Sunday 17 May 2015

Great Britain, elections and democracy

Heya everybody,

I know I haven’t posted in ages … but I keep collecting links to studies, don’t worry. I currently have five pages choc-full of links – and I just need to find time to go through, read, categorise and summarise them … and put them online of course!

In the meantime, just a few thoughts sabout the British elections … nothing deep or special, just my five cents’ worth …

I do think that Britain, one of the mother countries of modern democracy, sadly does suffer from a democracy deficit … here are the three major issues that I find important:

  • The majority (first past the post) voting system. The 2015 election did produce some stunning results – for example, the Scottish National Party received 1.45 million votes and got 56 seats in parliament, whereas the United Kingdom Independence Party had 3.88 million votes and got only 1 seat. With the Conservative Party having the absolute majority of seats, only 11.30 million voters of a total of 30.69 million are represented by the government.

  • The regional structure of government. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have their own elected assemblies, England does not. In addition, the devolved powers (things that the regional assemblies can decide on) differ between the regional parliaments, with Scotland having a higher degree of self-government than Wales, for example. Members of the British parliament have full say on all things in England, but only limited power of government when it comes to Scotland. As a result, a Scottish voter gets a full say on English matters, whereas an English voters gets only some power over decisions that affect Scotland.

  • The monarchy. Clearly, privilege by birth violates the democratic principle.

I think that subsidiarity (the principle that government power ought to reside at the lowest feasible level – i.e. at the local or regional level, instead of the national or supranational level, unless the latter presents clear advantages) and egalitarianism are vital and necessary parts of democracy.

A written constitution would help, in my opinion. A constituent assembly would have to make decisions on very basic matters. If the British public wants to include basic rights such as the following into their constitution, things would have to change: “All citizens are equal before the law. All elections are fair, equal and universal. All cititzens have the same political rights and duties. Every citizen shall be equally eligible for any public office according to his aptitude, qualifications and professional achievements.”

Such a change towards more fairness would make Britain similar to federal structures, like the European Union or Germany. This would currently be a problem, as sadly many British voters feel very strongly that the concept of quarreling, conflicting nation states is better than the one of cooperation with their neighbours, and hence portray institutions such as the EU in a very negative light.

We’ll see how it all works out. I’m confident that the move towards more fairness, equality, democracy and better government continues, just like it has in the past, at times even led by Britain.

The proposed EU memorandum might be a good thing. Time and time again, the EU has been held back by Britain blocking and impeding policies that had consensus among the other member states. It is simple – the EU is a democratic club. If British governments think they have good policy proposals that advance the well-being of all member states, they are free to win over the other members. The fact that typically very few, if any, member countries can get on board with British policy means that there is no majority for those positions. Britain can either accept that or leave. I think the latter might be a likely outcome, considering the British government can’t even agree on basic human rights with its fellow member states and prefers a market-driven race to the bottom, even on principles that should be inviolable. However, leaving the EU might create time and a climate that is necessary to sort out the things that currently divide the country.

Peace and Light ✨