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Friday, 5 November 2010

The Gunpowder Plot

Bonfire night is here again for the UK. Poor old Guido Fawkes, probably a bit of dupe in the sense that he appears to have been set up to take the fall when it all went wrong. The older I get the more sympathetic I am toward his intention, perhaps it is just that as you gain more experience you come to realise that blowing up the politicians and their civil service cohorts is probably the only way we'll ever get to restore some sort of democracy.

I was amused, watching the BBC World Service, to hear an apparently eminent 'expert' on democracy pronouncing that democratic government is extremely rare. Now tell us something we didn't know! Please? The truth is that most of our democratic systems are deeply flawed. In the "first past the post" system, whoever gets tha largest number of votes is elected, fine, if everyone eligible to do so votes and providing there is no 'manipulation' of the voters roll or ballot stuffing... The problem is, in that system, the 'elected' representative very often does NOT represent the majority. Blair and Labour are a good example. Around 51% of the electorate voted in the election which 'swept' him to power. He got 40% of the total ballot caste - which actually equates to 28% of the TOTAL electorate. Had the other 49% voted, it might have made a different outcome. The great flaw with this system is that the 'dissenters' now have no option than to stage demonstrations if they want to be heard - and government's ignore those anyway.

Proportional representation has its attractions, at least it makes sure that every vote counts - but it also means that the 'Party" decides who represents you. So, how about a hybrid system? IN Germany you vote for an individual and place your vote for a party as well. As it is a form of proportional system, you get the candidate with the majority elected, plus the Party may appoint a number of others according to the support they enjoy. Less than 5% support and you drop off the list entirely. Other systems combine this and transferable voting so that your preferences are always counted - but here you run into another problem - called "The Party" - and whoever you elect, they end up votong the Party Ticket, regardless of what they may have said to the voter on the doorstep. Add in the Lobbyists and their campaigns, and the voters opinion counts for almost nothing.

There is probably no perfect system and one of the greatest weaknesses in our supposedly democratic society is the "lobby" system. Those who can afford to hire expensive lobbyists, get heard, those who cannot, don't. If our politicians were truly interested in restoring the peoples faith in the political system, this is the one thing they would immediately ban. This is how pressure groups can impose their minority view on the majority, they hire a lobbying company which doorsteps MPs, orchestrates press campaigns and makes sure that any counter voice is immediately neutralised.

The sad thing is that if this continues, one day we will see another Guido Fawkes make the attempt to blow away an entire government and all its hanger's on.

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