Thursday, 30 December 2010

Faux Democracy

 The above cartoon is from a Private Eye issue in the 1970's.  It as always stuck in my mind, because it reflects  the question I have often asked myself. Am I in favour of direct democracy if the people then support policies (Capitol Punishment being a prime example ) which I myself  totally opposed to?.

The answer I would give is direct democracy is not about the views of the majority but a means in which all care able to express themselves. Particularly those who are ignored by main stream politicians, and the British media .

In recent Blogs both Peter Black  and Glyn Davies have posted in favour of the coalition's plans  "to allow popular online petitions to be debated in Parliament. Those receiving most support, probably 100,000 signatures, would be debated, with some possibly becoming bills".

On paper this looks like a major innovation in direct democracy. but as Paul Flynn points out.and I  reproduce it below....

Tony Blair did that. The most popular petition, with more than 180,000 people in support, opposed road pricing. If the same people had been asked if they wanted safer roads, with fewer accidents and less pollution they would also have said yes . World experience has shown that public will always vote to lower taxes and improved services.

"On Tony Blair's site, more than 70,000 supported the one word suggestion that Gordon Brown should "resign". And almost 50,000 signed up to the idea that TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson should become prime minister. In the last census 400,000 people gave their religion as Jedi and name Darth Vader as their religious leader.

Foolishly the Tories put this piece of vacuous populism into their manifesto so they have to go through the motions. I am sure that House Leader George Young is wearily resigned about wandering down this parliamentary cul-de-sac. There has been serious progress in opening up the parliamentary agenda through the Backbench Committee that has new control over some parliamentary time.

For the first time in ten years of war in Afghanistan parliament voted on our deployment there. The great reform that is long overdue is to free up private members business which is easily sabotaged by opponents - mostly Government nerds".

This argument Peter Black addresses.
He wrote...

That is a disgraceful attitude towards the people who employ him. Inevitably there will be those who abuse the process, but that is no reason to deny people the opportunity to put forward their own ideas and even to organise petitions to influence the legislative agenda. 

But  Peter does not say how these petitions can be selected. With modern communications there could be hundreds of such Petitions a year with over 100,000 signatures and it would not be difficult for an unscrupulous webmaster to create a program that simply copies names on to the Petitions and it would take major resources to check if they were genuine. Especially if signatories worried about E-Fraud only supplied their names.

But of course any Petition put forward for debate will be largely selected by the government of the day.
Just ask yourself if there was a major petition calling for a Republic and an end to Titles.Would this be debated in the House of Commons? Despite the fact although we are in a minority  a significant number of the electorate in the UK are Republicans who if they wished to sit in the House of Commons (or our Assembly)  must swear allegiance to the Monarch and their Heirs and cannot it reality challenge the position of the Monarch in the House.

In actuality what will happen is that we will have petitions inspired by the Right-Wing media which government ministers will pick according to the perceived popularity  and tell us we are participating actively in government
If the views of the people are to be heard then replace the First past the Post system with STV where the concerns of the minority who are excluded by the current system can be expressed. 


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