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Predicting Winners and Losers in the August 2022 Poll: The Numbers Game

7 min read.

In most counties, the leading alliance is now pretty clear to all but diehard supporters. The result of the August 2022 presidential race will be determined by the size of the winner’s majority, so turnout will play a huge role in the outcome.

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Predicting Winners and Losers in the August 2022 Poll: The Numbers Game
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With matchmaking almost complete, the Kenyan political dance now takes on a more structured character as we head into election season proper between April and August 2022.

With the collapse of the One Kenya Alliance, we now know that, nationwide, it is a two-horse presidential race between William Ruto and Raila Odinga, each backed by supporting alliances, but with Raila’s Azimio la Umoja also backed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the state apparatus. The contortions required for an incumbent president to support his strongest opponent to succeed him destroyed the ruling Jubilee party during 2020-21. This leaves a rump Jubilee allied with ODM and 20+ other “Azimio-friendly” parties facing the recently formed Kenya Kwanza alliance, centred on Deputy President Ruto’s UDA.

The two alliances are now neck and neck overall, with most models giving both candidates between 7.5 million and 8.5 million votes each, leaving the result open and subject to influence from other factors, including the financial resources of the two alliances, state support and simple luck.

With the onboarding of Luhya leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula to his new coalition during February, Ruto has strengthened his national credentials and gained a strong base in the Western region, but benefited less than he had hoped nationwide, as a substantial element in FORD-Kenya and the ANC defected to Azimio. Raila’s Azimio alliance has lost most of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru, but elsewhere has strengthened its position in the last six months, picking up support in northern Kenya and the coast and recently winning over a very reluctant Kalonzo Musyoka. He was the last big player left in the now collapsed OKA alliance.

Whether Raila can keep Musyoka—who now controls maybe 50 per cent of the Kamba vote—is less certain, as Musyoka is openly angry and prepared for trouble. But this last-minute shotgun marriage gives the ramshackle Jubilee-ODM-Wiper-KANU alliance a narrow majority (52-53 per cent) in the National Assembly once more (which the government had lost for a few weeks in February).

The diagram below shows the political allegiances of the elected MPs in the national assembly as of early March 2022, after Musyoka finally declared for Azimio. Orange indicates Azimio (for now, as they have not decided on a colour as a brand) and Yellow for Kenya Kwanza (the colour of the UDA, its largest component).

A square represents one elected MP. There are also 47 elected women representatives and 12 party-nominated MPs (not shown). They follow a similar pattern but with a slightly greater leaning towards Azimio as a result of the vulnerability of nominated MPs to party recall.

My calculations show that Azimio has the backing of 150 elected MPs while Kenya Kwanza has 134, with six having refused to declare their stand or flip-flopping so fast their position cannot be determined.

Both presidential candidates have failed to nominate a running mate as deputy president, holding back from making that choice for as long as possible, until defection from their alliances by spurned partners becomes impossible. Both have onboarded very senior allies (Luhya Mudavadi, Kamba Musyoka) without formally naming them as deputy, leaving the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru vote still potentially swingable by a strong choice of DP by one or both alliances.

This last-minute shotgun marriage gives the ramshackle Jubilee-ODM-Wiper-KANU alliance a narrow majority.

In truth though, there are few senior Kikuyu, Meru, Embu or Mbeere with the mettle to become Deputy President to either candidate. Martha Karua is, in my view, the best Kikuyu candidate for Raila, but they have a difficult history together and she commands respect more than she does votes. Peter Munya might work for the Meru but not elsewhere. Peter Kenneth is a safe pair of hands but he is more of technocrat than a rabble-rouser. For Ruto, none of the floated names (Wahome, Gachagua) makes real sense. They are not national-level players, and many have skeletons bursting out of their closets. Susan Kihika in Nakuru might be my pick (a female DP is a distinct possibility) but she is still new and the Nakuru governorship is hers for the taking so a 50-50 chance at DP might be less attractive than a definite governorship. Anne Waiguru would be another option, but again, she has a solid chance of re-election and she does not have the common touch. Justin Muturi would do, but he doesn’t set hearts alight. Mudavadi would motivate the Luhya more than Muturi would sustain the Kikuyu.

