Sunday, 22 June 2008

British Democracy is not working.

I'm not saying we should ditch democracy and take up communism or fascism or any of the extreme political ideologies, but I do believe that democracy in Britain simply does not work. Democracy is a dream which should (at least in theory) benefit all citizens.

From Wikipedia:

Democracy is a system of government by which political sovereignty is retained by the people and either exercised directly by citizens or through their elected representatives.

Even though there is no universally accepted definition of 'democracy', there are two principles that any definition of democracy is required to have:

The first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power.

The second is that all members enjoy universally recognised freedoms and liberties.
Does that sound anything like our country under the current political climate? Personally I believe that it doesn't, especially after the way Gordon Brown corruptly bought our liberty prior to the vote on extending detention without charge to 42 days. I have very little doubt (if any) that some Labour and the nine DUP MPs were offered incentives to vote with the government. I understand that whipping MPs to vote in favour of the party is common practice, but in this case Gordon Brown over-stepped the mark by trading our money (taken in tax) to buy our liberty. For that alone he deserves to be removed from power - never again to practice politics in this country.

The problem with democracy in our country is that it has been twisted and warped so that it no longer serves the people - democracy now serves whichever political party happens to be in government. Democracy has been transformed into a gravy train for the political elite. I'm afraid that when a government has a large majority, and its MPs are willing to allow their morals and principles to be bought, then democracy becomes just a hollow word, not a system of governance that represents the will of its citizens or protects their basic freedoms.

So what is the alternative? Well I would not propose to abandon democracy, I believe that it just needs fixing (Not Gordon Brown's idea of fixing):

1. Whipping above 'two line' should be banned.

2. All (ALL) votes in the House of Commons should be free votes. Anyone trying to coerce support through threat or favour should face criminal charges.

3. Anyone found taking bribes or favours for their support should face criminal charges.

The reason I believe whipping above two line should be banned, is that anything above two line is a direct abuse of the representative democracy we are supposed to practice in this country. We vote for our MPs, and we send them to Westminster to represent us - not their political party. No one, I repeat, no one should be able to obstruct (by force, bribery or any other illegal means) my MP from carrying out that primary and solemn duty to represent me.

From Wikipedia:

Three Line Whip:

A strict instruction to attend and vote in a particular way, breach of which could have serious consequences; binding for both attendance and voting. Non-attendance permission can be given by the Whip, but a serious reason is needed. Breach of a three-line whip can lead to expulsion from the parliamentary political group in extreme circumstances, and may lead to expulsion from the party. Consequently, three-line whips are generally only issued on key issues, such as votes of confidence and supply. The nature of three line whips and the potential punishments for revolt varies dramatically among parties and legislatures.
Do you think that a government should be able to three line whip its MPs on matters of civil liberty? Can you think of any other ways to make our country more democratic?


James Higham said...

Right Steve - we're on the post democracy era - just look at next year's Irish referendum.

Anonymous said...

"Do you think that a government should be able to three line whip its MPs on matters of civil liberty? "

No. But even if the practice is officially abolished, won't it continue to be used unofficially?

I have a sneaky suspicion that nowadays, no prospective MP is even *considered* for selection unless he has at least one dirty little secret which can be used to whip him/her with when the time comes.

Oh dear, such cynicism isn't at all becoming in a lady, is it?

James Higham said...

There is certainly great disdain for democracy these days and it comes right from the top - the gloves are now off.

Letters From A Tory said...

The problem is that the government claims our civil liberties are not presently under attack, which suggests that we have a very stupid government with no incentive to change the rules.

haddock said...

2. All (ALL) votes in the House of Commons should be free votes. Anyone trying to coerce support through threat or favour should face criminal charges.

insert 'and secret' between free and votes and you have the makings of a democracy.

The electorate have a secret vote to prevent threats and coercion.

Dave said...

Since when did the UK adopt US style presidential elections?
When I vote in a general election my vote is for a local candidate, not a political party and certainly not for a Prime minister.

They used to say the democracy didn't work but it was better than the alternatives.
At least they had an alternative!
What we have is a dictatorship masquerading as democracy

PS I agree with you. Ban all whips. make each vote a free vote. Pay MPs according to the time spent in teh chamber or in their constituency office. League tables for all MPs

John M Ward said...

Josephine's comment is interesting, especially for those of us who have watched "House of Cards".

Although we are currently selecting our own PPC, and a friend of mine who is involved in the current (interview) stage has confirmed they are playing it dead straight, we are of limited to those who were on the approved list. Who knows what Party Central Office might (or, equally, might not) have on any or all of them?

On the democracy question itself, I have been saying for several years now that we have a Soviet-style dictatorship a long way towards finalisation in this country.

I've written it in various places, stated it in the Council Chamber several times (always to noises and heckling from the Labour councillors) and made no secret of my views in other places as well.

My own experiences on the inside of both the Civil Service and the local council have allowed me to see it all coming, right from the early stages a decade ago.

If we wish for a restoration of any true form of democracy we shall need a wholesale overhaul of the system, including (but going even further than) changes such as those proposed in this article and comments. Will we ever get it? Who knows...