“If two monkeys want the same banana, in the end one will have it, and the other will cry morality. Who gets to form the committee to decide the rules that will be used to determine what is ‘fair’? Whoever it is, got the banana.”
Most people don’t care about democracy.
Oh, people pay lip service to the idea, certainly — they know that ‘democracy’ is on a list of Good Ideas that they should support — but they don’t actually care about democracy itself, just about saying the right words.
If I hadn’t already known this, I would have had it driven home to me by the response to the AV campaign. Not the vote against it — that was down to the Yes campaign being utterly incompetent — but people’s individual responses.
Because the thing I got asked the most during the campaign wasn’t “how does it work?” or “is it fairer?” or anything along those lines, but “Will X be more likely to get in?”
People, for the most part, care about results, but not about processes, and this is why we’re seeing the current ‘argument’ about Lords reform being phrased as “why are you bothering with something like this instead of [thing person saying this cares about]?”
But what a lot of people seem to be failing to see is that in the current system, they will never get [thing they care about], because the government — whichever party is in — doesn’t care about what the people want. The system we have is set up in such a way that two near-identical parties take it in turns to form governments, and those two parties care about the opinions of a very small number of people. You may have very strong opinions about welfare reform, about healthcare, about education, about the economy, about whether the government should start wars of aggression against foreign countries — in the current system, your opinions literally don’t matter. What matters are the opinions of a handful of swing voters, in a handful of marginal constituencies — and that only to the extent that they can be persuaded that one of two major parties agrees with them.
I am convinced — utterly convinced — that representative democracy — *truly* representative democracy — is the best form of government. The more weight that is given to the opinions of the people, the better the resulting government will be. Given the choice between a representative government doing something I dislike — even something I think is absolutely evil — or a ‘benevolent’ dictatorship — even were I to be the dictator — I would always choose the representative government. Because elections are a means of feedback, of correcting course when things go wrong, of fixing mistakes. Without them, governments go careering off into insanity. And the subtler and more responsive the electoral system, the less drastic the changes that have to be made.
But democracy isn’t especially good for politicians. They tend not to like it. The current system, where if you get a safe seat you have a job for life, and if you don’t you can always go to the Lords, and where two parties take Muggins’ turn at being in charge, each letting the other clear up their worst mistakes, is very, very satisfactory for them.
That’s why, despite their supposed differences, Labour and the Tories ganged up to kill electoral reform. And that’s why they’re now ganging up to kill Lords reform. The systen that’s being proposed for the Lords (an open-list PR system with a 20% top-up of appointed, rather than elected, members) isn’t perfect — it’s very far from it — but it’s one that allows feedback into the system. It allows things to be fixed. It allows *itself* to be fixed. Elect enough Lords who want a different system, and a different system will then be brought in.
The Lib Dems, despite their many faults (and I am as aware of them as anyone) believe in democracy. They *want* your vote to count. They *want* you to have more of a say. And right now, they’re the only party in Parliament that do (the Scottish and Welsh nationalists might, as well, to be fair — I’ve not examined their records on these issues because they don’t affect me).
We haven’t had a good government in at least my lifetime, and from what I’ve read the governments of the 70s weren’t exactly great either. And we will not have a good government as long as our legislature consists of one house elected through an archaic system that doesn’t reflect people’s preferences and a second house elected by nobody at all. We lost the battle to change the first (though that is a battle we can and will fight again), but we need to win the second.
I am a Liberal Democrat because I believe that there is *just* enough give in the current system that its rules can be used to build a better one by working within the system, even though the nature of that system requires compromise with evil at times. But were I not a Liberal Democrat I would not, under any circumstances, be supporting either of the two major parties who want to deny my voice any chance to get heard. I would either emigrate, or take to advocating revolutionary anarchism, because the structures we have in place at the moment are simply not capable of producing a good government.