Tuesday 18th April
The idea of democracy is that everyone (over a certain age) has a right to express their opinion and contribute to decisions taken which affect the community, be that a parish, a town, a county or a country. And it is very hard to argue against that. But in practice it has been very difficult to achieve. Because of the difficulties involved in travel and communications in most countries a form of delegated democracy has emerged; where local areas elect a representative to speak for them in the Parliament or Congress or whatever we may call it. There is also the idea that elected delegates should be capable of listening to differing arguments and balance this with the wishes of their electorate and their own conscience. But, as we have discovered people tend to join together to form ‘Parties’ which act in concert, sometimes to achieve good things but often to subvert and force members to act against their own ideas. Such is our level of Democracy.
In Britain we also have a ‘first past the post system’ which often results in a delegate being elected with well short of even 50% of the votes cast, which must leave a majority of voters dissatisfied. Proportional Representation should, in theory at least, elect representatives more evenly reflecting the actual votes cast.
Then we have referendums. Again, it is quite hard to argue against this. The people are asked directly for their opinion on a subject and the majority wins. The trouble with this, and actually all forms of voting, is that the vast majority of people are simply not that interested in Politics. They will complain when things are tough and often vote out a Government seen as failing. But, more often than not, it is the Media which determines Public Opinion. For example; the policies espoused by Labour at present are generally well received and ‘popular’, but the Media has presented Jeremy Corbyn as ‘unelectable’. Which he may well end up being, but whether this is because people have actually listened to him, or have had their minds made up by the Media is debatable. There is also the problem with a referendum that shades of opinion cannot be measured; it is a simple yes or no. And we then may face the tyranny of the Majority over often a size-able Minority.
Also, most elections are not ‘fair’, in that money spent can often determine the result, or Media coverage and opinion disguised as news will sway people. There is also I am afraid to admit of my fellow voters a tendency to follow the crowd, or jump on the bandwagon; people seem to prefer to back a winner (or who they are told will be the winner) rather than use their own judgement. In fact most people do not want to be consulted about most things, or of course to be held responsible in any way; that is what Politicians are for, stupid. But unless anyone can actually come up with a benign and incorruptible form of Dictatorship we are stuck with Democracy – with all its imperfections and dangers.