Declining Democracy 158

Total membership of political parties in the UK has declined, very steadily and inexorably, from about 3.3 million in 1968 to about 500,000 in 2010. That is even worse than it sounds because of course the population grew substantially in the same period. That is one of the fascinating facts in this report by Democratic Audit.

That is just one of a large number of PDFs that comprise the total report. It is well worth reading and it reinforces the argument, consistently made on this blog, that democracy has failed in this country.

There is one constituent of a genuine democracy that the report does not seek to measure, but which I think could usefully be quantified by political scientists. That is the degree of real choice being offered by the political parties. I am sure that this has very substantially declined as well. There is no real choice on offer nowadays between the various neo-con parties. The differences on the timing and depth of cuts in public services, on continued privatisation of health services, on Trident nuclear weapons, on Afghanistan, on the money men who control the politicians, are miniscule. Only in Scotland do voters have a genuine choice of a different direction, and they take it.

This is a direct consequence of the other trends the Democratic Audit does measure. They show that the parties are more than ever, and constantly more, not avenues for popular participation but the domain of a political class and controlled by a wealthy “elite”. It is no wonder that they all have the same programme of promoting the interests of that elite.

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158 thoughts on “Declining Democracy

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  • Thinus

    “It is no wonder that they all have the same programme of promoting the interests of that elite.”

    … and who is that elite?

    If one doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to ask the right question, one can’t expect the right answer or any answer at all:

  • Mary

    In the hour long build up at Wimbledon, some of which I have been looking at, there was a very strange graphic used which showed the two protagonists’ progress through the tournament. An imaginary Tube map was used and each match was a stop on the line, repeated for each player, and intercut with film of tube trains, lines and stations. Now why would the State Broadcaster do this?
    Interviews with the celebs attending, Dr Who’s Matt Smith, Beckham, has beens like Henman, etc etc

    Ms Barker is coping manfully. The roof’s open, it’s raining, the covers are on, what will happen next? Now the sun is shining. Only a few minutes to go…

    Remember, the key words are BRITISH and SUCCESS.

  • nevermind

    still we are whining and pointing fingers and lamenting, our kids can’t find work and seek solace in roughing it, diversions into oblivion. banks are arguing the toss over what control they could possibly live with and not a single political party, bar the Greens to some incomplete extend, have any coherent policies. All have dogma /celebrity ridden pieces of rubber on offer, wanting to meddle with education, just as any party would, once again interrupting universities and schools with rigmarole change, a different set of moral guidance applied, pictures taken with children, ahhhh…
    And we wonder why education is in the dumps…they have just about time for breathing before another electioneering politician uses education to set him/herself above the moral majority and screws continuity of the curriculum, routine timetables and set subjects for children and the confidence in teachers and local education boards by bombarding them with copy after copy of policy guidelines and changes.

    Lets get back on subject, what if we ignore the right to vote?

    what if each constituency has a randomly selected representative? s/he couldn’t do much more wrong than the current lot. If 70% don’t vote and I agree with Oddie, there should be a threshold of at least 50%^, then why not get rid of political party’s, election expenses and false promises, but most important, CORRUPTION at every level?
    You can refuse the sumptuous salary, there’ll be no pension rights or perks after you served your four years and there will be no more re-elections, further limiting compromise and corruption from dwelling at the centre of Government.
    The PM can be selected by the house and a period of public hustings.

    I’m sure that this solution will be rejected by all the apparatchiks who sucker party politics and who have their fingers sticky from some vested pie-crust’s.
    Equally the wannabe emperors who use politics as a springboard into high finance industry and corporate shenanigans.
    The solution would be non ageist, it unfortunately can’t comply with gender balance but every four years this could be switched by pulling random national insurance numbers until one selected a woman. The number would not conform to any party political line unless the person had been previously engaged in it. I would be prepared to take that chance, because the groups that will inebvitably form in the House are mopst likely organise around issues’as much as around personalities that can organise.

