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Editorial: The parameters of Britain's limited democracy are being exposed

THERE is a week to go before we find out which product of Britain’s most expensive schools and selective universities is selected by one of the most unrepresentative demographics in the country to be our premier — until they either find themselves finessed in Parliament or decapitated by the electorate.

Of course the most unrepresentative institution of all is the monarchy. In one sense it has an affinity with many in Britain’s polyglot population. Our royals are immigrants of mostly German descent and like many immigrant families spoke their native tongue at home — in the case of the Saxe-Coburgs this was until it became unfashionable in the 1930s.

The next, of course, is the House of Lords which is the place reserved for reminding us that politicians we thought were dead only give the impression of being so — with a secondary responsibility for revising legislation that its less undemocratically constituted junior chamber has proposed.

If the Conservatives have the slightest qualm that defining their choice of who should run the government should be limited to two of the most privileged representatives of a privileged caste they give no indication of such.

The latest news is that whichever of these bourgeois brats get the top job they will face a Commons chamber made up of people who neither trust them nor believe a word they say. And that is just the people sitting behind them.

It on occasions like this that the contours of Britain’s deeply class-stratified society are less obscured than usual. But the constitutional arrangements bequeathed us by our history of uncompleted revolutions, important though they are, are not the features of our class society that are most immediately amenable to change.

Set aside the never ending Brexit saga, which now seems set to defer full confrontation with the barriers that the neoliberal EU has erected to prevent a government enacting anti-austerity measures until after we elect such a government.

No, an urgent task is to make profound changes at the point where the class interests of the overwhelming majority conflict with the class interests of the tiny elite. There are a whole raft of measures that have built austerity into the fabric of daily life for millions and the full range of laws which constrain our basic class organisations from doing their job effectively.

These are the priorities Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn set out in his speech in Durham and the temper of which was foreshadowed by Laura Pidcock and others.

The TUC reports an increase in trade union membership this year and it remains true that, by a margin, trade union members are better paid than people without the benefit of union organisation.

But unions are hamstrung by legal barriers to effective action that have meant that as a whole the working class is worse off by uncountable billions of pounds.

A Labour government that lifted the pay freeze on public servants, freed unions to tackle low-paying employers across the whole of the economy, renewed our infrastructure and began the task of rebuilding a productive economy — something that Corbyn gave shape and direction to in his plans for northern England — such a government would begin to lay the groundwork for a more profound transformation of our society.

A second chamber that gave full expression to the multiethnic, multicultural and multinational character of our state in which different nations live and work together would be an infinitely better basis for constructing a constitutional settlement based on popular sovereignty than the present system of class privilege decorated with feudal hangovers, though it is unclear whether we need a second chamber at all. The malfunctioning British state needs an overhaul.


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