globalisation, national sovereignty, infrastructure, inequality, environment, the state of the economy, the Iraq war or 42 days detention, it is the strength of democratic rule itself that protects the most vulnerable in society. Get democracy right and everything else will follow.
The dysfunctional liberal (mixed capitalist and socialist) democracies of the West triumphed over the undemocratic socialism of the East precisely because the West was more democratic and therefore more efficient.
The height of intellectual endeavour was probably reached in Scandanavia in the late seventies. It is those democratic mixed economies that leaned towards socialism the most that have the highest quality of life, the least inequality, the strongest economies and infrastructure, and the best environmental protection. They also have the most democratic constitutions with powerful local government and representative, more proportional, electoral systems. This is no coincidence.
The increasing lack of democracy within the Labour party has brought the demise of new Labour and culminated in the disaster of Gordon Brown as leader. And this lack of democracy in our political parties is what makes Cameron and Osbourne and the rest of the Tories a bigger threat than Thatcher. It is already set in Tory manifesto stone that broadcast impartiality will be scrapped and that electoral boundaries will become even more arbitrary in the drive to increase Tory presence in parliament (so much for the mythical 'constituency link'?). We already elect governments with 55% of the seats on 35% of the vote. As turnout falls expect Tory governments elected on even less than the 1 in 5 support of the electorate that Labour now gets.
Political party membership has been decimated - but not the power of the big two political parties. Even less people now dominate our local and national governance and inevitably it is the charlatans and the careerists that are the least likely to leave party politics. As our political parties become dominated by vacuous elitists expect our politics to become even more vague and distant from the electorate.
For good or bad, the Labour party remains the only left-of-centre vehicle that can make the democratic change we so desperately need. I implore people on the left to join the Labour party so we can reclaim it. Without these decent people lost to the Greens, Lib Dems and no party, it is a much harder task. The Lib Dem leadership will always blow hot and cold on left issues and the Greens are many decades (if ever) aways from any real power (even if they did replace Labour - with the left split the Greens would soon face the same problems). It is much easier to change the Labour party than overcome the inertia of party allegiance.