At the county level, the model below shows my prediction as to which alliance and presidential candidate will (based on multiple factors) win the presidential election in that county. Where opinion polls have been (properly) conducted, those numbers have been incorporated.

 

As we can see, the two alliances are again neck and neck, with a fractional advantage for Kenya Kwanza. In most counties, the leading alliance is now pretty clear to all but diehard supporters. The final result will be determined by the size of the winner’s majority, so turnout will play a huge role in the outcome.

Another huge influence on constituency and county elections (but not the presidential election) will be “friendly fire”, i.e. split votes between different candidates from the same alliance. Both alliances have decided not to hold cross-alliance primaries, leaving multiple candidates from the same alliance competing for the seat in different parties. This was the bane of the pro-Kibaki parties in 2007 and is likely to have the same effect on Azimio. Real three- and four-horse races will result across at least a fifth of the country (with Jubilee candidates standing against ODM and DAP-K candidates for example, or UDA, ANC and FORD-Kenya competing against each other), making the result in a first-past-the post system hard to predict. But assuming no upsets, we can predict that UDA and ODM will be the largest parties in the next parliament, and UDA will be the largest, as it is the dominant player in the Kenya Kwanza coalition everywhere except among the Luhya, while support for Azimio is more evenly spread between constituent parties.

Regional models do not tell the whole story, however, for in presidential elections some counties are more equal than others. At the extremes, Nairobi has 2.5 million voters, while tiny Lamu has 80,000. Presidentially, therefore, Nairobi’s dominance is worth 30 times the dominance of Lamu. Historically, Kenyan elections have been about many things, including real issues (corruption, economic reform, ethnic clashes, multi-party democracy), personal loyalties and alliances and loyalty to party (although the parties change every five years), but underlying those have been consistent ethnic community preferences. To use a pithy phrase coined in 1992, that election was about “bribe and tribe”, and while the situation has changed in the last 30 years, that characterisation is still familiar to many.

In truth though, there are few senior Kikuyu with the mettle to become Deputy President to either candidate.

In the last two general elections, an ethnically-based predictive model—looking at the population of each ethnic group, registration, predicted turnout and estimated voting intention for each community—proved extremely accurate in predicting overall results. Whether the turnout and voting preference predictions will be accurate this time cannot be confirmed until the day, and outcomes can change with events, such as unexpected selections of Deputy Presidents, wars, disease, sudden deaths, major defections, blatant election rigging or catastrophic faux pas by leading candidates. But it did well in 2013 and 2017.

Overall, my current national presidential model is based on the input that there are between 51 and 52 million Kenyans today, of which roughly 30 million are aged 18 and over. We know the ethnicity of these people in 2019. Of the 30 million, we know that 22 million have registered to vote, 13 per cent more than in 2017. But we also know that voting registration rates have historically differed between communities and have varied depending on whether they have ethnic “skin in the game”.

Looking at historical registration rates and turnout, and current registration by constituency, gives us an estimate of the number of actual voters in 2022—I predict between 16 and 17 million. We do not know the ethnicity of those registered voters, above all because the government has failed to release the census results regarding ethnicity at the district or county level since 1989. But we have 1989 and can make a good guess at the changes since. Adding to the mix the predicted voting preferences of each community, one can then estimate the votes for each candidate.

There are four important notes to this model though. First, for this election, William Ruto has run an effective grassroots, economy-based campaign, the first true national populist campaign since Matiba in 1992, openly critical of the wealthy elites and appealing to the poor and marginalised of every ethnicity (most Kenyans). While senior politicians and most elites have turned against him, the poor have not; his “hustler versus dynasties” campaign has given them hope. I therefore predict that in this election we shall see some cross-ethnic economic voting. I think that Ruto will poll 25 per cent and above in places like Ukambani (if Musyoka does not become Raila’s running mate), Kisii and at the (Christian) Coast even when much of the political establishment is with Azimio.

