Saturday, 9 July 2016
Is Britain's Parliamentary Democracy Doomed?
Britain is about to get an unelected Prime Minister - again. The myth of Britain's parliamentary democracy is that we elect our MP's individually as the representative of a majority of the electorate in a constituency and that it is the choice of that representative as to which party they belong. If enough MP's form themselves into a party with a majority in the House of Commons then it is that party that forms the government and chooses a leader who is primus inter pares (first among equals). Of course none of this is true. MP's are selected to stand for election by already existing political parties and, in effect, the electorate vote for a party. The leaders of the parties are already known and are only primus inter pares until someone decides that they rather fancy the title of Prime Minister themselves. In fact Britain is an elective dictatorship in which a Prime Minister can pretty well do anything they like as long as the party will go along with it. And if the party is a little lukewarm then they can be "whipped" into agreement. So we now have the strange situation in which a small number of Tory party members can choose who the next dictator of Britain will be from a list of two presented to them by the Parliamentary party. The Labour party was pretty well run along the same lines until Ed Milliband decided that it needed a bit more democracy and that the leader in Parliament such be chosen from a list unlimited in number by all party members. The Parliamentary Labour Party now has a leader it doesn't want and believes is unelectable but has the support of the rest of the party. Milliband's attempt to inject more democracy into the Labour party came about because he saw that Parliament was a cosy club in which a political elite were far more interested in themselves than they were in the rest of the country. The revolt of the Parliamentary Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn would seem to indicate that he was probably right since they are obviously putting their own interests before the interests of their party and the country at large. The problem with democracy is that it often delivers answers that political elites don't like - which is why professional politicians don't like it much. This problem is exacerbated when the electorate are largely ignorant of the issues involved in pretty much any question they are asked and are largely unqualified to make any kind of sensible judgement. Which is why democracy is the worst kind of government except for all the rest. Essentially Parliamentary democracy in Britain is based more on myth than reality, has become increasingly unconnected with the rest of the country and is probably too unwieldy for the 21st century.