16/07/2013 04:05 BST | Updated 14/09/2013 06:12 BST

Building a Better Politics


Considering the news recently, it really is no wonder that people are switching off from politics.

We've had a barrage of stories that make politics seem like it is for vested interests, not for ordinary people, with Tory dodgy donors and lobbyists at the heart of Number 10. Labour - the party of working people - has to be different, which is why Ed Miliband is rightly taking action following what happened in Falkirk to make sure that the closed politics of the machine has no place in the Labour Party.

These last few weeks have been a particularly low ebb, but our democracy has been under pressure for years. Whether you look at voter turnout, political engagement or membership of political parties - on all measures we have seen ongoing declines in participation.

The Hansard Society recently found that only 7% of people 'strongly believe' that if they get involved in politics that they can make a difference. This is a figure that is disastrous for progressive politics. People don't feel empowered to use politics as a tool to change their lives.

Ed Miliband understands that this has to change. Last week he seized the initiative, and found the opportunity for reform in a difficult situation. With the biggest changes to the Labour Party I have seen in my years of political activism, we are now on the road to building a mass movement which puts political power back in the hands of people, where it should be.

I think that Ed's speech was a watershed moment for the Labour Party and for our democracy, but we can only build a better politics if we do it together. That means facing up to all the tough questions.

That's why I am delighted to have got the People's Politics Inquiry underway, and to have today launched the consultation questions on Your Britain - the online policy hub set up by Labour to open our policy making process to anyone who wants to have a say in shaping our next manifesto. My colleagues and I are going to spend the summer having conversations with people who have been turned off from politics and we are going to ask them what we need to do to change.

If we want to put power back in the hands of people, then we need to listen to people first.

There are three parts to the inquiry:

• How can we change our political culture so that more people feel engaged and empowered?

• How can we increase democratic participation and help people better understand our democracy?

• How can we engage people in our parliament and help them better understand how it works?

A speech I gave to the Hansard Society a few months ago goes in to each of these questions in more detail.

This isn't a normal inquiry - it isn't made up of experts and politicians - it will be made up of ordinary people who are disillusioned with politics. I think that if we are to find the answers that we need, then we must break out of the stalemate the debate on political reform too often finds itself in. I think that by talking to the people who are actually disengaged that we might be able to begin to do that.

I remember when I was a teenager I wanted to get involved in politics because I wanted to change the world. Today, just 12% of our young people aged 18-24 say that they are certain to vote at the next election. It is in our power to change that. We must use the opportunity in front of us to remake our politics otherwise we run the risk of our democracy being completely undermined.

You can go to our new webpage to find out more, to read about what we've been up to so far and to make submissions. You can also tell us what you think on twitter by using #peoplespolitics.

Angela Eagle MP is the Chair of Labour's National Policy Forum and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons