Monday, April 17, 2006

power to the people?

A Comment on Power to the People, the report of the Power Inquiry

Power is an independent inquiry into Britain's democracy established and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. It was set up to determine why British people have become increasingly disengaged from formal democratic politics, and how to reverse this trend. It set about resolving three main issues;

The survival of Britain's democracy when politicians are perceived to be uncaring and unlistening.

The revival of politics when party political support is diminishing.

Increasing voter turnout despite the common feeling that elections are a charade.

It is, to all intents and purposes, a report that attempts to formulate the revival of the legitimacy of the status quo, not to revolutionise the distribution of political power. They state, 'The British parliamentary system of elected representation and considerable executive power was built in an era of very limited educational provision and in which deference and rigid hierarchy and static social relations were taken for granted. This explains why so many British citizens now no longer feel formal democracy offers them the influence, equality and respect they believe is their due.'

The power commissioners want us to become re-engaged with formal democracy. They feel this would;

Give legitimacy to government. Decreasing electorate turnout weakens the mandate of the elected party. In the last election, more people refrained from voting than voted Labour. And the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who rules by virtual presidential power, only received some 24,000 votes himself.

Improve political equality. Many people feel totally disenfranchised, their views are not represented.

Improve effective communication between the governed and the governors. Actually when I have bothered to vote in the past I've voted to be represented, not governed - a naive disappointment. Representation does not occur, which in turn leads to being disenfranchised.

Improve the calibre of political recruit.

Prevent the rise undemocratic forces.

Prevent governmental authoritarianism.

However, for all this pro-governmental tosh, it did come up with some interesting reasons for Britain's mainstream political malaise.

Contrary to the assumptions of political analysts, the public are not apathetic. There is massive involvement in pressure politics, e.g. signing petitions, supporting consumer boycotts, and joining campaign groups. It's formal politics that turn people off. Electorate turnout has declined for general elections since 1997, and has been low for other elections for many years. Political party membership is diminishing, and MPs, MEPs and councillors are distrusted.

People are not sick of formal British politics because they are apathetic, negative or inadequate human beings. They feel that the they are ignored and powerless, and that party politics restricts their options.

British parliamentary democracy doesn't work, other than to advance corporate exploitation. The ballot box offered by parliamentarians in any guise is no means for change. The reinvigoration of the status quo, as recommended in the Power Report, is not going to work, other than to delude the electorate.

Time for riot and revolution?

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