We need New Politics Rules

Today, Unlock Democracy starts an ambitious new campaign for New Politics Rules. We need a democratic revolution that will give us all a real voice in politics.

It’s difficult to think of a time when the established political order was more in flux. Neither Brexit, nor the surprised performance of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party were predicted, and with the government in permanent crisis over the withdrawal deal, it feels like almost anything could happen. Despite this, even now dramatic changes about our lives are being decided largely above our heads.

In the last few years, the norms serving as life support for Britain’s archaic political system have crumbled. Key players in the campaign to leave the EU brazenly cheated campaign spending limits, knowing the fines a small price to pay for the extra cash ploughed into their campaign. A weakened government with the responsibility to deliver Brexit is exploiting ever more arcane procedural tricks to avoid checks on their power.

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The British political system, having evolved directly from the rule of a despotic monarchy, is designed to entrench privilege.

With the government in such a precarious position, they’re turning to more authoritarian means to reassert their political power. The EU Withdrawal Act, granting ministers powers to totally sideline parliament when re-writing EU law after Brexit, is perhaps the starkest example.

Right now, the debates that will decide the future of the country aren’t taking place in communities, cafes or public meetings. It’s being fought out between two factions of the same old establishment. One side wants to keep the current status quo, with another pursuing a radical project to accelerate inequality, roll back our rights and further shrink the space for political participation. The way our unwritten constitution works means that, for example, if lower food standards and opening up the NHS to American companies get written into an international treaty, policies like these would be exceptionally difficult to reverse.

All this comes on top of other crises like devastating cuts imposed on local councils, and the democratic outrage of fracking being forced on communities that have made their opposition clear.

Now is a unique opportunity to reboot the political system

But the current political uncertainty gives us an unprecedented opportunity to build a true democracy, if enough of us demand it.

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Much has been said of the allure to ‘take back control’ since the Brexit referendum. We now have the chance to channel that feeling to demand a true democracy, where all our votes count, where the distorting effect of big money on politics is ended, and politics is an effective way for people to solve the issues affecting us.

This amounts to a permanent rebalancing of power in our society, and redefining the relationship between the people and the government.

We could decide we want social and economic rights enshrined, for example a right to free healthcare. We could decide on limits to government power, and give real protections for rights that can currently be repealed with a majority of one. We could decide that communities must have a say in local budgets, instead of having cuts handed down from Westminster that hit vital services. We could decide that our environment deserves constitutional protection that can’t just be swept aside when it doesn’t suit the needs of the fracking industry.

We need a democratic revolution - that means ordinary people coming together, demanding change, and securing a new constitution. Together we can decide what our rights should be, what governments can do to us, and how to put an end to the malign influence of one pound, one vote.