Thursday, May 17, 2007
as defined in the dictionary;
1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
2. a state having such a form of government.
3. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.
4. political or social equality; democratic spirit.
Read that definition again, and take in every last word of it.
We, in the United Kingdom are supposed to live in a democratic society. We are given the opportunity to vote for our MEPs, MPs and councillors. Hell, if you are a member, then you probably have a say in who's on the committee of your local Women's Institute or pub darts team. Almost every aspect of our community is based upon the fact that we all have the same rights (point 3), and as such have an equal right to chose who we want to take the supreme power as our elected officials (point 1).
Democracy works only if our democratically elected officials can be held to account by the people who voted for them (more on this later). In this way, if (or more realistically, when) an official is seen to be corrupt, or not doing their job to a sufficient standard, we can vote for someone else and ask them to do the job instead. Simple really.... when it works.
However it doesn't always work out that simply, and two key blows to the democratic system are on the horizon this week, and I'm pissed off about both.
Firstly, Gordon Brown. Know anyone who likes him? No, me neither. But that's beside the point. Know anyone who voted for him? Unless you live in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath the answer to this question is, No.
Take another look at definition 1 for democracy. The supreme power (running the country) should be exercised by an agent elected by the people under a free electoral system. And yet the supreme power of this country is about to pass to a man that no-one has voted for. So why is this happening?
Well, it's a long story, which I'm sure you all know, but basically Ant got a new toy in 1997, and he said he'd only play with it for a while, then he's let his mate Gordie have a go. However, Ant played with his toy for ages and ages, and when he finally got bored of playing with the toy, everyone decided Gordie should be allowed to play with it a while, after all, he was promised a go.
Two grown men fighting over who gets to play with a toy. Sounds stupid, doesn't it? But this isn't a toy, it's the running of this country, and who does that job should be decided by the people of this country, not by one man who promised another man he could have a go later. It's absurd.
I'm not naive enough to think that just because Blair is resigning I should have a say in who replaces him, but this country voted for a Labour government at the last election. The Labour party was at that time led by Tony Blair, a man elected by all members of the Labour party. If I was a member, I'd be livid that I don't have a say in who replaces him.
It is a joke that way less than 45 Labour MPs (be they Brownites or not) had the balls to back John McDonnell so that at least a token gesture of democracy could take place (though that gesture would probably have been Gordon waving two fingers). Even Robert Mugabe manages to arrange fake elections in Zimbabwe so that he could point and say "look there's democracy in action." It's gonna look a bit stupid now when Brown lectures the Iraqi people on "embracing democracy." Why should they Gordon? You've shown quite brilliantly that it's much more effective to gain power with dodgy deals, back-handers and bullying.
So, on to my second point, and this is turning into quite some rant (obviously been saving up for a while since my last post), so I'll try to keep this short.
On Friday an amendment to the Freedom of Information act is being debated in the house of commons. This amendment, if passed, would make make all communications between MPs (your elected representatives) and public authorities, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Basically it would mean that your MP would become unaccountable. You would not be able to find out for example, what expenses they claimed, or what opinions they had given to local planning applications etc. This motion is presented by the Tory's and is also supported by a number of Labour MPs.
That's not what democracy is about. Your MP should be accountable to you. That way you can tell them what you think about them next time you have the opportunity to do so.
This is what democracy is about: Go here, write to your MP, tell him/her that you believe that as democratically elected officials they should be accountable and their actions visible. And that you urge them to stop this bill going through parliament. If enough of you write, they will listen; that's how democracy works. And you can always look at how they voted on this site, and ask them why they were such a pillock next time they knock on your door.
Picture from flickr.com