The two alliances are again neck and neck, with a fractional advantage for Kenya Kwanza.

Religion is another cross-ethnic political theme, stronger than in most previous polls, with Ruto explicitly branding himself as a Christian leader and receiving the support of grassroots religious groups in Christian areas but correspondingly finding it heavy going in Muslim areas of northern Kenya and the Coast.

Thirdly, this model does not take material election rigging into account. Top-up voting in the homelands of the two candidates is common (whether you like it or not) and is to some extent factored in. Material rigging (entirely faked results) is different—it can produce totally unpredictable results. But the Kenyan courts have become increasingly assertive on such matters and the risks of rigging were made evident with the annulment of the 2017 presidential result (even though no rigging was proven). Whoever wins, I’m sure the other will petition.

Finally, this assumes both alliances have the financial resources to finish the campaign. Both have big donors, and both are seeking funds from home and abroad. But Azimio has the dubious honour of having close connections to the state apparatus and its opportunities to free up funds. On the other hand, Ruto has personally bankrolled an insurgent campaign for two years, and even his deep pockets must one day run dry.

Putting all this together, the result of my current model (all other things staying equal) is a narrow Ruto victory of 8.3 million to Raila’s 8 million (51 per cent-49 per cent). But this is not cast in stone. A 5 per cent error in my prediction of the Kikuyu vote (estimated at 71 per cent Ruto to 29 per cent Raila in my model) changes that result to a narrow Azimio win. In one sense, it is all to play for. However, in another, given the country’s violent political history and the endless disputes over election rigging, such a narrow victory for either alliance is unlikely to be a comfortable outcome for Kenya.

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Charles Hornsby is the author of Kenya; A History since Independence and lives in Ireland.

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Education in Rwanda: A Long Walk to the Knowledge Economy

If Rwanda is to attain its stated ambition to become of a middle-income country by 2035 driven by the knowledge economy, then it must inject significant investments in the education and related sectors.

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Rwanda has shown commitment to bring improvements to its education sector. The development of Human capital that involves the enhancement of the education and health sectors was one of the main pillars of Rwanda’s development programme launched in 2000 to transform the country into a middle income state driven by the knowledge economy by 2020. Many developed countries joined in to financially support Rwanda to fulfil its development ambitions.

But while Rwanda did not meet its target to transform into a middle-income state by 2020, it has nevertheless made progress in the education sector that should be recognised. The country has now near-universal access to primary education with net enrolment rates of 98 per cent. There are also roughly equal numbers of boys and girls in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in Rwanda. Compared to other sub-Saharan African countries, Rwanda has made great improvements in the education sector based on the gains made in primary school gross enrolment, out-of-school and retention rates and considering that the country came out of a genocidal civil war in the 1990s. Those of us living and travelling across the country can also see that the government of Rwanda has built more schools across the country to address congestion in classrooms.

However, education in Rwanda is faced with serious challenges which, if not addressed, the country will not attain its ambition to become a middle-income by 2035 and a high-income by 2050. The World Bank’s comparison with middle- and high-income countries, to whose ranks Rwanda aspires to join, shows that Rwanda lags far behind in primary and lower secondary school completion levels.

The gains made in education are not equally distributed across Rwanda. There are, for instance, wide disparities in lower secondary education by income and urban–rural residence. Whereas lower secondary school gross enrolment ratio level is 82 per cent in urban areas, it is only 44 per cent in rural areas. Moreover, transition rates between primary and lower secondary education are 53 per cent in urban areas, and 33 per cent in rural areas. School completion is 52 per cent among the richest quintile while it is 26 per cent among the poorest. Any future development strategy is unlikely to succeed if it does not provide basic equality of opportunity for all in Rwanda.

