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LAST year’s roadshow preceded Labour’s annual conference and focused on the ideas contained in the party’s Democracy Review which, according to the Labour Party’s website, was launched to explore “how our hugely expanded membership becomes a mass movement which can transform society.”
And Labour’s national chair, Ian Lavery, said: “In order to ensure our vision for a country which works for the many not the few, it is essential that our party’s structure and rules allow us to build a mass movement.”
Sadly, most of the recommendations contained in the Democracy Review didn’t get implemented, so it is important that we keep the issue of party democracy on the agenda. This is particularly important because there are reactionary elements in the party, particularly inside the Parliamentary Labour Party, who want to destroy the prospect of a member-led mass movement.
That is why we agree with Ian Lavery when he said the recommendations in the Democracy Review “are simply the beginning of empowering our local parties and affiliates to reach the communities we seek to represent.” It is also why we believe open selections are crucial if we are serious about empowering members.
Making Labour MPs accountable to the people who do the work to get them elected didn’t feature in the official Democracy Review, but it was a cornerstone of our Democracy Roadshow last year. It also had the backing of the overwhelming majority of grassroots members and is a policy change we firmly believe still has to be made.
To succeed, Labour requires an engaged and motivated membership. But the palpable sense of entitlement displayed by some Labour MPs flies in the face of the ambition to empower members, and is contrary to the people-powered policy-making process Jeremy Corbyn spoke about.
That is why we must continue demanding an open selection process for all Labour MPs before every election. It would keep MPs rooted and engender a partnership between grassroots members and parliamentarians, leading to better representation and more electoral success for the party. What’s not to like about that?
It highlights why democratising the Labour Party is so important. Greater party democracy isn’t an end in itself, it’s merely a means to an end and that end is to ensure we make permanent changes to the way the economy operates.
It is a national scandal that in the world’s fifth biggest economy, 14 million of our fellow citizens are living in poverty. It doesn’t have to be this way. Democracy in the workplace, the like of which Keir Hardie spoke about a century years ago, still hasn’t been realised. He predicted that socialism would deliver industrial democracy, just as radicalism had democratised the system of government.
We have the opportunity to democratise the way the economy functions to bring about an irreversible shift in the balance of power in favour of the many not the few. Greater democracy gives us the potential to ensure the fruits of the nation’s economic growth are used to deliver world class public services, full employment, a compassionate social security system and a radical Green New Deal.
But to achieve these goals, we need policy-makers in Parliament who agree with this vision and who will stand up to the neoliberal vested interests who are responsible for rampant inequality and potential climate catastrophe.
We should remember the words of Nye Bevan when he said the purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away.
Implementing measures to secure economic democracy would secure the irreversible shift in the balance of wealth, power and income that most Labour supporters want to see and which most of the population would back.
So if you’re interested in booking a tour stop in your area you can do so at: democracyroadshow.org.
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