Starmer Accosted at Labour Conference by People Demand Democracy
Probably the bright spot of the entire conference came when a protestor interrupted Sir Keir Starmer’s keynote address at the Labour conference this week, providing one of the gathering’s few galvanizing moments. After sprinkling Glitter the heckler shouted “True democracy is citizen-led” before being removed by security.
The outburst drew attention to growing discontent with the state of British democracy. The heckler represented the group People Demand Democracy, which accuses the two main parties of perpetuating a “democratic deficit.”
In open letters addressed to both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, “People Demand Democracy” highlights the pressing issue of Britain’s democratic deficit. They stress that the current political system is ill-equipped to address the nation’s entrenched divisions and challenges such as poverty, inequality, health, job insecurity, and climate crisis.
The group advocates for two key reforms: a fair, proportional voting system for Westminster elections and the establishment of a permanent, legally binding national House of Citizens, selected through a democratic lottery. They cite widespread public support for these changes and the Labour Party’s endorsement of proportional representation at their 2022 conference.
The letters call on both party leaders to commit to holding new national elections with proportional voting and creating a House of Citizens within six months of taking office. Failure to do so by September 30th would lead to “People Demand Democracy” taking proportionate actions to make their message heard.
The letters emphasise the need for unity, tangible action, and courageous leadership in addressing the democratic deficit and invite both parties to engage in a dialogue on this vital matter.
Neither Labour nor the Tories have responded to the September 30 deadline set in the letter.
We are People Demand Democracy.— People Demand Democracy (@peopledemanddem) October 10, 2023
We demand a fair proportional voting system and a permanent legally-binding national House of Citizens, selected by democratic lottery to tackle the major crises facing the UK: inequality, corrupt politics, climate and so on.#LabourConference23 pic.twitter.com/HPO4gQgAJa
The high-profile disruption increased exposure for these demands. Though downplayed by Starmer, it highlighted his reluctance to pursue meaningful democratic reforms. Critics suggest Starmer prioritises regaining power over fixing Britain’s broken political system.
Some also questioned security lapses that allowed the breach. But the heckler’s non-violent message caused less concern than the poor optics of suppressing legitimate peaceful protest.
The incident encapsulates a wider mood of frustration with politics-as-usual. Westminster often seems remote from citizens’ real problems. Many feel excluded by archaic institutions that reward entrenched interests over the broader public good.
While details remain contentious, the protest clearly touched a nerve. With engagement plummeting, business-as-usual politics provokes rising anger. Calls for systemic change find an increasingly receptive audience.
Establishment parties ignore this thirst for democratic renewal at their peril. Clinging to legacy models risks driving more citizens to alternative movements promising radical reform. The heckler gave voice to those demanding a new path. The question now is whether anyone in power will listen.