Democracy - a big word, an important word, indeed a precious jewel in politics, but something which is often under threat. Dictatorship, corruption, big business control, media manipulation, cynicism or disillusion, all pose dangers for democracy. We may take democracy for granted in Britain but we have always to be vigilant.
We should remember that only a few decades ago, all of Europe apart from Britain and some parts of Scandinavia were ruled by dictatorships or under military occupation, and we came close to invasion ourselves. But even in modern Britain there are subtle dangers to democracy, and the current disillusion with Parliament is one such.
Cynicism, apathy, a lack of positive belief in our politicians, all show themselves in low turnout figures at election time, with millions of voters staying away from the polls.
I have long believed that voters really want a genuine choice at election time between policies, between political philosophies, political programmes and manifestos.
I am glad that my party, real Labour, is now back, but the policies of the major parties are still far too close. A wider gap is gradually opening, but painfully slowly, and there are vast areas of policy where it is difficult to see daylight between the parties or, more precisely, between the party leaderships.
At the grassroots my party has largely rediscovered its democratic socialist roots. I am sure it is true of other parties too, that their active party members have distinctly different views from those in other parties even if their leaders don’t always reflect this.
Democracy has to mean more than just voting for Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum politicians.
There have to be real differences between the parties at election time and real choices for voters.
Much more recently, we have seen this in Scotland, in the referendum on independence, where in some areas over 90%, nine out of ten electors voted, and including 16 and 17 year olds for the first time. The choice was clear and stark and the result dramatic.
I hope very much that by May next year our major political parties will also be offering up real choices for our future and not simply sloganizing and taking personalised pot shots.