A brief look at British parliamentary democracy, and how it is rigged from a grass roots level.
Apparently, our Parliamentary democracy is the envy of the world. Whilst people in other countries are fighting for democracy, others in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, and Zimbabwe, are fighting against a corrupt, fake, and criminal version of democracy.
Is our democracy any better? Should we be proud of our democracy? My answer would be ‘no’ to both questions. I do not believe we have democracy, nor do I believe that we have a ‘form’ of democracy, as some people have told me.
I am not going to waffle on about definitions of democracy, as it seems that as each century passes, the definition is slightly different, watered down, and manipulated, just so that systems of government that are not democratic can still claim to fit into a democratic model.
At the last general election I was sick to the back teeth of family and colleagues making comments such as, “you are a disgrace if you do not vote”, and “If you don’t vote you have no right to complain”. Any attempt to discuss the issue led them to think I was wearing some kind of tin foil hat. “I am not interested in conspiracy theories” stated a colleague. She went on to say, “That’s what democracy is, you give the power to someone else to make decisions, so you don’t have to”. It started me thinking. Perhaps I had got this democracy lark all wrong?
Consider the following:
1) As you become an adult at 18 you are now able to vote. Yet for the previous two years you have not been able to vote, but you have been old enough to have children, work, pay taxes, get married, and die in a war. This means that hundreds of thousands of people who have stake in society are excluded from society. How is this democratic? My favourite argument against giving people the vote at sixteen, is “half of them are bloody idiots at that age, what do they know?” I would suggest that there are idiots across all age ranges, and not just the young. Furthermore, if they are so stupid and ill-informed that you do not want their vote, then why take tax from them, and why send them to die in wars?
2) You are now 18, you can vote and there is an election. Who can you vote for? Well, you can vote for any of the candidates, or you could even stand yourself. Sounds like democracy to me! In reality though, there are only three parties in this country, two if we are being honest. That is not much of a democratic choice. “Start your own party then” is the common response. There are over 650 seats, and you would need to stand in all of them in order to win an election. It would take years, if not longer to build a national organisation capable of doing that. Furthermore, you would need around £400,000 for deposits for candidates if you were to stand in all seats (not including election propaganda). This kind of figure would bankrupt most organisations if they were to lose their deposits. There is also the arrogance of the political classes to suggest that people can start their own party or stand themselves. People have lives, jobs, families, and other commitments.
3) The two party system that we have is an in-built safety mechanism for the ruling classes. They know that it is virtually impossible for a third party to come in and disrupt the status quo. There is very little difference between the parties, and there is no encouragement for them to be any different, because whatever they do, they know that they are guaranteed millions of votes.
4) So you decide to vote Conservative. Who is your candidate, and do you have a choice. No you do not have choice. The candidate that you will vote for has been chosen by a small handful of local Conservative committee members, in the back room of a pub. You are not bothered because the Tory’s always win in your town anyway. So if a Tory always wins, who has decided who the MP for that town will be? The electorate? Partly, because they voted Conservative, but the candidate was chosen by a small committee. So in actual fact, in a town that is a safe seat for any party, the decision on who will be the MP is taken by a small committee of party members. How is that democratic?
5) The vast majority of candidates, who win a seat, do so with less that 50% of the popular vote. The majority of people did not want that party or person. Take into account the turn out rate, and the percentage is even less. You can have candidates winning a seat with less than 30% of people wanting him. How can that be considered democracy?
6) Some seats have twice as many voters have as other seats, yet each will have just one MP. Parties repeatedly change boundaries to suit their own electoral needs. How can either of these circumstances be considered democratic?
7) Your MP is in so way, shape, or form, recallable. You are stuck with him for 5 years, whether you like him or not. He does not have to take into account the views of any of his constituents. He can vote as he sees fit, even if his entire electorate disagrees with him. He is not obliged to do anything that you want, anything in your interests, and for 5 years, there I nothing you can do about it. How can this be considered democracy?
8) Your MP get offered a ministerial position. He now has special powers regarding a specific area of society. This could be housing for example. Who has given him this authority? Whoever it is, it is not the electorate. You now have a man with special powers over society, who is part of parliament, yet not one voter has chosen him. How is that democracy? The same principle applies to a cabinet minister, hence why the current cabinet is a millionaire ‘boys club’. Made MP’s by their constituents, but made ministers by one man. How is that democracy?
9) Who decides who the Prime Minster is? Well, in the last election it was the conservative voters in David Cameron’s constituency. He was already leader of the Conservatives, so nobody else outside his constituency had a say. How did he become leader? I am not 100% sure, as different parties have different mechanisms for choosing leaders. Whatever the method, it would involve party members or/and MP’s, not the voting public.
10) So, to become prime minster, you firstly need a safe seat, which you will be given if your face fits, and you need the backing of the local committee. The popular vote is a secondary concern, because they will vote for you regardless, as it is a safe seat in a fixed two party system. Once an MP, you will probably need to get a ministerial position first, which will be given to you by the current prime minster, again with no involvement from the people. You may then be offered a cabinet position, again by the prime minister. He then resigns, and you decide you want his job. You are voted in by the part membership and/or the MP’s. You now have the most powerful job in the country, yet you have never really had to win a popular vote outside of a local conservative party committee room, or the parliamentary party. You can then appoint whatever MP you want into whatever position of influence you see fit. Regardless of whether the public wants it or not. Is this democracy?
11) You never have to implement anything in your manifesto, and you can lie, change your mind, or implement things that was not in your manifesto, and for five years the voters can do nothing. Is this democracy?
12) You can appoint ministers that are not elected. You have advisors who are not elected. How is that democratic?
13) You can try and pass legislation that is then blocked by a group of unelected Lord’s. How is that democracy?
No doubt there are numerous other issues that highlight my point, but I would be writing all night to include them all. As far as I am concerned, we do not have democracy at all, not even a form of democracy. It is democracy in name only. At every single level, from grass roots, to parliament, it is fixed. It is nothing more than a sophisticated dictatorship by the ruling class, designed to make us think we have a say.
It operates on similar principles to the X-Factor, in that the contestants in the final are chosen by Simon Cowell, not by the people. The public vote every week, yet contestants are thrown out, brought back, panels decide when there is a tie. Week after week, the public vote, and artists are removed. Yet the winner of the event is chosen by the Cowell and other music company executives weeks in advance, and then the cleverly engineer the whole thing to make the public believe they have chosen the winner.
Parliamentary democracy is no different. It is just a smoke and mirrors exercise at all levels. The democracy that we should be so proud of, and that is the envy of the world, is one of the greatest con-tricks ever created.