One cheer for Clive Lewis

He’s right about democratic reform. The only snag is he doesn’t believe in democracy.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Deputy Editor

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Clive Lewis has struggled to get his campaign for the Labour leadership off the ground. With the 2.30pm deadline for MP and MEP nominations looming, he is (at the time of writing) on a less-than-mighty four nominations – and one of those is from himself.

It’s easy to see why Lewis has struggled. First off, he is a longstanding Jeremy Corbyn ally and shadow cabinet member, but the higher-profile Rebecca Long-Bailey has already mopped up much of the left’s support.

More crucially, he was also one of the left of the party’s more passionate anti-Brexit campaigners. He voted against triggering Article 50, and quit the shadow cabinet over it. He set up the campaign group Love Socialism, Hate Brexit, despite that being a complete contradiction in terms. And he backed a second referendum – a policy that many in Labour now begrudgingly recognise cost them many of their heartland seats at the election.

Lewis was among those most deranged by Brexit. He even took part in a pile-on against pro-Brexit trade unionist Eddie Dempsey, of the RMT union, who he baselessly accused of being a ‘racist sympathiser’. Lewis was expelled from the RMT parliamentary group as a result.

Unsurprisingly, Lewis’s charm offensive in this campaign hasn’t been great, either. He has been forced in the past week to defend previous comments he made about Brexit being a ‘racist endeavour’ – which, to his credit I suppose, he has refused to backtrack on.

And if casually implying millions of the voters Labour needs to win back are racist wasn’t enough, he has also turned his ire on his colleagues. At his launch last week in Brixton, he said structural racism within the Parliamentary Labour Party might be part of the reason why he has struggled to pick up support.

As the past few years have shown us, spuriously calling people racist is not the surefire vote-winner some people seem to think it is. But this is a lesson Lewis seems almost defiantly unwilling to learn.

Still, it’s a bit of a shame that Lewis’s candidacy will most likely fall at the first hurdle. And not just because he has, in an increasingly puritanical Labour Party, a refreshingly un-PC streak: the New Statesman asked him ahead of the 2015 election if he was taking his victory for granted – he said that he could only really lose if he was ‘caught with my pants down behind a goat with Ed Miliband at the other end’.

Say what you will about Clive, he’s not dull.

More seriously, it’s a shame he won’t make the ballot because in his short-lived candidacy he has at least put the issue of democratic reform on the agenda: something that is crucial to grasp not just for the Labour Party, but for British politics in general.

In his leadership manifesto he calls for proportional representation and the abolition of the House of Lords. He has also floated the idea of a referendum on the future of the British monarchy, although he was oddly guarded about how he might vote in it when quizzed about it at the weekend.

And he’s dead right about all of this, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

As spiked has laid out in our programme for democratic reform, getting Brexit done (to coin a phrase) is just the first step in renewing and radicalising British democracy.

We need to get rid of the unelected Lords and introduce a more representative electoral system than first past the post: the system that, in 2015, meant UKIP, despite getting 1.5million more votes than the Liberal Democrats, returned just one MP to the Lib Dems’ eight.

Now, the snag with Clive Lewis making these kinds of arguments is that he doesn’t actually believe in democracy. His refusal to accept the Brexit vote shows that democratic decisions made by ordinary people are only acceptable if he agrees or can live with them.

He also wants to lower the voting age to 16 and introduce it to non-citizens, a move that not only undermines citizenship but also is a clear and cynical attempt to fiddle the franchise in the hopes it might boost support for parties and policies Lewis likes.

Still, this is all the more reason for the prospect of radical democratic reform to be discussed more in the mainstream, and for real democrats, in all parties and none, to reclaim that agenda from phoney radicals like Lewis. You can read spiked’s ideas on what we might do here.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Tim Wheeler

16th January 2020 at 3:32 pm

Excellent article.
My brother and I saw Lewis interviewed (I think Newsnight) and we were just laughing a just how barmy and self-destructive he was. If the thing that most concerns you is your race and how awful your fellow citizens are then (to use a technical term) YOU ARE FUCKED.

