For a democratic revolution

Clive Lewis did not make the cut for the leadership election but he set out a bold plan for people to take real control and transform society and the party

After the defeat of the 2019 election, it is essential that Labour maps out a new plan not only for the party, but for the country. The danger of a racist and authoritarian backlash under this Conservative government is very real; so, too, is the risk of continued austerity. We will continue to fight, as part of a global movement, against the greatest threat of our age – that of climate change. But beyond the necessity of opposing Boris Johnson’s government, and working with others to do so, we must lay out a clear and credible route back to government, since it is only in government that we can transform our country.

The 2019 Manifesto presented an alternative vision of our country; we seek in the following to sharpen and simplify that picture, so that it can be presented as a clear and necessary case for every part of Britain. These proposals are intended to provide a signpost for a possible future, not a complete prescription for government. They are raised to promote further discussion in our movement. All policy should be assessed for its impact on people with protected characteristics, including women.

Our route back to government begins with a recognition that the core question we face today is that of democracy. We must answer the demand for greater power and control in people’s lives not only by providing the material means by which people can live better – from higher pay to public services that work – but by transforming the institutions under which we all live, from Parliament to local authorities to how our businesses are run. And by working with others today, we can show how, in government, we can meet the demands of our people for a fundamental change in how our country is run and how their lives our governed.

By placing democracy at the centre of what we do, by changing our internal party cultures and procedures, by learning to work better with others beyond our own ranks, we can build the movement needed to defeat the Conservatives and form a genuinely transformational government. Confronted by the great challenges, from climate change to the emerging digital world, we must demonstrate that we have a powerful and effective case for meeting them and building a fairer, more sustainable, and more equal country.

Our political system is broken and our democratic institutions are not fit for purpose.

• We must introduce proportional representation. Our current electoral system is failing all of us. A majority of British voters in the last two elections voted for parties of the left and centre-left, but this is not reflected in the results. In government, we should commit to the introduction of genuinely proportional representation.

• We must abolish the House of Lords. We will only support replacements that are genuinely democratic and elected on a proportional basis.

• We must put power back in the hands of local councils. Local councils have been stripped of their authority, whilst a decade of austerity has seen their budgets fall by 60%. We must transfer powers back to councils and local governments, removing the Westminster diktat, granting them new revenue-raising and spending powers, and expanding their procurement and planning powers. We will also look at ways to make councils more accountable and democratic as institutions.

• We will establish a Constitutional Convention to create a written constitution. Learning from examples like Iceland, we will create an open, democratic national Constitutional Convention, free from Westminster influence and with the maximum public participation, to draw up a new, written constitution for the United Kingdom.

• We must recognise the separate demands and democracies of Wales and Scotland. We will not oppose a second referendum on independence in Scotland, if the Scottish people want one, but we will argue for the maximum possible devolution of powers inside the United Kingdom to its constituent nations.

• We will create a new democracy in England. The Westminster system has also failed England, leaving local councils without powers, and an undemocratic Parliament in Westminster, whilst Scotland and Wales enjoy devolved governments. We will create new democratic Assemblies for the English regions, with real powers and budgets.

• We will extend the franchise in national and local elections to all UK residents aged 16 or above. If you live here, you should have the right to vote, regardless of which passport you hold.

• We will establish a national mechanism to bring women and girls’ voices into government. Since the Women’s National Commission (WNC) was abolished, there has been no public body to represent women’s voices to government.

Our media favours the interests of the super-rich and their hangers-on.

• We must retain all of our 2019 commitments to implement Leveson, and democratise the BBC. Public trust in the BBC as a public service broadcaster has taken a hammering, perhaps especially during last year’s election. To end the capture of the BBC by elite interests, we will devolve programme-making and editorial functions to the nations and regions, and establish a system of localised, democratic management and commissioning established, with licence-payers and BBC staff electing regional boards.

• In return for radical democratic reform of the BBC, it must be freed from the persistent fear of political interference. We propose 20-year charter renewal alongside democratisation of the BBC Board, and placing the BBC itself on a permanent, statutory footing. The new British Digital Corporation should operate on the same basis.

• We will support a far broader media ecosystem. We will entrust the National Investment Bank and regional development banks with support the development of new and independent media at a national and local level.

• We will explore as a matter of urgency the creation of new publicly-owned platforms enabling content-producers to distribute and sell music, film and other output without having to surrender the bulk of their revenue to global corporations. The problem of how to support professional artists in all fields, in an era of free digital content, is an acute and urgent one.

We need to change our party’s internal culture, putting aside our tribal differences.

• The challenges we face, from the climate emergency to the threat of war in the Middle East, are bigger than what we as a party alone can tackle. We must actively seek to work and engage with all those, whether in another party or organisation or none, who want to help us change the world we live in.

• We will only become a social movement party when we are open to others. We must change an internal party culture that is too often impenetrable and uninviting to new members and non‑members. We should provide support and resources for branches and CLPs seeking to broaden the Labour Party’s activities, including political education, cultural events, and the provision of relief measures to deal with austerity.

• We must practice what we preach internally on income inequality. We should impose a pay ratio between best and worst paid Labour Party staff of no more than 5 to 1.

• We must as a party look to help build and support a new media ecosystem. We should look to build working relationships with new media and support party members establishing new outlets, particularly on a regional and local level.

• We will hold a deliberative convention in our Party to formulate and agree on a package of democratic constitutional reforms for Labour. We should look at reforming and democratising the National Executive Committee, including greater transparency, broadening the procedure for election of a leader, and creating a more functional, democratic policy process with a sovereign conference at its heart.

• Our representatives must be accountable to the movement that put them in office. This means introducing Open Selections for all candidates at every level of the party, and giving members more say over the leadership of Labour local councils.

• We will open up a “Democracy Review 2.0” starting with the question ‘How do we put more power in party members’ hands?’
• We will set up an independent complaints function to deal with cases of racism, antisemitism, sexual harassment, discrimination against protected characteristics, and bullying.

We must strive to lead a decentralised social movement, distributing resources and autonomy to our regions, whilst also building alliances outside of the Labour party on key issues.

• Our alliance with the trade unions must be broadened and strengthened on the ground. Labour and the unions must work together on a radical programme of organising in our communities and in the workplace. Only one-third of party members are individual members of a trade union – every party member will be encouraged to join.

• We should allow Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties full autonomy to decide on questions such as independence. They must become the Labour Parties of Scotland and Wales, not Scottish or Welsh branches of a largely English Labour Party.

• We should allow Constituency Labour Parties the option to decide if they will stand down in favour of better-placed candidates with the same values. We must be open to creating alliances of progressive and socialist organisations on a local level, particularly given the undemocratic electoral system we face.

• We will invest in community organising, ensuring every council candidate and councillor receives community organising training. We will create a formidable Labour presence in our communities, affecting real change in local areas, underpinned by a community organising strategy for each CLP.

• We should be seeking to help to mobilise national demonstrations against spending cuts, privatisation and restrictions on union rights, as well as supporting movements against foreign wars.

A modern economic framework that lifts all in our society

Our plan for economic renewal is based on our understanding of the failings of 40 years of neoliberalism for large parts of our country. But the challenges of the future cannot be met by a rerun of policies from the past. We must use twenty-first century technologies to give everyone more control over their working lives, and over the profits that they produce. 

For detailed plans for democratising and transforming work and the full manifesto see

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