Britain’s democracy is a central source of national pride. It is often said that, situated in Westminster, is the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’. Yet, efforts to strengthen our democracy in recent years have been vague and illusive; failing to achieve their ostensible purpose (David Cameron’s Big Society, for example).
Indeed, democracy means government of the people, by the people, for the people. So why are the first two chunks of that equation missing in modern Britain?
Well, primarily, we accept the idea of democracy in terms of its present definition. Our democratic procedures imply that the views of minorities should be subservient, or at least secondary, to the views of the majority. Minority perspectives are often ignored altogether. Thus, when we all feel marginalized for one reason or another, society becomes apathetic to political issues. Indeed, if the votes of all those who abstained at the 2015 general election would have been counted for a non-voter party, its leader would be Prime Minister, his/her party having gained 345 seats – a Parliamentary majority.
As a matter of fact, the feeling of democratic oppression within Britain is palpable. Initiatives can be called for by citizens if 100,000 signatures are registered on a petition – after which time Parliament must debate the issue in question. Yet, even when we fulfill the necessary requirements, governments often suppresses our concerns. Indeed, while measures to consult the public generate the appearance of an open dialogue between the people and their representatives, Parliament remains a sovereign body. Therefore, while the public has an opinion, it is not one that the government is compelled to accommodate. The notion of people power is a myth.
Furthermore, the press plays a very important role in our society by providing political awareness. It allows people to receive a variety of opinions on current affairs, and gives citizens the chance to become politically literate. Yet, the media world is heavily influenced by right-wing parties and the Murdoch Media Empire. Thus, in reality, the education provided by the media does not enlighten citizens with a variety of opinions. In fact, on the whole, it gives us just one bog-standard, bigoted view. How can ‘democracy’ be achieved when public discourse is so intimately controlled by a few media barons?
Also, in relation to national security, governments censor news in order to protect citizens. However, this undermines democracy – citizens are denied information that could shape their political decisions.
If we are to look to the future with some degree of optimism however, we can only hope that politicians who advocate the revival of British democracy (such as Jeremy Corbyn) revisit the foundations of the process, rather than placing faith in the power of superficial measures.
People want to see meaningful change, not artificial pontificating.
For British democracy to live up to its fame we, the people, must be heard.