Tony In The Mysterious East

15th January 2020 at 9:56 pm

Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to read all the above comments yet. However, Calling out CL for being ‘undemocratic’ for wanting a 2nd referendum is spurious to say the least. A 2nd referendum would most certainy have been democratic. You may consider it immoral, but a public vote (if fairly run – i.e. without deliberate lies etc.) can be nothing but democratic.
No doubt you’ll have an explanation for how a system that delivers something like 5% (I haven’t checked the actual figure) more votes for Remain or 2nd Referendum supporting parties than for Leave supporting parties, can be called truly democratic when the victors continue to treat it as a 100% mandate for their nefarious plans.

jan mozelewski

16th January 2020 at 12:06 pm

As nothing in the history of humanity has ever had a ‘100% mandate’ then it seems we would be doomed to continually have votes which never were acted upon.
I can’t imagine there are any voters my age (nope…make that any people at all) who have not been on the downside of a public vote. Never mind being on the downside of a majority, many of us have been on the downside of votes where more votes were cast for the losing side. We just have to get on with it because thems the rules.
I really wonder if remoaners who constantly harp on like this…despite clear evidence that the public at large, including many who voted remain , are wearied of the repetition and find it tiresome in the extreme. It is rather like spending the entire season bemoaning a penalty decision in the opening match.

jan mozelewski

16th January 2020 at 12:11 pm

Missed a bit out….old fossil that i am….I should have said: I really wonder if remoaners who constantly harp on like this…despite clear evidence that the public at large, including many who voted remain , are wearied of the repetition and find it tiresome in the extreme…..have any concept of moving on whatsoever.

Ven Oods

15th January 2020 at 5:15 pm

Well, I suppose that, since he’s never going to win a vote except that in a safe Labour seat, what Clive wants or recommends is likely to remain neither here nor there.

Neil McCaughan

14th January 2020 at 5:06 pm

He was right about structural racism in the Labour Party. They assumed he was Jewish and he got just four votes.

delboy 21

14th January 2020 at 4:54 pm

I can usually agree with you Tom, but PR is a no go for me, rather have smaller constituencies and more MP’s than go down the route of permanently hung Parliaments with minority parties having too much say or even holding the balance of power.

Dean 61

13th January 2020 at 10:27 pm

Seriously, anyone establishing a group entitled “Love Socialism. Hate Brexit” has such a pathological lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of democracy and The horrors of 20th Century history that they should not be allowed to hold any sort of public office let alone leadership of a political party.

Marvin Jones

14th January 2020 at 2:03 pm

Limitations, pure and utter limitations of intellect, common sense and the ability to blame racism on all of their limitations. The reasons are much more simpler than we imagine.

Tom Helme

13th January 2020 at 7:06 pm

Spiked is quite right about many things but quite wrong about the first past of post system of voting. Ironically, PR would have ensured Brexit never happened because it specialises in producing hung parliaments. We had a referendum on it and it was rejected. Done.

Spiked is also struggling with republicanism and I can tell you, despite your editor’s enthusiasm, it won’t wash.

eli Bastenbury

13th January 2020 at 8:58 pm

Maybe Spiked meant that the House Of Lords should be PR.

jan mozelewski

13th January 2020 at 9:12 pm

I totally agree. I thought exactly the same when I read it. One only has to examine the totally UN-democratic credentials of many of those who have pushed for proportional representation….the UN-LibDems spring forcibly to mind. PR means we get the very same kind parliament as the EU ends up with….where little deals are done behind closed doors between parties with little or nothing in common. Another example is the ‘Jamaican’ parliament in Germany.

brent mckeon

14th January 2020 at 7:04 am

What about making the H of Ls a PR voted chamber. Divide Britain up into regions eg Wales, SW, greater London, Midlands, Northern, Scotland and N Ireland (but my preference would be the later to join Ireland proper) and have proportional per region, each region electing the same number of seats. As few as possible similar to the USA’s senate. Each region is equally represented, no big aggressive parties dominating and this body can be the ‘breaking/holding’ part of law making toning down the excesses of the H of P. Also give the whole country a taste of how PR works.

jan mozelewski

14th January 2020 at 12:10 pm

Dividing up into regions falls into the category of things that seem like a good idea at the time. It will make it even easier for some regions to be more equal that others… There is a reason protests in France seem to centre on Paris..just like London its the only place where things get noticed.

Steve Roberts

13th January 2020 at 6:17 pm

Slater gets this absolutely right ” Still, this is all the more reason for the prospect of radical democratic reform to be discussed more in the mainstream, and for real democrats, in all parties and none, to reclaim that agenda from phoney radicals like Lewis ”
Democracy in all its entirety needs thoroughly discussing, why we need it , how it relates to freedom, where does political power reside in a sovereign country, where does it presently reside and what do we need to remove to change that situation.
After the last 4 years the question of Democracy will not disappear, people will hopefully be more acutely aware of the implications of what all politicians and their parties do although the political class will continue to try to deceive and deny, in that they will not change.
What they will do is to learn the lessons of their antidemocratic exposure and try to find new ways to bury the will of the people, the CUP election of Johnson and the possibility that it could eventually mean the absorption and dilution, at best,of the democratic content of the referendum result been one example.
So vigilance is required, every manoeuvre and statement made will need to be unpicked and analysed as to its purpose, the Spiked demands for democratic radical reform should be the benchmark against which all others are compared because there will be lots of platitudes, that sound well meaning but have other purposes, and not just from the political class but other pretenders too.
Take the issue of the HOL, RLB, Lewis , TBP , some “radicals”even the CUP and so many others are floating the idea of reform of the HOL, all pretenders of democracy, playing to the gallery but none of them demand its abolition forthwith and permanently, they all in some form or another, even an elected one, insisting on some other checks and balance of the will of the people, our sovereign will, our universal suffrage as expressed by our representatives in the HOC.
In other words they simply want to reform the present restriction on our political power into another one that gives the appearance of democracy been enhanced, it would not, the HOL needs abolishing, we are sovereign and must not accept a check on our power from elsewhere, that’s the democratic content of the demand for abolition, nothing less will be acceptable, so who will take sides for democracy and who will want to sidetrack it down another path while the status quo remains unchallenged.
Which side are we on, these are the issues that will be posed to not just the defenders of the status quo but “radicals” too. Unpick, be vigilant and question everything , the election of the CUP is not a panacea to all the authoritarianism we face, possibly quite the opposite.

