Since Labour’s Democracy Review was launched last year, the party’s internal structures have been exhaustively debated, picked over, and now amended.
The process by which parliamentary candidates are selected in Labour-held constituencies has been a particularly hot topic, with the party agreeing to make triggering a selection contest easier, among other reforms.
But Labour’s external democratic policies have been less discussed. Now though, Jon Trickett – the man in charge of preparing Labour for government – has strong words about our democracy.
At Politics for the Many’s event in Liverpool on Sunday, he declared Westminster over-centralised: “Our state structures have been captured by the interests of an elite. Our democracy has failed.”
He is right that there is much to do be done. Despite devolution, the UK is among the most centralised states in the developed world. And supporters are noticing.
According to fresh polling for the Electoral Reform Society, the vast majority of potential Labour voters believe this is an area which urgently requires attention.
In a mass poll for the ERS, BMG Research asked nearly 3,000 people whether or not they believed ‘democracy in Britain is in urgent need of reform.’
Of those respondents who said they intend to vote Labour at the next General Election, 75% agree – eight percentage points higher than among all respondents to the survey.
Looking at the result in more detail highlights that this view crossed many of the dividing lines in politics, both new and old.
Those who voted Leave and those who voted Remain were united in the view that democratic reform is needed – 71% of Leave voters and 66% of Remain voters agreed with the statement.
Older respondents were slightly more likely to agree than those who were younger, but support was high among both – an average of 68% among those 35 and older, compared to an average of 65% among those aged 34 and younger.
Support for reform also came from people of different economic standings. Poorer respondents (those in the C2DE social grade) were more likely to agree with the statement than those in the wealthier ABC1 grade, but only by four percentage points (70% compared to 66%).
As Jon Trickett MP told our event at The World Transformed on Sunday, power in the UK is overcentralised in the hands of the few at Westminster.
The House of Lords, in its current form, is an affront to democracy: its vast membership is unelected yet it plays a key role in every aspect of the country’s future.
And the archaic voting system used to elect MPs fails to give a voice to millions, throwing their votes onto the electoral scrapheap.
Added to that is a proposed cut in MPs, which could badly hinder the scrutinising role of Parliament over the Executive, alongside the imposition of mandatory voter ID which could deprive already marginalised groups of their democratic right to vote.
These problems are not ones which can be swept under the carpet. There is a sense of alienation with mainstream politics. But there is also a desire for change that can unite the country.
Most groups but particularly Labour supporters recognise that if they want an ‘economy for the many’, they need politics to be for the many, too.