Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

‘Only a Bold Vision from Labour Will Restore Any Faith in Our Broken Politics’

Jennifer Nadel, co-founder of Compassion in Politics, argues that Westminster’s dysfunctional system under a potential Labour government could leave the door open to far-right politics in the years ahead

Labour Leader Keir Starmer with student nurses and trainee medics on the 2024 General Election campaign trail. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA/Alamy

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Are you thinking, what I’m thinking? That ‘change’ is an ironic slogan for a party that seems to be offering, if not more of the same, then at best a more humane version of what we’ve been getting to date. Don’t get me wrong, that’s badly needed but change that ain’t.

Fiscal prudence without a radical vision and moral courage is Labour just restacking the deck chairs more neatly and ignoring the iceberg ahead.  

If you are voting for the first time on 4 July, you will have seen austerity,  global climate change, a pandemic, the mass slaughter of children and war. Why would you engage in a political process that has failed to work on the biggest issues of our time, unless you were seeing something genuinely different on offer?

We need leadership that is ahead of the curve not bobbing around, trying to stay upright in extractive capitalism’s wake, and leaving it up to millionaires themselves to take out adverts to say they should be taxed more. We also need a way of doing politics that allows our leaders to place our nation’s long-term needs above its own short-term survival. 

This election isn’t yet won. But, in meeting after meeting, I hear talk of the need to think about the election that will follow in 2029. How can we guard against a Trumpian far-right Conservative Party seizing power at the next election when the economy and world events scupper Labour’s chance of a second term?   

Well, here’s a starter for ten.

The Spectacle of Impunity: Phone-Hacking Cover-Up Claims Cross the Atlantic

With news that senior Murdoch executives now face a civil trial, Peter Jukes looks back on a decade of deceit

Our current way of doing politics isn’t working. It has led us to the position we are in now: a  divided nation that, despite its wealth, allows millions to go hungry; a political system that is toxic and has lost the confidence of the public; and a failure to tackle the existential crises that fray our mental resilience and fuel our collective mental health crisis.

I’ve spent the last month interviewing politicians about their mental health for my BBC Radio 4 documentary Broken Politicians, Broken Politics and their testimonies from across the benches make clear that, unless we change how we do politics, our democracy is under threat from its own failure to modernise.

Old Politics has failed the people it professes to serve. It’s time for a re-set and to create space for a New Politics. One that allows for collaboration and co-operation. One where parties are able to work together to forge solutions to the poly-crises we face. One in which leaders can say ‘I don’t know’, or ‘tell me more’, or ‘you may be right’. And one that doesn’t drive the empathetic from the political space.

Will Labour take up that challenge?

In an off-the-record briefing, a Shadow minister recently told a group of us that the party wants big ideas and wants to make a difference – but it just can’t cost anything.

Here’s one that doesn’t need to cost a lot: fix our broken political system.

We can’t get good outcomes from a broken system. Fixing our political system is accessible, low-hanging fruit for an incoming government. It is meaningful change that doesn’t need to break the bank.

It will create the space for what must come after. A shift to a caring economy that prizes wellbeing above over-consumption; a defence system built on creating peace not waging war; a political class that can place doing the right thing above expediency and short-term wins; a recognition that values abide while preferences are infinitely vulnerable to the sorcery of marketeers and the seduction of charismatic leaders.

We need to  stop pretending that Westminster can be run on a set of principles that are utterly unenforceable. The extent to which dysfunctional, binary, toxic practices are normalised is staggering.

Our First Past The Post voting system should be consigned to the history books, no matter the benefits to an incoming government with a large majority. Citizens assemblies should be used and then acted upon. Lived experience must help shape policy and we should have a no harm oath for politicians that enshrines their duty to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in society, as well as their adherence to the Nolan Principles.  

Our archaic and patriarchal traditions need to be replaced with best workplace practices. Whipping and Punch-and-Judy style debates need to be consigned to the past, where they belong.     


Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Members of Parliament should no longer sit in tribal blocks but next to neighbours from different parties. A quick note to Mr/Ms Speaker: this could happen from day one of a new Parliament. Walls need to be broken down not reinforced.

Modern language should be used (I can’t believe it’s even necessary to suggest this).  Electronic voting should be the norm. Job shares allowed. An independent HR service introduced to deal with endemic bullying, harassment, and abuse of power as well as to provide psychological support to politicians and staff acting in an increasingly toxic and dangerous environment. 

Codes should be statutory and enforceable. Private Members Bills should have a genuine chance of becoming law. There should be a duty of candour on elected officials, and deliberate deception should be punished by law as it is in almost every other workplace.  

If Keir Starmer wants to restore trust in politics, Labour needs to be bold and visible. Tinkering won’t work. It will look like a tired re-run unless it changes the set as well as the cast.

If voters see Prime Minister’s Questions continuing in the same manner, they will rightly read it as more of the same: a broken politics that delivers broken promises and has its end built in from the beginning – a pendulum swing in the other direction.

The cost of these fixes in economic terms would be minimal, but the benefits would be  huge. Let this not be a fixer-upper government. Let change not mean a few daubs of paint on extractive capitalism’s worst excesses. And let it not mean a few tweaks to Westminster’s abusive and dysfunctional system.

Jennifer Nadel is a journalist, co-founder of Compassion in Politics, and part of the Common Sense Policy Group, which has co-authored ‘Act Now: A Vision for a Better Future and a New Social Contract’, which is available to pre-order here

Written by

This article was filed under
, ,