Big Ben

Two-thirds of the public feel powerless over decision making and feel that they have little or no opportunities to influence decisions made at Westminster’, according to new Savanta ComRes polling.

In a week that has seen lobbying allegations dominate the news, the poll for the Politics for the Many campaign and the Electoral Reform Society finds that just 5% of people feel they have a lot of opportunities to influence decision in Westminster – a damning critique of the UK’s centralising political system.

The same poll finds that 57% of people feel their counties or boroughs are either not represented, or represented only a little, in national decision making at Westminster – a figure that rises to 62% when people think about how their local neighbourhoods are represented.

The stark figures show the public feel more distant from Westminster politics than ever comes amid growing calls for greater decision-making power to be given to the nations and regions of the UK – as debates on devolution continue to rage in Scotland, Wales and the North of England.

The polling was conducted for a new collection of essays on the UK’s ‘democratic crisis’, by leading writers on the left.  The New Foundations, published jointly by Open Labour and Politics for the Many – the trade union campaign for political reform – features new thinking from leading progressive thinkers on Westminster’s ‘hyper-centralised’ political system. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer is facing growing calls to back proportional representation, in a week that saw left group Momentum throw its full weight behind a fairer voting system, joining other organisations like Open Labour (as well as voices across the spectrum).

We’ve seen again and again that people feel Westminster is broken. People feel power is too remote, too hard to influence and the decisions made don’t matter to their families and communities.

We will never address the issues that face us as a country if the system on which decision are made is left unreformed. Without a strong base our broken culture of centralised power, unaccountable decisions and a politics which seems to far removed from ordinary peoples lives will continue to fester.

That’s why we wholesale reform of Westminster – to end to the broken First Past the Post voting system, of winner takes all results that lock out millions.

We need ah a fair and proportional voting system to elect the Commons, overhaul the unelected Lords, and ensure that all voices across the country are fairly represented in Parliament.

Commenting on the polling, Nancy Platts, Coordinator, Politics for the Many pointed to restrictions on protest, and cronyistic contracts handed out during the pandemic as more signs of the UK’s growing democratic deficit: “It’s no wonder that public faith in politics is so low – people don’t feel their voices are being heard. We have a government ruling on a minority of the vote, and top-down decision making that is alienating huge parts of the country.

“An open democracy is something that must be fought for. Trade unions have long been at the forefront of demands for a democracy that puts working people front and centre. Now it’s time for our movement to revive that fight for the modern-day. The increasingly centralised nature of our politics means people feel powerless to speak up.”

It’s clear we need to build new democratic foundations for a genuinely progressive society – one where power lies in the hands of the many, in communities and workplaces around the country.

The Labour leadership should take note of these important calls – and start developing a vision for real democracy in the UK.

Polled by Savanta ComRes: 2,092 UK adults aged 18+ online from 12-14 March 2021. Data was weighted to be demographically representative.

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