|Unbelievably, yesterday, people in the British Government sacrificed their careers rather than vote with David Cameron’s three line whip against a Referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. I say “unbelievably”, but I know full well why it happened. Democracy is broken in Britain, and there is every reason to point the finger of blame and accusation at the media, for their continued massacre of the issues in political debate. They should be observers and reporters; but instead they are influencers and arbiters.|
Here’s how it goes : the Daily Mail, to take just one example, raises the outrage level, and repeats arguments that have little substance. People act on the basis of what they read in the papers and see on TV, and they develop poor reasoning, and do things like sign an ePetition. The thing gets publicly debated, partly in the media of course. And then finally the democratic representatives, the Members of Parliament, have to make a choice to stand with the stirred-up outrage or instead, vote with sanity.
A vote on Europe would be a disaster. The wording would be over-simplistic and hide the true agenda. It would be too easy to sway people to vote for the worst option.
Remember the Referendum on the Alternative Vote ? It was the only thing that could have broken the stranglehold of First-Past-the-Post politics. Instead, seats are going to stay safe – the party that holds an area’s vote will continue to take the vote. Democratic contests cannot happen in safe Constituencies, particularly if the boundary lines are changed to fit the demographics. The First-Past-the-Post system in easy-to-hold political wards – that’s one way in which democracy has been killed. If a seat is safe, no will in the world can create a political debate in a Constituency.
But why did people vote against the Alternative Vote ? Because of the media-assisted rubbishing of the idea.
David Cameron makes the point that a third of the population, if asked, would ditch the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. They would have very little foundation for doing so, but they would vote for it, just like they demanded weekly refuse collections, and immigration controls, and an 80 miles an hour speed limit, because the newspapers and the television and the radio told them to.
The people have been manipulated, so democracy doesn’t work.
Every mechanism for enabling democracy appears to have withered away.
Campaign organisations and charities are usually given the task of convincing the public to vote with their ethics, with knowledge and with empathy. But with the recession, grants have dried up, so there are not the funds, the staff or the resources to get good things done.
Demonstrations and protests and marches are routinely blacked out of media presentations of political activity.
Writing letters to your democratic representative can be like shouting into an empty well.
Signing online petitions is useless. Signing real petitions is doubly useless.
What forums do people have to debate issues with real information at their fingertips ? What channels do groups of well-informed citizens have to take their well-considered and researched demands to their democratic representatives in sufficient strength to justify their MPs taking the issues on to the Parliament and raising them in the House (of Commons) ?
What ways can citizens use to do politics in their local town ? With Councillors bowled over with insane levels of trivia, can they be expected to engage with genuine informed citizen concerns ?
The news is awash with some inexplicable language :-
What sovereign powers are these people talking about ?
What on Earth could he possibly mean ? Employment Law ? The right for businesses to make everybody into serfs by increasing working hours at will, reducing wages at will, and demanding high flexibility of the workfoce ? Or maybe Human Rights ? Denying people their human rights so they can be deported or put in inhumane private prisons ?
The right to abandon renewable energy targets, just when we need to seriously develop sustainable power as the North Sea oil and gas are in firm decline ? The right to abandon environmental regulation ? The right to set taxes too low for the rich and too high for the poor ? The right to deny people a living wage and a roof over their head because they can’t work, because there are no jobs for them to slave away at ?
Is it all about banking, then ? Or industrial policy ? I seriously don’t know what Michael Gove’s real agenda is, but I suspect it has something to do with continuing with the neoliberal privatisation agenda – putting all social goods into private hands for profit.
What has Europe ever done for us ? Britain’s involvement in the European Union project has been right at the centre, in agreeing excellent labour law, human rights, technological performance, business accountability, renewable energy. The European project is a British project. Why would anybody want to leave ?
In my humble view, the Conservative Party should expel the Eurosceptic rebels. They do no good to the Coalition Government, and they offer no progress in democratic advancement.
And, I would suggest, the Conservative Party ask the media to inject some reality and pragmatism into their presentation of European Union issues. It’s not the 1970s or the 1980s any more, Mr Newspaper Editor. Like it or not, the European Common Market and its safety and success are in the British national interest.
We’re never going to solve environmental problems like climate change without working hand-in-hand with Europe. And we are definitely not going to address the energy crisis without staying in the Common Market.
It’s time for David Cameron to ditch the dinosaurs.