Threats to Democracy

Friday 22nd November

We live in a democracy.  Well we do, don’t we?  And the answer is sort of.  Our system of democracy has evolved slowly with actually very few changes in the last hundred years or so.  It is based on delegated responsibility.  Every four or five years MPs are elected to represent their constituent’s views.   But in all reality the electorate is rarely if ever consulted.  Supposedly each party publishes a Manifesto, or wish-list of what they would do if in Government, but there is no legal requirement to stick to that Manifesto, or to not pass laws that were never mentioned at the time of the election.  So, maybe one of the biggest threats to Democracy is the very Politicians themselves, who once elected will not be seriously challenged for five years.  With the internet now available to most people it should be feasible to create a system of consulting the voters over major changes, or events which were unknown at the time of the election.  But it is unlikely that Politicians will willingly give up power so easily, so there needs to be either a new party offering this, or pressure from the middle classes for more devolved decision making.

We also need some form of PR, because it cannot be right that parties are elected with less than 40% of the vote.  My favoured system would be for super-constituencies which would ‘elect’ ten MPs.  Voters would vote for the party, not individual MPs; each party publishing a list of ten candidates in order that they might be elected by achieving 10% each.   At least then most people would end up being represented by someone they agree with.  As things stand millions of voters never get an MP of the party they vote for, and so in effect are disenfranchised.

Another threat to Democracy comes from the Press, which far from being free, is almost always a vested interest.  Possibly with the rise of internet based news these will have less power to persuade voters to support their ‘side’, but I see more and more that the News channels agenda is being set by the Press.  These are unelected, and in theory their opinion should count no more than mine or yours, but just in choosing which political stories to report on, and the slant they put on them, let alone their ‘Comment’ section they think they should be choosing the Government, and often do.

And the biggest threat to Democracy of all is Apathy.  More and more people, especially youngsters, do not feel any interest in Politics at all; the whole thing, the News even, is a big turn off.  More people vote for X-factor than in some elections.   And yet it is their futures they are ceding to others to decide.  Imperfect as our democracy is, it is all we have.