Corbyn’s Survival

I have just read an interesting piece of Matthew D’Ancona in the Guardian. He suggests that Labour MPs will not respect Corbyn and will bring him down. His concerns are fully justified.

What should Corbyn do when he wins?

He will have to introduce new mechanisms of participation in the party, with a strong online component, to enable members and supporters, at local and national levels, scrutinise and direct more closely the political action of Labour MPs.

Obviously, the representative nature of the mandate of MPs and their relationship with their constituencies cannot be constitutionally altered overnight.

However, Labour MPs and party officers will have to be very careful not to contradict the party members and supporters when working on parliamentary initiatives or when deciding the direction of their vote. Ideally, they would have to engage with them more regularly when designing party policy and the electoral programme.

What are the requirements for this democratic transformation of Labour?

a) the participation mechanisms will have to be fair, secure and accessible;

b) the engagement with the members and supporters will have to be sensible and gradual yet motivating and politically empowering, combining wisely presential and remote engagement;

c) the introduction of e-democracy in the Labour Party has to conceived not only as a mechanism to articulate decision-making and improve accountability but also as a

  • a learning process for the members, the supporters and the party itself
  • and as tool to build a community of practice.

There are have been cases of misuse of online participation, of course, but in this country we have now plenty of expertise to ensure these requirements are met.

If Corbyn and his supporters are committed to building a stronger organisation and become a movement for social change, this is the way forward (and the only way to ensure his survival as leader!)

Electronic democracy

We need much more citizen power and responsibility, coupled by new types of mandate for political decision-making.

Participation is increasingly electronic. Whether we like it or not, online platforms and tools are more successful in generating engagement and are becoming the norm in many situations.

Open online political participation is therefore to be celebrated, developed and extended into various areas of public life. It allows waves of common people to define the direction of any organisation, including political parties and governments.

It is true that participatory democracy, as opposed to the traditional representative democracy, generates asymmetries, as it gives more real power to people who are more active. Research carried out on in the area of participatory budgets across the world confirm the obvious: local activists who have more time at their disposal, and therefore more information and opportunities to coordinate their actions, can shape the decisions. This is natural and inevitable in any system in which common people have a real opportunity to participate politically on a regular basis and become influential activists if they wish so.

Openness is the way forward. Only the establishment has anything to fear.