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Voters realise Westminster is rotten. Now unions are stepping up calls for change

Real democracy means public control not only of economics but of politics, too – which is why we need to abolish the unelected House of Lords, says NANCY PLATTS

FAITH in British democracy is at a 15-year low. Is anyone surprised?
 
Nearly three-quarters of people think our political system needs radical change, and the same amount say the main political parties are so divided within themselves that they cannot serve the best interest of the country, according to the latest analysis by the Hansard Society.
 
This lack of faith in those who rule the country has led 54 per cent of people to think what we need is a strong leader “willing to break the rules” — a worrying sign that when trust is so low people can turn to dangerous solutions.
 
These figures suggest we are heading for a democratic crisis.
 
That can go one of two ways. Without us presenting alternatives, things could turn dark indeed.
 
The sense of democratic despair is not surprising. The political system has been for the few, and by the few — resulting in a broken politics where the views and concerns of everyday people are ignored, and decisions are made for the already privileged. 

No wonder, when the Electoral Reform Society estimates 68 per cent of votes were effectively thrown away in the 2017 general election — failing to affect the MP result.  
 
One thing united many people on both sides of the Brexit debate: a feeling of powerlessness. That is what our movement was set up to counter. What if we were to turn our sights towards fixing the decrepit machine of Parliament?
 
There is no clearer symbol of the broken system than the “unelected elite” we have close to home: the House of Lords.
 
Nearly 800 Lords make up this taxpayer-funded private members’ club — including over 90 hereditary aristocrats. 

Each one is able to claim £305 a day tax-free, to vote on our laws for life. They can delay legislation, change laws and use our Parliament as their personal palace.
 
Just last month we saw, yet again, these unelected aristocrats, block Labour attempts to phase out the role of hereditary peers in the house.
 
Free from the scrutiny of the ballot box, we have seen Lords frequently stand against public opinion and blocking reform.
 
As trade unionists our movement needs to send a clear message that we stand at the front of the fight for democracy — and for taking power away from the privileged few. Real democracy means public control not only of economics but of politics, too.  

Indeed, a democratic overhaul will be vital for the success of our movement in delivering popular, radical policies for this country.

Without scrapping the unelected Lords — packed with hereditary peers, cronies, party donors and failed MPs — a progressive government will have its hands tied from day one.
 
This is why a renewed Chartist vision for real democracy must be at the heart of our agenda.
 
The role of any left-wing government should be to take power from the few and give it to the many. A new, reformed second chamber fairly elected is at the centre of this.
 
We’re stepping up the campaign, and have drafted a motion for union branches to pass to build momentum for change. Get in touch if you can help. Let’s build a politics for the many.
 
The Politics for the Many pledge
 
To secure a politics to favour the many and not the few, we need an overhaul of Westminster’s broken political system.
 
From an unelected Lords to London-dominated institutions, the UK’s undemocratic constitution is stacked against working people.

Long-lasting change is needed to ensure economic and social justice for the whole of the country — and to ensure it lasts.

Labour and the vast majority of voters want to see Westminster’s elite-dominated politics overhauled to work in the interests of working people and the trade unions who represent them (BMG Research, September 2018).

Yet we have an unelected House of Lords that behaves more like a private members’ club than the revising chamber we need.

If power continues to be hoarded by an unelected elite in Westminster we cannot achieve social and economic change and advance the goals of trade unions and working people across all parts of the UK.

In the 200th anniversary year of the Peterloo massacre — marking the Chartists’ proud fight for real democracy — we must carry on that unfinished struggle today.

This union agrees that:

The House of Lords must be abolished and replaced with a fairly elected senate of the nations and regions, to strengthen the voice of all parts of the United Kingdom and give us a revising chamber for the people.

We need a constitutional convention to look at wider reform of our state and politics to make it fit for the 21st century, and to ensure that the people have a say in the way they are governed.

These must be done as a priority to ensure the gains of a progressive government can last.

Sign up at PoliticsForTheMany.co.uk.

Nancy Platts is co-ordinator of Politics for the Many, and former trade union adviser to Jeremy Corbyn.

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