An open letter to Jeremy Corbyn from over 250 Labour members.
“My new Brexit party stands ready to defend democracy” wrote Nigel Farage in February, launching his campaign.
Throughout the European election – and indeed in the current Peterborough by-election –‘democracy’ was front and centre. It was a cynical move, but it worked.
It’s no surprise: just 4% of people feel properly represented, according to fresh polling for the ERS. The feeling is particularly strong among Brexit Party supporters: 85% of them say they have few or no opportunities to inform and influence the decisions made by MPs at Westminster.
But the mantle of democracy is too important to leave to the hard right. This year marks 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, where working people stood up to secure the (admittedly limited) franchise. It was the start of a democratic journey that has never been completed.
10 years since the start of the expenses scandal, public trust is actually even lower now. The dangers of alienation and disillusionment cannot be overstated. And they can only be countered with a bold and positive vision to give power back.
That vision for a new, participatory politics must start with a firm commitment to scrapping the unelected House of Lords, and replacing it with a fairly-elected chamber of the nations and communities of the UK. What better way to say Labour is ‘for the many’ than this hugely-popular policy?
And we need to end the centralised ‘Westminster model’ of politics by involving voters outside of election time. It’s time to get serious about building a truly participatory society.
Now more than 250 Labour members have joined Politics for the Many to write to Jeremy Corbyn, asking that he make overhauling Westminster’s crumbling set-up a priority.
Letter in full
10 years ago, the expenses scandal rocked faith in politics. Since then, almost nothing has been done to restore trust.
In that vacuum – and amid the Brexit deadlock – the door has been left wide open for the hard right to seize the narrative of ‘defending democracy’, as we saw in the European elections.
According to new research, 67% of people feel they have no or very few opportunities to influence political decisions. Voters do not feel represented at Westminster. And just 19% think our political system encourages cooperation. It is now urgent that Labour responds to the democratic crisis we face.
Our crumbling Westminster-centric politics continues to leave voters powerless and distant from where decisions are made, with no real say over who represents them. Brexit was arguably a symptom of that feeling of disconnect.
The Labour Party exists to empower people, to give everyone a voice in our communities and our country. The only way to address the problems society faces today, through the politics of a Labour government, is to move towards a new political system. To truly build a politics for the many we need a wholesale renewal of our democracy.
A Labour government needs to break the dysfunctional Westminster system and to repair our broken politics.
This should start with a firm commitment to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a fairly-elected second chamber, representing the nations and localities of the UK. This would send the clearest message of all that Labour believes in ‘power for the many’.
And a Labour government must enable new ways to participate, expanding the use of ‘citizens’ assemblies’ and kick-starting a constitutional convention. This would allow people across the UK to shape the big constitutional questions of our time.
If we do not provide an answer to the democratic crisis, others will. But with a bold and inspiring agenda for change, Labour can begin to heal the divisions in our politics.
This is why we call on Jeremy Corbyn to put democratic reform at the heart of Labour’s transformational programme for government.
- Malcolm Clarke, Wythenshawe & Sale East, Branch chair
- Gerry Mitchell, Woking CLP Secretary
- Dave Cowan, Treasurer Swansea West
- Ama Menec, Totnes, Environment and Animal Protection Coordinator
- Robin Layfield, Stroud CLP, EC member, deputy Branch Secretary
- Owen Winter, Oxford East, Former co-Chair Oxford Uni Labour Club
- Robert Dimmick, Reading East; vice-chairman of Peppard Ward
- Sarah Perrigo, Leeds NE Political Education Officer
- Malcolm Sawyer, Leeds North East
- Grahame Bligh, Leeds West Labour
- Elizabeth Warren, Leicester East – Vice-Chair Evington Branch
- Penny Hajduk, Kemptown and Peacehaven CLP – Membership Sec. for Moulsecoomb and Bevendean
- Chris O’Donovan, Harborough, branch vice chairperson
- Chris Padwick, Harrow West
- Janet Mears, Hastings & Rye
- Alan Mathison, Hastings & Rye CLP – Trade Union Liaison
- Peter Thorne, Burnley TULO Officer
- Jane Speller, Calder Valley Women’s Officer
- Elizabeth Lewis Bournemouth CLP Women’s Officer. Councillor for West Southbourne
- Casper Sims Basingstoke (Policy Officer)
- Huw Spanner, Bath
- Mark Normington, Battersea
- Trevor Hyett, Battersea
- Jean Watson, Bedford Kempston disability officer
- Amanda Bailey, Pentraeth
- Alan Green, Peterborough
- Morgan Dalton, Peterborough
- Michael Hinds, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport
- Martin Musgrave, Poplar and Limehouse
- Julie Harrison, Putney
And more than 230 others [full list here].
Key Labour figures will be speaking at a major conference in August marking 200 years since the Peterloo massacre. Find out more here.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward and with Politics for the Many and the Electoral Reform Society.
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