Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I'm feeling a little unsettled at the moment about the nature of democracy. I'm not sure whether I just don't understand what democracy actually is, or whether my idea of democracy has changed over the last however many decades.

I know there isn't a simple definition of democracy, and that some of the most horrendously barbaric dictatorships in history have called themselves 'democracies', usually 'people's democratic republic' or similar. I also know that our idea of democracy in action differs from many countries in the world who we would regard as 'democratic'. It isn't simple is it?

So to a large degree this week, with the Lib Dems attempting to hijack the word 'democracy' to justify a botched attempt at reforming the House of Lords, the nature of democracy seems to have become defined by voting. I'm not sure about this. If we had a vote on whether to slaughter the first born in every household, and 51% voted in favour, is that democracy in action so get on with it? If our unelected monarch said: "Whoa, one's not keen on that idea, I refuse to sign the act." Would that be an unelected head of state subverting democracy?

In rexcent years there has been a proliferation in the number of elected posts in public life. Many cities now have elected mayors. I don't know why, I don't see the point. Do elected mayors make our system more democratic? I don't see how when they seem to be nothing more than an expensive add-on to already elected, and very costly city councillors.

Our cities have police authorities made up of people from a range of bodies and elected councils. They are accountable to the populace. So why do we need costly elected police commissioners? I honestly don't see the point. Especially when commissioners, like elected mayors just seem to be washed up politicians jumping on a shiny, new, very well funded gravy train.

Are supporters of this move to ever more elected public officials really saying that prior to these innovations there was a huge democratic deficit? There obviously wasn't, as I've explained above.

If Clegg and Cameron are so convinced that the ballot box is the root to true democracy then how can they justify not having a rteferendum on the European Union? A referendum on the death penalty? If an unelected House of Lords is undemocratic why is only electing 80% of it democratic? Why do we have an unelected head of state? Are Clegg and Cameron closet republicans or are they just being intellectually inconsistant? Or are they being intellectually dishonest?

I'll be perfectly honest, I don't see plonking a X on a ballot paper every five years as being the be all and end all of democracy. Not when our politicians then ignore us, and what they promised in their manifestos, and foist a bastard government like this on us. Then proceed to ignore what we want until they next have to tempt us to vote for them by publishing manifestos full of even more lies.

So what's the alternative? I'll have to think about that. But would an unelected leader/government that actually listened to what the populace wants, a kind of benign dictatorship, be any less democratic than our current revolving dictatorship?


BJ said...

Richard North at EU Referendum are asking the same questions Gregg, David Phipps at Witterings from Witney is veering towards a Swiss style 'direct democracy' model.

It's one thing voting them in - it's what they do when they're in.

I suspect that you are aware of the two gentlemen above, but they are due to meet, along with others, to try and establish a Chartist type list of suggestions on how we can improve on the accountability of our 'masters'

We all feel that our democracy is not working too well.

Gregg said...

Thanks for that. Yes, I campaigned a few times with Richard a while back, will find out a bit more.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion the disconnect between what people say they want & what they get can be at least partially explained by the fact that millions of people in this country vote Labour out of some vague sense of family tradition or partisan loyalty despite the fact that they completely disagree with Labour Party policies on crime, immigration & welfare.