Defend democracy

Twelve years of Tory rule, on top of decades of free-market chaos, have severely weakened our democracy. We’ve got government departments run by crony appointees, the electoral commission weakened, the media awash with right-wing disinformation. As a journalist I’ve had a ringside seat for where real power lies: in the private clubs, on the billionaires’ yachts, in the networks of public-school educated elite, and the biased media.

On top of this, political corruption and organised crime are undermining the rule of law. And Vladimir Putin is meddling in our electoral system.

So with democracy, it’s time to use it or lose it. We need a radical devolution of power to towns, cities, regions, nations and neighbourhoods. There should be no decision about us without us.

We need a written constitution that – without changing the fundamental balance between the monarchy and parliament, formalises the mechanisms of governance and makes all decision-making transparent.

I want to see an elected House of Lords, strong regional governments with German-style industrial planning powers, and the trade unions recognised in law as the official social partners with business and government. I want to see maximum devolution for Scotland and Wales, and strong regional devolution for England. I accept the right of the Scottish and Welsh people to independence if they want it – but the UK government debt fiasco shows the danger: countries that cannot pay their way can instantly lose their sovereignty to faceless bond dealers.

On the first day of a Labour government I want to see all the cronies appointed by the Tories – to the BBC, the National Trust etc – dismissed, along with the “non-executive directors” they’ve placed in government departments. The bizarre arrangements that allow corporate CEOs to direct how public money is spent should be scrapped: public service should be done by neutral public servants only.

With the far-right advancing in many parts of the developed world, using well-funded media operations to destabilise democracy, the labour movement has to lead a counter-offensive from the grassroots up. Our unions, parties and community groups need to offer fascism’s target audience a radical alternative and a narrative of hope.

We need to educate our activists and voters about the toxic mixture of white supremacy, homophobia and violent misogyny that is driving people towards the international far right – and take the fight for democratic values into our communities.

I’ve been an active anti-fascist since the age of 17 – standing shoulder to shoulder with communities targeted by the far right. But the scale of the threat means we also need tough legal restrictions – against incitement to genocide and racial violence, and against the international funding streams that promote hate. Above all we need to be proud of our anti-fascist history and bring the ethos that defeated Mosley, Hitler and the BNP into today’s movement.

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