The unpredictable political and constitutional crisis sweeping the UK is a sure sign that we have to remake our democracy from top to bottom. Building on the social movement that all but toppled the Tories on June 8 can provide the momentum to change the UK in a deep-seated way.
The entire system is unstable and volatile, expressed in the inability to form a strong and stable government.
Running parallel is a deepening economic disaster. Real wages are falling sharply as inflation rises, while the UK’s output is falling faster than any other major country. Debt is growing and falling house prices indicate another crash is on the way.
Removing the May minority government, which is propped up by the ultra-reactionary DUP from Northern Ireland, has to be the first step along the road to creating a real democracy.
Even before the election stalemate, the political system – aka the constitution – was clearly broken.
Leaving the European Union changes the UK state’s system of rule but this has simply been brushed aside.
Legitimate demands for self-determination have brought into question the outdated Union between England and Scotland, which the Tories refuse to address.
Now the “Bad Friday Agreement” between May and the DUP threatens to scupper any attempt to revive the devolved government in Northern Ireland.
Over the decades, Parliament has ceded more and more of its limited powers to the executive or government, which in turn is the grip of the major corporations and financial markets.
In effect, we live under a corporatocracy rather than in a functioning representative democracy as our recent publication Democracy Unchained explains in some detail.
From fracking to fire safety, from workplace closures to cuts in services, to the right to air, space and quality of life – citizens have little if any say in what happens to their lives or communities.
Under our system of rule, the strange thing that is the UK constitution, is designed to maintain the power of the 1% while giving the appearance of democracy.
While the elections are clearly part of a democratic process, Parliament and the political process have no obligation to reflect the will of the people.
Younger generations gave their unstinting support in a cry for change, for an end to a society where the rich and powerful rule while the majority struggle against low wages, zero hours contracts, expensive housing and transport and social care that is under-resourced and lacking in dignity.
This social movement which propelled Labour to within touching distance of Downing Street has a life of its own. In the days before June 8, Labour was, by all accounts, preparing itself for a heavy defeat.
Jeremy Corbyn’s intransigence and the fact that he is not part of the political elite inspired the turnaround. This energy and impetus has to be maintained rather than waiting for the Tories to collapse.
To defend Corbyn’s policies and and get him into Downing Street, we have to remake our democracy and move beyond capitalist forms of economic production.
Labour’s manifesto included a call for a convention on the constitution to address the issues of power and sovereignty. Corbyn should go ahead and work with others to set an independent convention going.
What could it discuss and then make recommendations about changing the constitution? Here are some ideas:
- – How could communities achieve the decisive say about services, jobs, transport, health, eco-protection and housing in their area?
- – What changes are needed to end the unaccountable, undemocratic power of the major corporations?
- – How can resources, including land, infrastructure, finance, be owned in common and shared fairly between different parts of the UK?
- – How can life and the economy be changed to address climate change?
- – What could a new democratic constitution achieve in terms of self-determination for the different countries within the UK
- – What sort of reorganised political and state system could take us beyond the representative system to a more direct, devolved democracy?
- – Would a system of proportional representation achieve a more accurate reflection of voters’ aspirations?
- – Should a new constitution set out human and social rights? How would they be guaranteed.
There are many more questions a convention could tackle, for sure. But these are a start.
Become a supporter of the Real Democracy Movement. Sign the petition for fresh election here. Get a discussion together in your area about the kind of democracy you want. Start a group and make it as focused but inclusive and democratic as you possibly can. Let’s start the ball rolling!
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