Election Outcome – Comment from Mike O’Donnell (12 June 2017)

As John Harris points out (Opinion, 10 June) the outcome of the general election gives Labour an opportunity to build towards unifying a divided nation. The popularity of the party’s manifesto demonstrates that traditional socialist policies – including selective nationalisation, higher taxes for the wealthy and protection for pensioners – still have resonance with much of the electorate. The manifesto also goes a long way to restoring a fair deal for the young.

Equally there is a case for extending and deepening the democratic element in the social democratic mix. To do so requires giving shape and substance to the current democratic surge by increasing popular participation across Britain’s institutions – a fourth phase perhaps in Thomas Marshall’s trilogy of accumulated citizens’ rights. This should extend from school councils – providing experiential learning of democratic processes – to employee representation on corporate boards. Community-based democracy could be developed by requiring supermarkets to negotiate local contracts to, for instance, use a quota of local produce and meet enhanced environmental standards.

The idea could be applied, as appropriate, to other large businesses. The British system of democracy is not so perfect that it is beyond improvement. There is no shortage of ideas to transform widespread anti-elitism and desire for fairness into hard policy. Labour must not fudge its unexpected historic opportunity.
Mike O’Donnell

Guardian, Letters

Monday 12 June 2017