jan mozelewski

13th January 2020 at 9:23 pm

I have felt for some time that the Upper House needs to be peopled in the same way as a Jury. People, from all walks of life randomly summoned to do their duty for a fixed period of time. The expenses paid would be generous naturally. I think it would give people a chance to be directly part of government and make the Upper house truly a representative of the population. Idealistic I suppose….but that is surely what the Lords should be for.

brent mckeon

14th January 2020 at 7:06 am

Sounds good, would be much better then current expensive mess.

Marvin Jones

14th January 2020 at 2:21 pm

Most of your comments are very on the right track, but for your jury type of HOLs. Do you realise how little the average person on the street knows about the world, politics and anything else that does not directly involve their own lives? My wife saw this when she was on a jury of a complicated fraud case a few years ago, and though at first, baffled and worried, soon got into the case through sheer interest to learn and understand. Three people just weren’t interested at all, a couple just went with the others views, but the worst part of the trial was the phoney attitude of the lawyers and barristers, who only mentioned things THEY wanted heard by the jury, and the several times the jury had to ask the judge for explanations of certain parts of the case. The whole damn façade is phoney.

steve moxon

13th January 2020 at 5:46 pm

Clive Lewis performed the coup de grace on himself in declaring that the Megzit has taken umbrage because of the whole country’s racism towards her.
All those huge crowds of royalty worshippers, greeting her on her walkabouts; all those vast numbers of mainly women ….. they’re all racist along with everyone C1, C2, D & D, plus toffs, plus any middle class folk voting Tory or not Liebore, or who haven’t been to a Greta Thunberg rally.

jan mozelewski

13th January 2020 at 9:29 pm

I wasn’t ‘racist’ towards Megain. Well not at first. I didn’t know she had any black blood. And I wasn’t racist about her when i did know. It wouldn’t have cared if she was black as the ace of spades, or any other colour or ethnicity, if she had been a good-hearted girl who supported the institution and the British people who in turn supported her.
As it is, I am sick to the back teeth of being insulted and so I ….and I am sure many people share this view….wish that simpleton Harry had married a white girl who wouldn’t be able to play this game.

T Zazoo

15th January 2020 at 3:29 am

Once you go black you never go back !

Marvin Jones

14th January 2020 at 2:29 pm

Steve I am positive that you are totally aware of what I am about to say. I have noticed for many years now, that 99.9% of black politicians, when they make statements and comments whenever or wherever, rant about racism 99.9% of the time. It is the end all and be all of everything they are about. Promise, I am not a white person, just a half breed as a result of the British Raj.

cliff resnick

13th January 2020 at 3:35 pm

No likes a whinger!

Michael Lynch

13th January 2020 at 1:54 pm

On QT he came across as a deranged narcissist. It’s relatively easy to call every white person who ever lived a racist in order to gain power in your own constituency, but it’s an impractical strategy in country where the dominant demographic is white. Labour is doomed simply because all of the reasonable people have gone and what is left behind are throwbacks that ardently adhere to an ideology that has been roundly rejected. Once the middle classes of London finally begin to realize that Remain is now dead they will also loose interest in the Party creating an ever bigger mountain for it to climb.

Dominic Straiton

13th January 2020 at 12:53 pm

The time for white cis gendered men like Clive Lewis is over in todays labour party.

steve moxon

13th January 2020 at 5:39 pm

Clive Lewis is a Dalek. If he is male he certainly isn’t human.
The only other individual with that bad a haircut is that other Dalek MP in the Liebore Party, who sounds just as mad.

jan mozelewski

13th January 2020 at 9:14 pm


steve moxon

13th January 2020 at 10:19 pm

Oh, the Liebore Daleks bend that plunger thing they have so they can suck their own ray guns.

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