The standard of education in Rwanda is another major challenge. At the end of Grade 3, 85 per cent of Rwandan students were rated “below comprehension” in a recent reading test, and one in six could not answer any reading comprehension question. In my view, the quality of education has been partly affected by the abrupt changes in the language of instruction that have taken place without much planning since 2008.

Any future development strategy is unlikely to succeed if it does not provide basic equality of opportunity for all in Rwanda.

Learning levels in basic education remain low in Rwanda.  Children in the country can expect to complete 6.5 years of pre-primary and basic education by the age of 18 years. However, when this is adjusted for learning it translates to only about 3.8 years, implying that children in Rwanda have a learning gap of 2.7 years. This is a concern.

Education in Rwanda is also impended by high levels of malnutrition for children under 5 years. Although there have been improvements over time, malnutrition levels remain significantly high at 33 per cent. Malnutrition impedes cognitive development, educational attainment, and lifetime earnings. It also deprives the economy of quality human capital that is critical to Rwanda attaining its economic goals and sustaining its economic gains. In 2012, Rwanda lost 11.5 per cent of GDP as a result of child undernutrition.

Because of low learning levels and high levels of malnutrition in children under 5 years, Rwanda has consistently ranked below average on the World Bank’s Human Capital index since 2018, the year the index was first published. HCI measures which countries are best at mobilising the economic and professional potential of their citizens.

If Rwanda is to develop the competent workforce needed to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy and bring it into the ranks of middle-income states, the government must put significant public spending in basic education. This has not been the case over the past decades. According to the World Bank, Rwanda’s public spending on primary education has been significantly lower than the average for sub-Saharan African countries with similar coverage of primary school level as Rwanda. This low spending on primary education has translated into relatively modest pay for teachers and low investment in their professional development which in turn affects the provision of quality education in Rwanda. The government recently increased teachers’ salary but the increment is being eroded by, among other things, food price inflation in Rwanda.

Malnutrition impedes cognitive development, educational attainment, and lifetime earnings.

Going forward, Rwanda’s spending on education needs to be increased and allocated to improving standards. Considering that the underlying cause of the high rate of malnourishment in children is food insecurity, the government needs to spend more on the agriculture sector. This sector employs 70 per cent of the labour force but has received only 10 per cent of total public investment. Public investment in Rwanda has in the past gone to the development of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions sector rather than towards addressing pressing scarcities. This approach must be reviewed.

Increasing public expenditure in education and connected sectors should also be combined with strengthening accountability in the government institutions responsible for promoting the quality of education in basic schools and in promoting food security and livelihoods in Rwanda. This is because not a year goes by without the office of the Rwanda auditor general reporting dire inefficiencies in these institutions.

Strengthening institutional accountability can be achieved if the country adapts its consensual democracy by opening up the political space to dissenting voices. Doing so would surely enhance the effectiveness of checks and balances across institutions in Rwanda, including in the education sector, and would enable the country to efficiently reach its development targets.

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No Imperialist Peoples, Only Imperialist States

Adam Mayer praises a new collection, Liberated Texts, which includes rediscovered books on Africa’s socialist intellectual history and political economy, looking at the startling, and frequently long ignored work of Walter Rodney, Karim Hirji, Issa Shivji, Dani Wadada Nabudere, A. M. Babu and Makhan Singh.

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No Imperialist Peoples, Only Imperialist States
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Liberated Texts is a magnificent, essential, exciting tome that feels like a bombshell. This incredibly rich collection is a selection that is deep, wide, as well as entertaining. The book focuses on twenty-one volumes from the previous one hundred years, with a geographical range from the UK, the US, Vietnam, Korea, the Peoples Republic of China, the Middle East, Ireland, Malaysia, Africa (especially East Africa), Europe, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union, focusing on books that are without exception, foundational.

The collection is nothing less than a truth pill: in composite form, the volume corrects world history that Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States offered for the sterile, historical curriculum on domestic (US) history. The volume consists of relatively short reviews (written by a wide collection of young and old academics and activists from every corner of the globe) but together they reflect such a unified vision that I would recommend Liberated Texts as compulsory reading for undergraduate students (as well as graduates!) Although the text is a broad canvas it speaks to our age (despite some of the reviewed book having been written in the 1920s).

