Reversing our Democratic Deficit

16 Jun 2014

 

I have to admit, I don't often agree with David Cameron. Indeed, it's actually got to the point where I call him Mr Slippery. However, for the sake of this article and the sanity of readers, we will save my general views on the PM for another day.

I watched Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time in a long time last week (Wednesday 11th June 2014). This date, for me, will go down in history as the day at least one politician realised what was going on in this country.

 

One of Cameron's own backbench politicians dared to suggest meeting on a cross-party basis to discuss active citizenship. In other words: to discuss how on earth we get people voting. Cameron said turnout was "depressing," and for once I completely agree with the PM.

There is no doubt that the 34% voter turnout at the European elections was far lower than it should have been. People who I often socialise with are completely disinterested in politics; they simply don’t see any possibility for change. It's not difficult to understand why people think this; what they see are bland careerists with nothing sensible to say, and who stand and believe in nothing.

Indeed, with speculation rumbling as to another potential invasion of Iraq, and the further sacrifice of British lives, it is clear that our so called ‘representatives’ do not care about the interests of the people they serve, but merely their own personal power and prestige.

Consequently, when the mistakes of the past are drawn up in such stark light, one cannot help but think- what is the point in voting?

Peter Hitchens spoke at great length on Question Time about civic engagement at the end of 2013. He advocated the position "that those young enough should emigrate before it's too late."

This is obviously not a realistic possibility for most. But if we are to stay, and not set up a colony on Mars as Hitchens seemed to suggest, what on earth can we do to shake up our politicians? How can we get people to vote?

I have what is described as a "romantic" view on politics and I consider it a civic duty to vote. Many many people do not share this perspective however, and persuading them to vote is nigh impossible (I have tried enough times to know).

Therefore, I have two very simple reforms which I think may just wake the population up to politics.

Firstly, we must draft a law which states if a politician is asked a direct question, they must give a direct answer. Although perhaps unenforceable, this would hopefully cut down some of the repeated dinosaur-style rhetoric we hear every week from politicians. Let's not forget these people are elected by the public, so they should surely have to answer their questions directly.

Second- a radical reform of politics is needed. Being a republican I am having to take a huge gamble by writing this. But I genuinely feel this reform would be in the national interest… We must create a no confidence box.

This would mean voting in favour of abstention (a paradoxical concept, I know). Then, if the majority vote no confidence, the Royal Family would take control.

I believe this idea would shake Westminster to its foundations. The fear of having no governance would force the parties to raise their game to win your vote. I also believe a no confidence box would get those who aren't voting back in the game, so to speak.

Simply, our politicians are failing us.

We need to send them a clear and contrite message: you must reform, else risk the breakdown of our democracy.

By Sean Mallis

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