What could Labour do to help solve the current crisis in British democracy? On 30th October, a packed meeting at Widcombe Social Club heard Red Pepper editor Hilary Wainwright, candidate for Bath Mike Davies, and author Bryn Jones, outline policies and reforms that Labour could and is proposing to transform UK parliamentary system democracy and democratise the wider society.
Hilary described how the myth of parliamentary sovereignty enabled political and business elites to dispense patronage without being properly accountable to citizens. By contrast, innovative initiatives, such as those of the Lucas Aerospace workers, involved democratic methods of workplace management. Hilary argued for political decentralisation, not only within government to local communities but to other areas such as housing estates.
Bryn Jones agreed that Britain was a ‘one-dimensional’ democracy that needed a second dimension of reforms to: Parliament, the first-past-the-post elections and MPs’ accountability. However, popular engagement depended on a ‘third dimension’ of democracy, to create and expand participation in decision-making not only in the workplace but in corporations, the health and education services and other public bodies.
Mike Davies believed that a Corbyn government would push this kind of transformation as Labour was already committed to measures such as workers’ representation on company boards and a ‘constitutional convention’ to devise improvements to representation and accountability.
After a lively and ‘democratic’ debate, the meeting closed with a consideration of how the tragic Grenfell disaster might have been averted if its residents had had proper participation in the management of the building so that their concerns about safety would have been met.
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