Each review is by default, a buried tresure. The writer of this very review is a middle-aged Hungarian, which means that some of the works and authors discussed were more familiar to me than they would be to others. For example, Anton Makarenko’s name was, when the author grew up in the People’s Republic of Hungary, a household word. Makarenko’s continued relevance for South America and the oppressed everywhere, as well as his rootedness in the revolutionary transformations of the Soviet experiment, are dealt with here marvellosly by Alex Turrall (p. 289). In loving detail Turrall also  discusses his hero the pedagogue Sukhomlinsky’s love for Stalinist reforms of Soviet education (p. 334).

There is one locus, and one locus only, where death is given reign, perhaps even celebrated: in a Palestinian case (p. 133) the revolutionary horizons are firmly focused on the past, not on any kind of future. The entire problematic of Israeli society’s recent ultra right-wing turn (a terrible outcome from the left’s point of view) is altogther missing here. Yet it is difficult to fault the authors or editors with this (after all, they painstakingly included an exemplary anti-Nazi Palestinian fighter in the text, p. 152) but it might be in order to challenge a fascination with martyrdom as a revolutionary option on the radical left.

In every other aspect, Liberated Texts enlightens without embarrassment, and affirms life itself. Imperialism is taken on in the form of unresolved murders of Chinese researchers in the United States as a focus (p. 307), and in uncovering the diabolical machinations of the peer-review system – racist, classist, prestige-driven as it is (p. 305).

The bravery of this collection is such that we find few authors within academia’s tenure track: authors are either emeriti, tenured, very young academics, or those dedicated to political work: actual grassroots organizers, comrades at high schools, or as language teachers. This has a very beneficial effect on the edited volume as an enterprise at the forefront of knowledge, indeed of creating new knowledge. Career considerations are absent entirely from this volume, in which thankfully even the whiff of mainstream liberalism is anathema.

I can say with certainty regarding the collection’s Africanist chapters that certain specialists globally, on African radical intellectual history, have been included: Leo Zeilig, Zeyad el-Nabolsy, Paul O’Connell, Noosim Naimasiah and Corinna Mullin all shed light on East African (as well as Caribbean) socialist intellectual history in ways that clear new paths in a sub-discipline that is underfunded, purposely confined to obscurity, and which lacks standard go-to syntheses especially in the English language (Hakim Adi’s celebrated history on pan-Africanism and communism stops with the 1950s, and other works are in the making).

Walter Rodney, Karim Hirji, Issa Shivji, Dani Wadada Nabudere, A. M. Babu, Makhan Singh are the central authors dealt with here. Rodney is enjoying a magnificent and much deserved renaissance (but this collection deals with a lost collection of Rodney’s 1978 Hamburg lectures by Zeilig!) Nabolsy shows us how Nyerere’s Marxist opposition experienced Ujamaa, and Tanzanian ’socialism’. Nabudere – a quintessential organic intellectual as much as Rodney –  is encountered in praxis as well as through his thought and academic achievements in a chapter by Corinna Mullin. Nabudere emerges as a towering figure whose renaissance might be in the making right at this juncture. Singh makes us face the real essence of British imperialism. Nabudere, Babu and even Hirji’s achievements in analysing imperialism and its political economy are all celebrated in the collection.

Where Shivji focuses on empire in its less violent aspect (notably NGOs and human rights discourse) powerfully described by Paul O’Connell, Naimasiah reminds us that violence had been as constitutive to Britain’s empire, as it has been to the Unites States (in Vietnam or in Korea). An fascinating chapter in the collection is provided by Marion Ettinger’s review of Richard Boyle’s Mutiny in Vietnam, an account based entirely on journalism, indeed impromptu testimony, of mutinous US soldiers tired of fighting for Vietnam’s landlord class.

