As we watch fledgling democracies struggling to survive, facing coups or demands for government change between elections, we need to remind ourselves of the characteristics of successful democratic government.
In mature democracies the sensible elected officials understand they have to represent all their constituents, not just those who agreed with them and voted for them. Any constituent deserves honest and independent representation in a just cause. Any constituent has a right to their view to be heard and considered, even where it clearly disagrees with the ruling party or the local MP.
A successful democratic government understands that it cannot just govern in the interests of the majority or the largest minority that happened to vote for it. There are times when an elected government has to do things its own supporters do not like, and times when it has to adapt to moods and shifts in opinion that it did not wish to see or had not been able to forecast. Successful democratic leaders draw support more widely than from their own party, and succeed in persuading the opposition to alter its approach and not repeal or alter what they do in power when eventually the government changes.
Mr Miliband’s approach of returning to his left of centre comfort zone and support base is causing difficulties for him and his party as they seek the 40% plus in the polls that opposition parties usually need to offer a hope of winning an election outright. His latest proposal on JSA and young people in need of work is a sign that he is now looking for headlines that are different from his normal Guardian road tested policies, though the detail is disappointing and adds little to what the coalition is already trying to do to help the young into work by assisting them find apprenticeships and pick up the skills they need. Labour are finding it difficult to frame policies on welfare and migration that appeal and assist in tackling these big problems.