    How this could also relate to the higher echelons of the civil service presented with the challenge of making it work, is something to be worked out.

    So its either we turn people on to vote for a sensible alternative, or we stick our heads in the sand, collectively, wait for Godot and Gomorrah.
    Don’t mind if I opt out, I’ll try and keep my backside upright.

    The occasional soothing noise from one or other party does not do it any more, people are turned off and politicians don’t give a hoot if they are selected by a minority.
    Ketts Alliance of Independents is one alternative, there are others…

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Lord Palmerston,
    “Good riddance to democracy. The best government is through a limited
    franchise, such as we had from the middle ages through to the horribly
    mistaken reforms about a century ago that brought us universal
    The common man (or woman), it turns out, is utterly unfit to be
    entrusted with the vote. Far better to take one’s chances with
    government by an aristocratic elite than by sleazy populists elected
    by fools.
    But as our electorate is unlikely to vote for their own
    disenfranchisement, our descent towards popular fascism is going to
    So – why invert the problem? Surely if one accepts that the economic relationships between money and elected officials has a corrupting influence, then this along with other structural issues within the political system account for the apathy occurring when people see and feel that their true interests are not being served.
    Put the Iraq war or Afghan war to the test of a referendum and the result will show you that not only aren’t a lot people not fools, but such a referendum would demonstrate that their best interests are neither being served nor reflected by the elected politicians in their policies. It is more banking and financial interests which have a strangle hold on national British politics than do the interests or voices of ordinary people comprising the majority.
    Apathy stems from a perception that politically it does not matter much who gets elected. The structural arrangements of the main parties make it hard to impossible for viable alternatives to emerge into the mainstream political process – with any realistic chance of becoming the elected government.

  • Mary

    I bet Agent Cameron and his side kicks Clegg and Johnson wish they had not bothered. Similarly Chief of the General Staff David Richards. WTF was he doing there? To check on the military stewards’ performance? Our new Princess Pippa was in the front row too.
    PS It’s all the roof’s fault! Federer is used to playing indoors.

  • Lord Palmerston

    Courtney Barnett:
    President Bush led his country to war against Iraq on false pretences
    and was re-elected in 2004.
    Prime Minister Blair led his country to war against Iraq on false
    pretences and was re-elected in 2005.
    The bar is not a high one: avoiding mass-murder is an undemanding
    standard to expect of one’s government. Yet it was not demanded by
    the electorate in either of the two countries.

  • Mary

    Yes Lord Palmerston I have never understood why the electorates put them back in although the likes of Tony Benn STWC etc did not help.
    He picked up the phones to canvas for Blair in 2005.
    My comment on this blog {}
    mary 8 Jan, 2009 – 9:58 pm
    Not totally distinguished company. It’s a pity Benn did not support the move to have Blair arraigned as a war criminal. He also canvassed on the phone for Blair in the last election. He is just a phony and a windbag.

    ‘A letter was signed by over 4000 people, including this author, which sought the arraignment of Blair and his cabal for war crimes. It was addressed to Kofi Annan and headed by Tony Benn, president of STWC. A meeting to make a final decision is recorded thus in Tony’s new diary:-
    ‘Lindsey German and Nicholas Wood came to see me about the next stage in the campaign on the war crime question, about how we could advance the cause of the letter. There’s been no coverage in the press, although Kofi Annan has replied. We went on to discuss the whole question really of whether we were demanding a war crimes tribunal. My view is that you shouldn’t do that. I think it’s a complete waste of effort trying to put Blair and Bush on trial : (a) it won’t happen; (b) it’s so negative: ( c) it’s all about personalities.’ –

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    The sky was obviously not the limit for Andy Murray despite Agent Cameron’s training match in the State Dining Room. Maybe it was that awful Wimbledon Rolex clock that further boosted Federer’s pattern of impeccable timing.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq Association

