The United Kingdom’s Left currently finds itself in slight disarray. The devastating defeat in the December 2019 General Election has left many people worried of what lies ahead. Now Labour have a new leader in Sir Keir Starmer, and there is even more uncertainty for them. The Labour Party is a good vehicle for change. Its members and activists have made fine contributions to policy making. However, all too often the best ideas become lost in factionalised infighting, something the recently leaked Labour Report highlighted all too well.
Meanwhile you have People’s Momentum, a group who were set up in 2015 to help Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership bid, and who sold the idea of member participation. While they have gone on to do laudable projects to help educate people on progressive politics, they have stumbled when it comes to giving their members a real voice in policy making.
Committees and leadership groups have taken over, and members have felt increasingly left out. This was highlighted when Momentum put forward a vote on who to endorse for the recent Labour Leadership and Deputy Leadership Elections. The group didn’t give members a choice on who to back — instead, a hastily arranged voting process merely asked; “Do you agree with the leadership group’s decision on backing Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner?” Needless to say, members felt aggrieved and it led to people opting to leave Momentum, which is not a cause for celebration.
In my opinion, the UK Left are lost at the moment. Jeremy Corbyn gave people hope that they hadn’t felt in a long time. I myself became interested in politics, purely based on the kind of compassionate ideas that Corbyn’s Labour advocated. I am disabled and have suffered due to hostile policies like Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). What I have realised though, is that we shouldn’t keep looking back. Yes Corbyn’s ideas where and are good, but they do not need to end because he’s no longer at the helm. That’s why I see the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, better known as DiEM25, as the movement best placed to keep alive progressive socialist ideas and better still; improve them through bottom-up initiatives.
A Movement with People Power
DiEM25 is a pan-European movement that wants to inject democracy into policy making across the continent, through initiatives such as People’s Assemblies. Note: I am referring to the continent of Europe, because contrary to popular belief, DiEM25 members voted twice to say that the 2016 EU Referendum Result should be respected. Indeed, they argued that another EU referendum was dangerous. What they have and still do advocate for is ensuring that the UK doesn’t become inward-looking out of fear of being seen as taking orders from the European Union.
A perfect example of this comes today as the UK government has said that they have no intention of extending the “Transition Period” despite the COVID-19 Pandemic halting any meaningful negotiations. The EU has confirmed that the UK have yet to put forward any proposals despite claiming that everything is still on track. The claim of “taking back control” couldn’t be any more of a fallacy at this point. Instead of taking back power to Parliament, it has gone to Government Ministers whose ideologies prevent them from compromise.
DiEM25 is a political movement that remains far too overlooked in UK politics. Members of the Left are always keen to laud the opinions of Noam Chomsky and Ken Loach, but they don’t seem to realise that these two eminent figures are a part of DiEM25’s Advisory Panel. Another one of its members is Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who is currently imprisoned at Belmarsh prison awaiting extradition. DiEM25 has tirelessly advocated in support of Assange’s cause.
Most people remain unaware of DiEM25 and its fantastic work, such as its drafting of the Green New Deal for Europe (GNDE), which has received widespread praise. This could be as it hasn’t garnered much media attention, and possibly due to the fact people misunderstood what DiEM25 stand for. Needless to say the UK National Collective of DiEM25 are now intent on changing perceptions and increasing UK participation in democracy. They are holding an online Conference for which you can register here.
Now Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy shared a platform for DiEM25 members such as Former Labour & Co-operative MEP Julie Ward and DiEM co-founder Yanis Varoufakis at the 2019 UK Labour Party Conference, backing the idea of citizen’s assemblies for Brexit. Now is the time when people should be asking Nandy if she still backs giving people more of a say.
However the most important aspect of DiEM25’s movement is the power that its members hold. They don’t just vote on motions and policies put to them; they are encouraged to self-organize by initiating their ideas and then shaping it as a collective.
One of the proposals that I have recently seen is a policy around the Emancipation of Disabled People, something that is incredibly important to me. This policy seeks to go further than token accessible days and schemes like Disability Confident; rather it pushes for the rights of disabled people to participate in society. I am incredibly excited about this proposal which DiEM25 co-founder Yanis Varoufakis has asked be started on by members immediately. This is just one of numerous examples of the ideas ‘DiEMers’are known come up with.
Beyond the Balcony
With the issues raised by Coronavirus, the impending end of the Brexit transition period in December, and the general place the UK left finds itself in, I think DiEM25 are the best placed movement to help get people involved in democracy so we the people have a real say in the decisions that affect our lives.
In light of the current crisis, DiEM25 is hosting a series of online conferences entitled ‘Beyond the Balcony: Organising for European Solidarity’ for political organizing open to members of DiEM25 as well as the general public.
The UK conference will be held on Wednesday April 28, 19.00 CET, and you can register here in order to make your voice heard.
During the UK Coronavirus Lockdown, and likely beyond, DiEM25’s UK National Collective is also holding an open Zoom Call for anyone to come and join. This takes place every Wednesday at 6pm, the link to the zoom call is here, and doesn’t change.
I highly recommend progressives anywhere come and join us in our lively discussions. You never know, you might just like what you hear.
Read more about the ‘Beyond the Balcony: Organising for European Solidarity’ conferences by following the link to the article.
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