Saturday, 7 July 2012
The Guardian don't seem to know the meaning of democracy...
The Guardian is once again burbling about democracy, this time on the back of a report by some people called Democratic Audit. My problem with all this isn’t that British representative democracy is a little creaky or that the public not only see politicians as a bit dodgy but often fail to see much point in voting for a different set to pretend to run things. No, my problem is the things that The Guardian and Democratic Audit see as defining “democracy” – things like compliance with human rights rules, membership of trade unions, gender balance and how much we give in international aid.
I'm prepared to accept that how many people vote and press freedom - probably corruption and perceptions of corruption too - are pertinent to the debate about democracy. But none of the other things are - they amount to little more than a progressive lefty wish list.
Any way, I don't think democracy is threatened by apathy. People have the right to vote and choose not to do so. That's entirely their business. Political parties and politicians may fret a little at these levels of engagement but they do not indicate the death of democracy or even its terminal decline. It's true that Britain's political parties are in decline - sustained only by state support and the purchasing of influence by rich people, businesses and trade unions. But I see that decline as pretty healthy, as the demise of tribal politics - unless, of course, corporatists like those nice folk at the Guardian get their way and we have state-funded parties.
Instead of these old-fashioned measures we should look at other activities - the number of writers focusing on politics and political debate, the growth of petitioning, direct democracy and the willingness of the voting public to consider support for independent and independent-minded politicians. Democratic Audit and The Guardian represent an old, somewhat discredited and collectivist attitude where democracy is defined through institutions and public compliance. That and they don't seem to understand the definition of democracy.