For at least the first part of 2024, the theme for our bi-monthly Progressive Politics Coffee Mornings is the ‘The Good Society, what is it and how do we create one? In January we kicked off with Democracy.
In Compass we argue that you can't have a good society without a good democracy. But what do we mean by that and how can we achieve it? Fifteen brave souls among those present agreed to explain in one sentence what a good democracy meant for them:
- People feel their voices are heard and their views genuinely taken into account within an accountable and transparent system.
- State institutions protect their rights.
- Decisions would be made at the lowest level (closest to the people);media organisations shown to lie would be banned; participation and decision-making would centre around citizens assemblies.
- The voting system is fair with no hindrance to voting rights and which is independent of any interference from the state or vested interests.
- People feel that their hopes are heard.
- There is good engagement with the community, transparency, clear lines of accountability, freedom of speech and clear separation of powers.
- Transparency and accountability are paramount
- Everyone’s voice is heard in a fair process
- Truth matters
- Putting an ‘x’ in a box every few years is not enough: more direct community participation is required.
- No one is afraid of growing old
- We would have proportional representation.
- Most people participate willingly in decision-making at various levels and in various ways.
- Everyone is equal, rights are respected, especially the elderly and the disabled and parliament is elected by a system of PR.
- There is sensitivity to people’s needs and meta-managerial capacity in its leaders.
- Everyone is kind, listens and takes their turn to speak.
Rosalind Eyben then looked at recommendations from recent reports about how to strengthen UK democracy while Colin Miller considered how strong, empowered local communities are fundamental for local democracy
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The meeting heard an extract from a letter Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, about Labour's plans for strengthening democracy should it be elected (when replying in November 2023 to Compass supporters campaigning for proportional representation). Here it is:
" Keir Starmer made clear at the beginning of this year that Britain needs a completely new way of governing – and that the Westminster system is part of the problem. We have a clear and constructive plan to not only restore public faith and confidence in Government, but to place more and more control and decision-making power in the hands of the communities we serve – where it belongs.
We have already begun the work of laying out how we will practically achieve these goals. The introduction of a Take Back Control Act in our first King’s speech will be our first step to oversee the biggest transfer of power from Westminster in British political history. We will also scrap the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected second chamber which is truly representative of the nations and regions of the UK. We will rebuild British democracy by introducing universal voter registration and extending the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds.
. That’s why Labour has committed to enter the next election with a commitment to a programme of democratic reform, which would include an open and inclusive process of evidence gathering to look at the options and merits of different voting systems. "