Democracy minus participation equals ?

June 11, 2009 at 9:00 PM Leave a comment

A couple of days before the recent European Election I was having dinner with a friend and her daughter.  My friends daughter suddenly announced that she would probably not vote in the coming election.  No amount of argument about the need to vote to keep the BNP out could convince her that she should put her cross against the name of any of the parities.  She was adamant that nothing that any of them had to say reflected her views on what needed to happen in the world. I found out that this was an experience shared by other Trade Union colleagues who had been trying to persuade people to vote in order to keep the fascists out.

Undoubtedly the scandal of MP’s of all parties  fiddling their expenses  had the effect of  working class voters either staying away or registering a protest vote by voting BNP because they did not trust politicians anymore. The previous couple of weeks had seen a stream of newspaper and TV coverage of the scandal pushing the line that British democracy was in a crisis because the trust between MP’s and voters had been broken. I’ve got to say the media coverage pretty quickly bored me and reminded me that the press likes us to live in a parallel universe.

The reality is the British democracy has been in crisis for a couple of decades for two reasons.  Firstly people started to trust politicians and believe that politics and democracy was just about the political parties, what happened in the House of Commons and whose name they put their thumbprint against at election time.  Secondly, we had all watched whilst people power was reinterpreted as being consulted while the machinery in our political system for electors ensuring accountability was whittled away. No longer can you go to the Council,  Health Authority or Education Authority meeting to lobby those elected representatives responsible if you d0not not like the treatment or service you   receive.  Instead we have a a barrow load of quangos overseen by appointees that meet in secret and  thousands of consultations from  both local and national Government conducted on the basis that we agree with fundamentals of the actions  that they are taking and they are desperate for our advice on how to implement their proposals.  That is not democracy

It seems to me that the real lesson from this scandal is that the  powerful can only be made to act in our interests if we are prepared to participate both inside and outside of the confines of the political machinery to make them accountable.


Entry filed under: Politics.

The Future

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