Posted by: aboutalbion | September 5, 2012

Electing a UK Salvation Government in 2015

The founding editor of one of the UK’s national newspapers (The Independent) is today suggesting how ordinary people might just be able to save British democracy.

He is claiming that British “democracy is in crisis” because of “a precipitous decline in respect for [elected] Members of Parliament” and for the Governments which are formed from these MPs.

His evidence includes results from a survey (sample size 5000) which suggest that 62% of people believe that “politicians tell lies all the time – you can’t believe a word they say”.  Another survey result suggested “a public that is increasingly disengaged from national politics”.  A third survey (which tracks attitudes after each UK general election) found that the proportion of the electorate that trust the Government “just about always” or “most of the time” collapsed from 47% in 1987 to 20% in 2010.

Today, he invites ordinary people to join him in reclaiming politics from the current party political elites.  He has in mind “a large group of like-minded citizens” standing for Parliament for just and only one five-year term “to put right as many things as possible”.

Within a year, he envisages that, using digital media, participatory policy making in groups would “discuss and decide what the next government should do – in detail”.  This outcome would be “capable of being boiled down into a series of measures that the electorate would find attractive”.  And these attractive measures would be “easy-to-understand policies for the problems people worry most about”.

His conclusion is: let’s organize ourselves to bring this Salvation Government to power in the (anticipated) general election in 2015.

I agree that his conclusion follows from his argument.  But I would like to dissent from his premise that the crisis in the UK is the fault of MPs and the Government.

My own view is that the actions of the political class reflect the preferences of the majority of the UK electorate who are beneficiaries of a system which (legally) transfers financial resources from the relatively poor to the relatively rich in the form of unearned income based on rent, interest, and profits.

It follows that if his premise is faulty, then it is likely that his argument and his conclusion will need to be re-designed.

Just to take one example.  The big issue that precipitated the economic crisis in 2008 was located in housing in the US.  In the UK, housing is the “big issue” which dare not speak its name (except in trite terms).  In the UK, we have a housing crisis and simultaneously we have lots of family homes which are not occupied by families with children living at home.  In the UK, we have an almost religious veneration for the (near absolute) right to private property (and an exaggerated sense of privacy).  In my opinion, it is most unlikely that “a large group of like-minded citizens” would reach a common manifesto position on housing.  And sure enough, housing is absent from the list of suggested policy areas that represent “the problems people worry about most”.

So far as I can see, if people will not choose to vote for sacrifice, then the future is rather bleak …

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