Lordy Lordy Lordy

“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.”
from here

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.

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12 Responses to Lordy Lordy Lordy

  1. Richard says:

    I stand alongside you!

  2. Larry says:

    Sounds like there are some similarities between the U.K. electoral system and the one here in the U.S.A.. In our system, of course, money has essentially destroyed the democratic component…

  3. Hal says:

    To hear that “a senior Conservative source” has stated that the plans for reform have “lost all moral authority” leads me to despair. Quite what a 100 or so right-wingTories predictably coming out against the possibility of positive change has to do with those who support it “losing moral authority” I do not know. I’m getting angry and despondent even writing this. I’m at a loss to how that “person” could feel he had any kind of “moral authority” or that opposing reform is somehow “moral” in the first instance.
    Idealistic I may seem but politicians are erm supposed to represent the polis but plenty of them seem more interested in representing themselves and the narrow concerns of the “Party”. And as for a hardline Right-Wing Tory (as opposed to those Tories who are prepared to consider change, one must at least give those people credit even if one is firmly Anti-Tory, I feel) to crow about morality is bitterly hilarious; ah yes, the morality and humaneness must surely shine out as many Remploy factories close.
    It is fine and good for some to complain about apathy and anti-pathy toward elections and the like, but when many politicians of *all stripes* and not merely the easy targets of the Right-Wing Usual Suspects behave as if they are in a house of mirrors reflecting only their own concerns it is not surprising that faith is at an all-time low.
    That said, in recent years they have played on the inhumane conservative prejudices of certain segmemts of the public as particular people are demonized while bankers and corporates etc perform as badly as they like with little likelihood of any justice being done as it “isn’t the right time”. Gibberish Concludes

  4. TAD says:

    Do the Liberal Democrats *really* want fairer Democracy, or do they just want a change in the system that will provide them with more power (via more representation)? Because I suspect once they *got* more power and representation, they would become entrenched just like the 2 leading parties are, and become deliberately obstructionist about anything that threatens their power-base. It’s human nature. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your side is more high-minded about things. *You* might be, but the average politician isn’t. The average politician is only interested in enhancing his own wealth, status and power. There are exceptions, but damn few, in my experience.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      If you want wealth, status and power, you don’t join the Liberal Democrats. The party has always been viewed as a bit of a joke by most people, has never been in power before 2010 (and the last time its precursor party, the Liberals, was in peacetime government was when my great-grandmother was a very small child), and I can think of at least two prominent Lib Dem politicians who took an *enormous* drop in salary in order to go into full-time politics.

      The changes the Lib Dems want to see would actually almost certainly lead to the party splitting up — a change to STV would cause the break-up of all the major parties in the UK within a couple of elections — and being in coalition has given a couple of our MPs some short-term power, but it’s led to the party becoming horribly unpopular, and we knew it would — and that means that as many as thirty or so of our sixty or so MPs, possibly more, face losing their seats at the next election. But still none of them voted against joining the coalition, because it was clearly the least-worst option for the country.

      Every politician wants power, but pretty much by definition anyone who joins the Lib Dems is choosing to put principle before power.

      • TAD says:

        I see your point, and I don’t disagree with you perse. Anyone who goes the 3rd party route is usually a bit of a maverick.

        You’re more idealistic than I am. I don’t really trust the motives of anyone in politics. I also suspect that if the average people knew how ill-informed most people in government are, they would be appalled.

        I guess the Liberal Democrats are learning the hard way that when you’re in power, you’re the ones who are held accountable. There really isn’t much difference between the 2 main options (Labour and Tories) in British politics though, is there?

        • What we’re actually learning is that if you’re a *third party* in power, you don’t get held accountable for anything you actually do, but people make up whatever lies they like and claim you did them…

          And the difference between the Tories and Labour is about the same as the difference between the two main parties in the US — tiny, tiny differences magnified so they look like huge ideological chasms. In my experience *members and supporters* of the Tories tend to be slightly worse than *members and supporters* of Labour, but in terms of what the parties actually do, both parties have done essentially the same kind of things when in power for the last 30+ years.

          • TAD says:

            That’s true, the Liberal Dems are a convenient scapegoat that’s built into the Tory government. Although anybody who’s paying attention will realize that the minority partner in a coalition has very little power, in reality. At best, they get an occasional scrap thrown their way. At best.

            • Holly says:

              The Conservatives themselves disagree with you there. Articles like this are regularly written on their own websites, in their own newspapers, and so on.

              It never fails to cheer me up :)

    • plok says:

      Amazing stuff to hear that the LibDems might become an entrenched power bloc in Parliament in a non-FPTP system! And here my understanding was that they were massively unpopular. Oh, you human nature!

  5. Danny Zinkus says:

    I’ve found conversations about how the process affects the outcome and the stability of the outcome either very difficult or very easy; people either get that how you set up the process makes a difference to the outcome or they just don’t see it.

    From where we are now (zero elected Peers) I’d be delighted if we got even one elected Peer in 2015.

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