Thursday, 20 May 2010

Clegg's 'Democracy'?

Nick Clegg has just announced a programme of political reform ‘greater than anything since the Reform Bill of 1832,’

Many commentators have already questioned his claim. 1832 widened the suffrage only to 18% of adult males in England and Wales. Working class males did not get the vote until nearer the end of the century, and women were only given the same voting rights as men in 1928, living memory to those aged 82 and over.

Was the 1832 Reform Bill such a huge reform of poltics? How do the proposed Clegg reforms stand in relation to other extensions of franchise to ordinary British citizens?

Nick Clegg offers us, the citizens of Britain, the right to object to laws we don’t like.

Well, do you believe this? I'm afraid I don’t.

Here are some decisions on which I should like to vote. They all require straightforward yes/no answers. They all involve questions of money.

Should British taxpayers fund the replacement for Trident, which may cost about £100 billion?

Should cannabis be legalized? Subsidiary question: should it be sold over the counter like cigarettes and taxed similarly?

Should all drugs – even heroin - be legalized? Subsidiary question: should it be sold over the counter like cigarettes and taxed similarly?

Should British soldiers be withdrawn from Afghanistan?

Should wars only be undertaken if the decision to go to war is confirmed by referendum?

In my capacity as an ordinary British citizen, I do not claim the right to decide complicated problems in the NHS, or Education, nor do I have the solution for controlling bankers. (Nor do the politicians, but that’s another issue.)

The five questions noted above could all be put to the citizen body. They are all important. They all involve cost. They all impinge on our lives. If Britain was a democracy, as opposed to being governed by representative oligarchy, we would all have a right to take part in these decisions.

Politicians who say it would be wrong to put these questions to the citizen body, should also acknowledge that they do not believe we should be a democracy.

Then of course the next question rears its head:

Should Britain continue to be governed by representative oligarchy, or should it take the first steps towards becoming a democracy?


1 comment:

  1. I just attended a B.O.A. presentation, Building One Amerieca. The narrowness of the discussion of what it means to build one America was simplistic to say the least. It claimed to be sustainable. The presenter admitted it was maybe 10% sustainable, 90% housing. The ideas were sound, but very limited in application. More top down control without a true scope of action. To have each citizen wondering about problems and finding solid solutions in the mix and the mess of everyday life seems to me what democracy "should" (is) be about. Not a neat controlled process but an actually doable process? Can we trust Democracy? I do!!!