Freesteel Blog » Random democracy rant

Random democracy rant

Friday, September 14th, 2007 at 12:58 am Written by:

I just went to a townhall debate on the motion Liverpool believes that traditional politics has failed. Against the motion was Lord Rodgers, a former secretary of state for transport and founder of the SDP, and a Labour Party local councilor who is a barrister and has stood as an MP in a seat to the north of here.

(He can’t stand for election in my constituency because it’s already held by a Labour MP in a safe seat, and she basically has tenure. There is no functioning democratic mechanism for removing her, short of dropping a bomb out of a helicopter — an action she thinks is perfectly reasonable against her political opponents, as long as they are blind and in a wheelchair.)

When it got to questions from the audience, it got a bit rowdy. The big issue was of the local council selling off a large slice of public park for a gigantic Tesco’s supermarket, keeping all the details commercially confidential, and doing everything in its power to ignore and deny local opinion.

Not being good at thinking aloud, I didn’t say anything useful. Here’s what I would have said:

We’ve been told that the “traditional” democratic procedures are perfectly all right, because we have the options to express our political opinions by (a) voting, or if that doesn’t work, by (b) joining a party and running for office, or if that doesn’t work, by (c) setting up our own party (he chuckled, slapping Lord Rodgers on the back).

Unfortunately, due to the electoral system and the location of my house, my vote doesn’t count for anything at all. I am also not a barrister with ten years of training in public speaking to make myself eligible for political office. And I also haven’t got 20 years of Parliamentary service, building up connections with enough people and able to break away and form my own party.

You, sir, have therefore recommended that I be content with these three options within the “traditional” process, which you know won’t work as certainly as you know that my applying for one of those Executive’s jobs printed in the Financial Times won’t work. That is immoral.

I am surprised I have not heard of a fourth option for these good people of Kirby who are going to lose their park to Tesco’s, which is: “If they don’t like it, they should not go shopping there when it’s built.”

The only things that have ever, ever worked to move politics forward have been strikes, riots, direct action, and civil disobedience. If the locals cared to put their minds to it, they could certainly break in and create enough mischief against all the machinery used for the destruction of their park over the course of the build to become part of the business calculation.

These extremely traditional methods get issues forced onto the agenda where concessions can be made. It has totally obvious that you cannot reason with your employer for a 40 hour week unless you are able to threaten a damaging enough strike. Otherwise he is not going to talk.

It would seem to me that the most important pillar of our current highly developed political process is a systematic mis-education of the public into the false belief that our current series of institutions (a) work and are self-correcting, and (b) are wholly responsible for all the gains we have made so far. They are not.

Our politicians are the last people we should trust to tell us whether the system is doing a good job. They have a conflict of interest. Yet they are always the ones the media turns to for comment.

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