Categorised | Civil Liberties, General |

Is this really democracy at work?

Lets face it, the only people that keep extolling the virtues of democracy are the politician’s and yet, here in the UK, some 60 million people are ruled by less than 650 members of parliament. So, if we keep hearing that we live in a democracy, then we will believe it…right? Now lets look at in a little more detail.

Every 5 years or so, we get the opportunity to vote for our preferred party, by electing a local MP who represents the party we support. Of course, some people support a particular MP, but the vast majority are thinking in terms of who will govern us, rather than who the local MP will be.

Each party creates a manifesto, theoretically, a commitment to their aims, goals and values. It is supposed to be a mandate on what they will deliver during their term in office, or if you like, a commitment or promise to the electorate. Now we have all seen how worthless that commitment can be, most notably in recent years with the broken promise made by the current government in respect of the EU Treaty. Made worse by their willingness to treat the electorate like fools.

The Manifesto

Now, when we vote for a new government, we are provided with a party manifesto, and each party will assume that if we vote them in, we support the manifesto verbatim…but this is so often just not the case. For example, with so many things needing reform during a parliamentary term, how many people would really have voted for a ban on fox hunting? Some, but not many I suspect. So, the manifesto of the party elected to government is likely to include many things that we simply do not agree with, but how can we communicate this to those that are supposed to represent our interests in government. We can’t and it was probably designed that way!

For example, the only people that believe the labour party will get into government at the next election, is the labour party, unless they are being honest, but that would be an unusual trait. Therefore, theoretically, the opposition can create a manifesto and include virtually anything they like. Granted, it can’t be too controversial, but if they offer for example, 80% of what the electorate wants, the chances are they can do pretty much what they want with the other parts of their manifesto.

So, in other words, we must accept all of the terms of the manifesto, if we want to support a particular party. So why can’t we also vote on the contents of the manifesto? If we assume that most will only have 10 or so key commitments, then surely they can include on the voting forms, a brief description and the opportunity for the voter to indicate whether they are for or aganist a particular manifesto commitment. Of course they won’t. This is either, because they assume we are all too stupid to be able to form an objective opinion on their commitments or, more likely, they believe it passes too much control to the electorate…! Ask yourself this, if we are capable of voting on a manifesto in its entirety, why aren’t we entrusted to vote on the individual issues that make up the manifesto?

Delivering on their commitments

In the real world, few people would get away with a failure to deliver on their commitments, whether they are in business or even in their personal lives. At some stage we are all called to account. However, when we look at a government, we should really be judging them in the same way as we would a public company, with the electorate as shareholders. Think about it, the UK government is just a huge company with social and economic responsibility.Therefore, we should really refer to is as UK Plc.

This government and others have been great supporters of corporate governance and as a consequence, we have seen a good deal of legislation brought in to “protect” the shareholders of these big companies. Whilst it is right to question just how far this legislation has gone, the principal was a good one. Why then, have we not seen something similar for UK Plc? If the chairman, or the board of a public company fails to deliver, the shareholders can oust them at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), yet we have to wait up to 5 years. Imagine if you will, a chairman of a company that has consistently failed to deliver, or has mislead his shareholders, having the right to determine when he leaves, or is put up for re-election. Ludicrous, isn’t it? Yet that is precisely what happens with UK Plc.

Now the government of the day will probably argue that there are various committees that scrutinise their actions. True, but whilst they may have the right to publicly admonish wrongdoing, they can’t fire a minister, or call for the government to step down. Nor is there anyone measuring the government’s performance against their manifesto commitments. Whenever a government fails to deliver, all they do is ask the electorate for more time at the next election, typically stating that they need to continue their “programme of reform”. So what have they been doing for the past 5 years, that is what we should be asking, if they make a manifesto commitment, they should make clear how long they expect it to take. Imagine the chairman or chief executive of a public company making bold commitments without placing a timescale on it, this just would not happen. Yet UK Plc, our government, get away with it time and again.

Can we expect the opposition MP’s to do anything about it? Unlikely, because they have no more wish to be judged by their delivery of manifesto commitments, than anyone in government.

Your local Member of Parliament

We could all be forgiven for believing that when we vote for our local MP, that he will or she will be representing our interests. That they will be our voice in the houses of parliament. Sadly, in most cases, the truth is invariably something completely different. True, some MP’s will raise matters in parliament which relate to local issues, perhaps a hospital, post office or school closure. But when have they ever asked you what you want? The only time you may get asked is if you bump into a prospective MP seeking your vote, but even if they do make promises to you, can you really trust them to deliver?

Ask yourself why, if MP’s are supposed to represent the interests and views of their constituent’s, every party has a ‘chief whip’. This person, or people, are there to ‘whip’ MP’s into shape. To ensure the government receives the backing of all their MP’s to support, what is often, a controversial issue that divides parliament and therefore, most likely, the country. Government Whip’s may cajole, bully or perhaps even offer incentives to an MP to ensure that he or she supports the government line. So when are your interests represented? Local MP’s are always keen on sending us details on what they have done for us, so they know how to write and theoretically, they know how to communicate, so why don’t they ask us what we think?

If our local MP is supposed to represent the local constituent’s, then surely they could provide the electorate with their own mini-manifesto and at the same time, tell us where they stand and therefore, how they will vote on national manifesto issues. That way, we the electorate, will know exactly what our MP stands for and will know that no deals can be dome behind closed doors. Too much to ask?

British voters feel let down by their MP's

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British voters feel let down by their MP's

  • I strongly agree (65%, 55 Votes)
  • I agree (13%, 11 Votes)
  • I am neutral (11%, 9 Votes)
  • I strongly disagree (6%, 5 Votes)
  • I disagree (5%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 84

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. freethinkeruk Says:

    Well thought out and I am in agreement. One other thing though; a big chunk of democracy has been removed by all three major party’s leaders taking away any power from their membership. Party conferences are just a sham, a waste of time and money. Motions are put up for vote and even if approved by a large majority and the leadership doesn’t agree then that’s it, deleted as quick as a touch on my keyboard button.

  2. Tom Says:

    It’s all very well asking when has an MP ever actively sought out the opinions of his or her constituents, but one should also ask, how often does any of those constituents actually seek out his or her MP in order to raise an issue? (This isn’t a rhetorical question; I’d genuinely like to know the statistics.) MPs won’t generally ask us for our opinions if we’ve got a long track record of never actually trying to tell them anything.

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