Our democracy is neither strong nor weak, but somewhere inbetween and the more a Labour government helps strengthen the unions, the more likely they are to strike, sometimes with little reason to...
Polly Toynbee makes the point about how weak unions have led to more inequality but this inequality is more to do with the power of the moneyed elite than the weakness of the unions. Both have their favoured groups in society and the unions may be more on the side of the poorest but this is not the case when they support well paid workers.
The unions have always been more inclined to bite the Labour hand that feeds, than a Tory hand that whips them into place.
We cannot expect unions to not try their best for their members - that is their job, but at the same time Labour governments cannot afford to give in to their every whim.
Labour relies mostly on the unions for fundng and for getting out the vote. But this is as bad for democracy as the Tories' total reliance on big business and wealthy backers.
What is needed is to break the link between Labour and the unions, but this can only happen if we break the stranglehold big business and the wealthy have on the Tories (and the media).
Political funding of parties has to come evenly from right across the electorate if we want to strengthen democracy. Political parties are essential components of democracy and they only need a relatively small amount of funding in comparison to total government expenditure. Less than 0.0002% of current government expenditure (£590bn) or 0.00008% of annual GDP (£0.1bn out of £1,200bn). This £100m a year would probably be the most cost effective spend of tax payers money ever. As the Power Inquiry (pdf) recommendation no. 20 puts it - each individual voter would decide on the ballot paper which party receives this money (or to withold it altogether). The money would go to the local party NOT the central organisation and this would give incentive for local parties to win every vote.
The other thing we need to do is open up competition between the parties. We cannot carry on with the current oligopoly of two and a half parties. Voters need more choice than just a Labour led or Tory led government. The low turnout suggests they want neither party, but they know our electoral system will waste their vote because minor parties get no reward until they become the largest minority, so have little chance to build their vote.
Only competition brought about by proportional representation will improve both Labour and the Tory parties as they have to scrap for every vote with a selection of other parties. But it seems both parties are more than happy with the status quo. The Tory party has no internal democracy and Labour is heading the same way. This must be resisted because Labour is the only party that will bring us PR and hence true democracy.