Many readers of this anthology will identify with those veterans (since the collection appears in the English language) perhaps more than with East Asia’s magnificent, conscious fighters also written about in the book. Even in armies of the imperialist core, humanity shines through. Simply put, there are no imperialist peoples, only imperialist states.

Zeilig’s nuanced take on this important matter is revealed in Rodney’s rediscovered lectures. Also, the subtlety of class analysis in relation to workers versus peasants, and the bureacratic bourgeoisie profiting from this constellation (p. 219) brings to mind the contradiction that had arguably brought down Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s anti-imperialist president who nevertheless found himself opposing working class demands. Rodney’s politics in Guyana invited the same fate as Sankara, as we know.

Nabolsy’s review on Hirji’s The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher touches on very interesting issues of Rodney’s role especially in the context of Ujamaa and Nyerere’s idiosyncratic version of African socialism. Nabolsy appreciates Nyerere efforts but analyses his politics with great candour: Ujamaa provided national unification, but failed to undermine Tanzania’s dependency in any real sense. The sad realization of the failure of Tanzania’s experience startles the reader with its implications for the history of African socialism.

On an emotional and personal level, I remain most endeared by the Soviet authors celebrated in this text. So Makarenko and Sukhomlinsky are both Soviet success stories and they demonstrate that this combination of words in no oxymoron, and neither is it necessarily, revisionist mumbo-jumbo. Their artificial removal from their historical context (which had happened many times over in Makarenko’s case, and in one particular account when it comes to Sukhomlinsky) are fought against by the author with Leninist gusto.

Sukhomlinsky had not fought against a supposedly Stalinist education reform: he built it, and it became one of the most important achievements of the country by the 1960s due partly to his efforts. The former educational pioneer did not harm children: he gave them purpose, responsibility, self-respect, and self-esteem. The implication of Sukhomlinsky and Makarenko is that true freedom constructs its own order, and that freedom ultimately thrives on responsibility, and revolutionary freedom.

As this collection is subtitled Volume One, it is my hope and expectation that this shall be the beginning of a series of books, dealing with other foundational texts, and even become a revolutionary alternative to The London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books, both of which still demonstrate how much readers crave review collections. Volumes like Liberated Texts might be the very future of book review magazines in changed form. A luta continua!

This article was first published by ROAPE.

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We Must Democratize the Economy

In the UK, prices for basic goods are soaring while corporations rake in ever-bigger profits. The solution, Jeremy Corbyn argues, is to bring basic resources like energy, water, railways, and the postal service into democratic public ownership.

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Jeremy Corbyn: We Must Democratize the Economy
Photo: Chatham House, London
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On Thursday, December 15, the Royal College of Nursing went on strike for the first time in their 106-year history. Understaffed, underpaid, and overworked, tens of thousands of National Health Service (NHS) nurses walked out after being denied decent, livable pay rises. Hailed as heroes one year, forced to use food banks the next, nurses’ wages have fallen more than £3,000 in real terms since 2010; three in four now say they work overtime to meet rising energy bills.

People will remember 2022 as the year that the Conservative Party plunged this country into political turmoil. However, behind the melodrama is a cost-of-living crisis that has pushed desperate people into destitution and the so-called middle classes to the brink. We should remember 2022 as the year in which relative child poverty reached its highest levels since 2007 and real wage growth reached its lowest levels in half a century. (Average earnings have shrunk by £80 a month and a staggering £180 a month for public sector workers.) These are the real scandals.

For some MPs, this was the year they kick-started their reality TV careers. For others, this was the year they told their children they couldn’t afford any Christmas presents. For energy companies, it was the year they laughed all the way to the bank; in the same amount of time it took for Rishi Sunak to both lose and then win a leadership contest, Shell returned £8.2 billion in profit. SSE, a multinational energy company headquartered in Scotland, saw their profits triple in just one year. Profits across the world’s seven biggest oil firms rose to almost £150 billion.

