Tuesday, 8 October 2019

On democracy

If we accept Winston Churchill’s best argument against democracy as having a five minute conversation with the average voter – and to be fair we must – what else is there? Given that he is also credited as saying democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those others that have been tried, is there an alternative? Outside of small, homogenous communities, families and, small cooperatives, full-on democracy only works – like the law – by the consent of the governed. And that consent and consensus seems to be wearing thin of late.

Can mass democracy ever really function well if we accept that most of us are incompetent to cast an informed ballot? And by most, I really do mean the overwhelming majority of voters who hold opinions formed by others if they hold any opinions at all. This vast majority understands little and cares even less, generally, about the economy, education, defence, energy and pretty much everything else that we task governments with arranging. Most of us are too indolent to research the best mobile phone deal, or bank account, or diet, even, preferring instead to be led by the more thoughtful among us. It's lazy, plain and simple, but it is all too human.

Which is, of course how we ended up with our system of ‘representative democracy’, of which the EU is an extreme example. In the UK most people vote for a party with little scrutiny, little recognition even, of the individuals they elect to represent them. But at least many of us do know who our local MP is. How many would recognise their MEP if they bumped into them in Brussels? As with anything, a definition can be stretched. So far less than 100% of those eligible to vote narrowly return somebody, unknown to most, standing on a platform few understand, yet they still call that democracy?

Far from rule by majority consent we often end up with individuals who only really represent the views of a more motivated minority. Isn’t this almost the opposite of democracy and hasn’t this become abundantly clear over Brexit? It is little wonder that the fine minds of Parliament were so unprepared to be defied and are now so reluctant to yield. Is it time, then, to officially announce the death of democracy, whose name has been commandeered to simply mean ‘whatever my important friends and I want’?

So, what is left? I'd respect a party which would say directly to the voters. "We are not here to fix YOUR problems. Everything you want from the state must be paid for by somebody. And nobody is compelled to care about your family but yourself”. Of course, we would want to foster an environment where people do look out for each other but not one where an army of others need to graft to keep you in the circumstance to which you feel entitled. Not one where noisy rabbles are allowed to fix the political direction. Not one where tiny minorities get to roar like lions, demanding to be fed.

Ten gets tough...

Which is why the latest ‘leak’ from Number 10 is such a welcome blast of fresh air. Parliament is doing its best to shut down the Johnson government, but it seems that, finally, our leadership is stepping up and doing what people really want. Brexit was never about the economy, or immigration, or any of the causes pressed into service to denounce it. It was about national self-determination. THIS is what we voted for. Democracy is dead – long live democracy!

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