Azara Blog: Britain's political system allegedly in trouble

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Date published: 2006/02/27

The BBC says:

Britain's political system is in danger of "meltdown" if major changes are not made, an independent report says.

The Power Inquiry, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy, says voters feel they have little influence over decisions affecting their lives.

The inquiry's Power to the People report calls for a shift in control from ministers to parliament, and from central to local government.

State funding of political parties and a voting age of 16 are also suggested.

The report drew on 1,500 public submissions as well as surveys and hearings held in the UK during the 12-month inquiry, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust to mark its centenary.

It cites the low turnouts in the 2001 and 2005 general elections and falling membership of political parties as proof that "the current way of doing politics is killing politics".

"Politics and government are increasingly in the hands of privileged elites, as if democracy has run out of steam," Lady Kennedy said.

"Too often, citizens are being evicted from decision-making, rarely asked to get involved and rarely listened to."

As a result, people were turning away from voting and formal politics in favour of direct action and single-issue campaigns, it says.
Nottingham University's Philip Cowley, told BBC Radio 4's Today that lowering the voting age to 16 was not the answer.

"When the Electoral Commission looked at this, they found no overwhelming support among young people for it if you poll them properly... they found 80% of the public didn't think 16 was the right age; they thought it was too low.

"So you've got a report here that's all about listening to the public, doing what the public want, and on this particular issue, where 80% of the public think 16 is too low an age, they simply are ignored."

What a complete and utter waste of money this report is. Politics and government has always been in the hands of privileged elites, what planet is Kennedy living on. The turnout in the 2001 and 2005 general elections might be "low" but that was because there was no real choice (Blair's New Labour were just a cheery version of the Tories, and the Lib Dems were just a middle class academic version of the Tories) and certainly in 2001 the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion, so why bother to vote.

On Radio 4 this morning the complaint seemed to be that even when there are consultations, people get frustrated when their views are ignored. Well that is hardly surprising, given that completely contradictory views are expressed and not all of them can be accomodated. And unfortunately, public consultations are almost always going to be a waste of time and in particular will only ever produce views held by middle class activists who have an axe to grind, so are not representative of the general public. So encouraging more consultations will not help, it will just put more power into the hand of the privileged elites, this time unaccountable ones.

One of the major problems of the modern political era, as encouraged by the media, is that politicians have to constantly promise lots of spending on services while trying to pretend that nobody has to pay for it. Hence you get people berating the NHS for not happily spending tens of thousands of pounds per year on some alleged wonder drug, and the media laps it up. Of course when the public constantly gets promised something for nothing, the public will constantly be let down when this cannot be delivered, hence people become disillusioned.

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