grief and private lives.
These crises share common origins.
Left to their own devices politicians, bankers and media moguls could not regulate themselves.
They share a common culture in which greed is good, everyone takes their turn at the trough, and private interest takes precedence over the public good. They have protected each other and left the British people with a financial and political crisis.
They do what they can get away with, not seeming to care for the common life of our country. And, they are scared of only one thing. Us. The public. If public organisations and citizens are vigilant, that elite won't be able to get away with it again. With the right checks and balances we can put the public interest back into the heart of the system.
Only we, the public, can hold power truly to account by testing whether what happens is in the public interest.
To work out how to do it we call for a new Public Jury for the British public interest to propose reforms of banking, politics, media and the police.
The Jury would be made up of 1,000 citizens drawn as a random sample of the electorate. It will be a jury of our peers. We do not need yet another inquiry in which one elite asks another elite to tell them what cannot be done.
The Jury will be funded out of the public purse, with a paid secretariat with the resources to commission research and call witnesses.
It will have the power to require attendance where persons will be asked by the public to explain themselves.
Reporting within a year of its launch the convention will study and report on:
• Media ownership and the public interest
• The role of the financial sector in the crash
• MP selections and accountability
• Policing and public interest
• How to apply a 'public interest first' test more generally to British political and corporate life
Lord Stewart Wood
Lord Smith of Clifton
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
John Kampfner, Index on Censorship
Philip Pullman, author
Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party
Professor Zygmunt Bauman, Leeds University
Professor Francesca Klug OBE
Professor David Marquand, Mansfield College, Oxford University
Professor Kate Pickett, University of York
Professor Richard Grayson, University of London
Ann Pettifor, Prime Economics
Peter Facey, Unlock Democracy
Deborah Doane, World Development Movement
John Christenson, Tax Justice Network
Richard Murphy, Tax Research LLP
Charlie McConnell, Schumacher College
Professor Tim Jackson, University of Surrey
Guy Shrubsole, Public Interest Research Centre
Richard Hawkins, Public Interest Research Centre
Alan Mac Dougall, PIRC
Neal Lawson, Compass
Martin McIvor, Renewal
Gavin Hayes, Compass
Andrew Simms, nef fellow
Will Straw, founder of Left Foot Forward
Clifford Singer, Other Taxpayers Alliance
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, Unison
Heather Wakefield, Unison
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian
Laurie Penny, journalist
Heather Savigny, UEA
Professor Judith Marquand, Wolfson College, Oxford University
Professor Alan Finlayson, University of Swansea
Professor Jonathan Rutherford, Middlesex University
Professor Danny Dorling, University of Sheffield
Professor George Irvin, University of London, SOAS
Professor Prem Sikka, University of Essex
Professor Richard Wilkinson, Emeritus Professor of Social Epidemiology
Professor Stefano Harney, QMUL
Professor Peter Case, Bristol Business School
Owen Jones, author of Chavs
Howard Reed, Landman Economics
Stewart Lansley, research fellow, University of Bristol
Professor John Weeks, SOAS
Jenny Jones AM, Green Party
Jeremy Leggett, founder and CEO, Solar Century
Tamasin Cave, Spinwatch
Professor Victoria Chick, UCL
Ruth Potts, The Great Transition, New Economics Foundation
Stewart Wallis, executive director, New Economics Foundation
Rajesh Makwana, director, Share The World's Resources
Britain is being run by a "feral" elite whose members are responsible for a series of crises – from phone hacking to the row over bankers' bonuses – which have scarred the country, a new, non-party group headed by the author Philip Pullman claims.
A 1,000-strong "public jury" should be selected at random to draw up a "public interest first" test to ensure that power is taken away from "remote interest groups" which currently treat the public with contempt, according to the group's declaration. The call for a public jury, which has been signed by 56 academics, writers, trade unionists and politicians fromLabour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party, is published in the Guardian.
Its signatories include Greg Dyke, former director general of the BBC,Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP who is also her party's leader, and the civil liberties campaigner and Labour peer Lady Kennedy. Guardian columnists Polly Toynbee and Madeleine Bunting have also signed the declaration.
Launched by Neal Lawson, a former adviser to Gordon Brown who chairs the left of centre Compass group, the group says that decisive action is needed to wrest power back from a small elite.
"Something is unravelling before our eyes," the group says. "From bankers to media barons, private interests have bankrupted and corrupted the public realm. Power, for so long hidden in the pockets of a cosy elite, has been exposed. Those who wield it have been found wanting - in scruples, in morals and in decency."
The group says that the three crises - MPs' expenses, bankers' bonuses and illegal phone hacking - share common origins. "Politicians, bankers and media moguls ... share a common culture in which greed is good, everyone takes their turn at the trough, and private interest takes precedence over the public good."
In a Guardian article, the authors of the declaration warn of a "feral" elite. Lawson and Andrew Simms, fellow at the New Economics Foundation, write: "With no pressure for higher ethical standards, the new all-powerful elites were like kids left free in the sweetshop, going feral as they lost all self-control and all touch with society."
The group says that 1,000 citizens should be selected at random to sit on a public jury that will propose reforms to banking, politics. The jury, to be funded from the public purse, would examine:
• Media ownership.
• The financial sector's role in the crash.
• MP selections and accountability.
• Policing and public interest.
• How to apply a "public interest first" test more generally to British political and corporate life.
The declaration's main critique of Britain - that power is concentrated in the hands of a small elite - echoes the thinking of Ed Miliband. The Labour leader, who has been praised for shaping the public response to the phone-hacking scandal, recently said that too much power in the media and other industries is concentrated in the hands of too few people.
"The powerful are very good at talking about the responsibilities of the powerless but they aren't very good at looking at their own responsibilities," Miliband told the Times on 23 July as he called for the "big six" energy companies to be broken up. "Labour is the party of the grafters, the people who work hard and do the decent thing but don't feel they get a very fair deal out of society."The declaration is also signed by Lord Wood, an Oxford don who is a senior adviser to Miliband.