Jenny Jones: The Tories are planning an assault on democracy. The left needs to unite

Could a defence of demcoracy become the basis for a progressive alliance?

Jenny Jones is a Green Party peer in the House of Lords.

Voter suppression. Limiting protest on the streets by banning anything that might be effective. Stopping people seeking justice in the courts when the government acts in a dictatorial way.

The Queen’s Speech is clearly designed to help the Conservatives stay in power for many decades longer.

It is time for liberals, greens and those on the left to unite around a renewal of democracy with the aim of ending a corrupt system which supports a corrupt government.

Voter ID is a solution looking for a problem. The absence of fraud is obvious, which leaves us with one question: why is the government making this a priority?  

The same question has to be asked of their intention to impose First Past the Post on the Mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Londoners have used this electoral system for over twenty years without any controversy, and the vast majority of voters used it for Police and Crime Commissioner elections last week.

It allows Greens, Lib Dems and other smaller parties to gather first preference votes from people who know that their second preference is a ‘safety vote’ for one of the two main parties. The only motivation for the government spending time on this is an attempt to cement First Past the Post as the only valid way of voting.

And then for the Government plans to “restore the balance of power between executive, legislature & the courts.”

This is an ominous threat to the ability of Parliament to hold ministers to account and the independence of our judiciary. There have been numerous, successful examples in recent years of people challenging the government in the courts, including the Good Law Project using a judicial review to expose the profiteering of the Tory chumocracy from the Covid crisis.  

Boris Johnson currently has nine different official investigations into his financial dealings and personal connections. Perhaps this is unsurprising for a man who apparently feels that he can’t live on less than £300,000 a year.

Some might see the number of investigations as a sign that the system is working, but it’s a set of boy’s club rules that rely upon a sense of decency and reputation to make them count. It doesn’t work with Boris and his kind. Nor does it touch the systematic corruption that comes from the wider network of Conservative donors and what influence that buys them in terms of contracts and policy decisions.

From the scandal of Grenfell and the building industry’s lack of accountability for the dangerous cladding, through to Greensill – we have barely scratched the surface of how the establishment milks the ordinary citizens and taxpayers of their hard earned cash.

The response by both the liberal left and radicals should be to unite around constitutional and democratic reform to get rid of corruption and the failed electoral system that supports it. The real dangers in our democracy are not six cases of voter fraud, they now come from digital disinformation, fake news and voter manipulation on an industrial scale.

There are a lot of rich people who see donations to the Conservative Party as an investment, and access to public contracts as the dividend payments. We need PR and an elected second chamber, but we also need a complete rewrite of the rules on party funding, the use of social media and corporate lobbying.

Along with a Green New Deal, that could become the basis of an electoral pact to not only beat the Conservatives at the next election but transform the way we govern ourselves.

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