Tackling the cost-of-living crisis means offering an alternative to our existing economic model — a model that empowers unaccountable companies to profit off the misery of consumers and the destruction of our earth. And that means defending a value, a doctrine, and a tradition that unites us all: democracy.

Labour recently announced “the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people.” I welcomed the renewal of many of the policies from the manifesto in 2019: abolishing the House of Lords and handing powers to devolved governments, local authorities, and mayors. These plans should work hand in hand, to ensure any second chamber reflects the geographical diversity of the country. If implemented, this would decentralize a Whitehall-centric model of governance that wastes so much of this country’s regional talent, energy, and creativity.

However, devolution, decentralization, and democracy are not just matters for the constitution. They should characterize our economy too. Regional governments are demanding greater powers for the same reason an unelected second chamber is patently arcane: we want a say over the things that affect our everyday lives. This, surely, includes the way in which our basic resources are produced and distributed.

From energy to water and from rail to mail, a small number of companies monopolize the production of basic resources to the detriment of the workers they exploit and the customers they fleece. We rely on these services, and workers keep them running, but it is remote chief executive officers and unaccountable shareholders who decide how they are run and profit off their provision. Would it not make more sense for workers and consumers to decide how to run the services they provide and consume?

As prices and profits soar, it’s time to put basic resources like energy, water, rail, and mail back where they belong: in public hands. Crucially, this mold of public ownership would not be a return to 1940s-style patronage-appointed boards but a restoration of civic accountability. Water, for example, should be a regional entity controlled by consumers, workers, and local authorities, and work closely with environmental agencies on water conservation, sewage discharges, the preservation of coastlines, and the protection of our natural world. This democratic body would be answerable to the public, and the public alone, rather than to the dividends of distant hedge funds.

Bringing energy, water, rail, and mail into democratic public ownership is about giving local people agency over the resources they use. It’s about making sure these resources are sustainably produced and universally distributed in the interests of workers, communities, and the planet.

Beyond key utilities, a whole host of services and resources require investment, investment that local communities should control. That’s why, in 2019, we pledged to establish regional investment banks across the country, run by local stakeholders who can decide — collectively — how best to direct public investment. Those seeking this investment would not make their case with reference to how much profit they could make in private but how much they could benefit the public as a whole.

To democratize our economy, we need to democratize workplaces too. We can end workplace hierarchies and wage inequalities by giving workers the right to decide, together, how their team operates and how their pay structures are organized. If we want to kick-start a mass transfer of power, we need to redistribute wealth from those who hoard it to those who create it.

Local people know the issues facing them, and they know how to meet them better than anyone else. If we want to practice what we preach, then the same principles of democracy, devolution, and decentralization must apply to our own parties as well. Local party members, not party leaders, should choose their candidates, create policy, and decide what their movement stands for.

Only a democratic party can provide the necessary space for creative and transformative solutions to the crises facing us all. In a world where the division between rich and poor is greater than ever before, our aim should be to unite the country around a more hopeful alternative — an alternative that recognizes how we all rely on each other to survive and thrive.

This alternative is not some abstract ideal to be imagined. It is an alternative that workers are fighting for on the picket line. Even before the nurses went on strike, 2022 was a record-breaking year for industrial action. Striking workers are not just fighting for pay, essential as these demands are. They are fighting for a society without poverty, hunger, and inequality. They are fighting for a future that puts the interests of the community ahead of the greed of energy companies. They are fighting for us all.

Their collective struggle teaches us that democracy exists — it thrives — outside of Westminster. The government is trying its best to turn dedicated postal workers and railway workers into enemies of the general public — a general public that apparently also excludes university staff, bus drivers, barristers, baggage handlers, civil servants, ambulance drivers, firefighters, and charity workers. As the enormous scale of industrial action shows, striking workers are the general public. The year 2022 will go down in history, not as the year the Tories took the public for fools, but as the year the public fought back. United in their thousands, they are sending a clear message: this is what democracy looks like.

This article was first published by Progressive International

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