    Thank-you Guest for the link to the UN Report of the Houla massacre. The implosion of the story was inevitable considering it was to be the casus belli for a planned invasion by US and NATO according to my own sources.
    As I reported here after this black-hearted, cruel and totally noxious event, the terrorists attacked Syrian army road-blocks just outside Houla and then moved into the town to draw army fire into populated areas. The terrorists followed a premeditated plan to massacre families, take pictures for media coverage while Syrian army reinforcements engaged in a battle within the precincts of the town. The terror atrocities were repackaged in the Western and Arab media as the heinous, barbarous work of the regime.
    Shame on the British press and the BBC. If I had the resources and contacts I would sue you bastards in a court of law with compelling evidence.

  • Mary

    These deaths have occurred just two days after La Belle Clinton visited Kabul and anointed Afghanistan as an Non Nato ally of the USA. She then went on to Tokyo and bullied various countries including the UK, Japan and Germany, to pledge a $16 billion package of aid for Afghanistan.
    8 July 2012 Last updated at 20:15
    Afghanistan: Nato soldiers killed in roadside bomb
    A roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan has killed six Nato service members, the Western alliance has announced. A statement did not give details of the nationalities of those killed.
    The incident came as donors meeting in Japan pledged to give Afghanistan $16bn (£10.3bn) in civilian aid over four years, including the period during which foreign troops are to pull out.
    Violence in the country has recently spiked. At least 14 civilians were killed on Sunday alone.

  • guest

    Mark Golding
    Thanks for the thanks. Yes, we know how they work, we didn’t need to know about the UN report, we already knew from years of experancies how evil works.

  • Rose

    I do not know how true this is, but what I heard on the radio yesterday shocked and saddened me.

    Apparently,Afghanistan is now eligible for all kinds of goodies (best friend status) if they agree to buy more bombs and bullets from the world’s bully. How can this be?

    Please someone tell me I misheard/misunderstood.

    Lord in your mercy ….

  • Mary

    Mark This is how Richard Colebourn, BBC News Middle East, views the ME.

    A revealing insight from Richard Coleborne, BBC News Middle East producer:
    ‘Envious of colleagues covering elections in ‪#Egypt‬ ‪#Libya‬ whilst some of us slog away on more depressing unfinished revolutions ‪#Syria’
    Here note that he has been at the BBC for 11 years pumping out the poison. Note also the PPE BA from Oxford, that nursery so often noted of servants of the evil empire.

  • jay

    both parties are of the same beast,the ESTABLISHMENT,what is there to say..
    there is only two ways to go –
    1st..British Constitution Group,…. this party for a very long time, has been
    warning the British public that their rights and freedoms under Common Law and the Constitution are being stripped away and replaced by a dictatorship…
    2nd- slavery & death…-you choose…

  • Scouse Billy

    Mary, you will find that Oxford PPE (esp. the Bullingdon types) features in the research of Abeldanger (Captain Sherlock).
    Don’t know if you watched their documentary but it is recommended given Craig’s post – as Guest pointed out, this country has never had democracy (merely the illusion of democracy).
    Craig should watch it too:
    P.S. Clark, the Green Party? – Eugenics in the guise of environmentalism.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    “Yes Lord Palmerston I have never understood why the electorates put them back in although the likes of Tony Benn STWC etc did not help.”

    There is mainly duopoly running British politics. Third parties are marginal – but as now see can be a power balancer. Doesn’t really change what Plamerston observed. So sad.

  • it will come

    At sometime the worm will turn. When it does have your hard hats ready because it will be nasty.

  • alan campbell

    Quite right, Craig. And I do hope you’ll now avoid placing your trust in the hands of Dirty Digger/Trumpster crony Salmond and the SNP and potentially embarrassing yourself as you did with your pre and post-election dalliance with the Lib Dems.

  • Mary

    Whilst our ‘leaders’ were wasting away a few hours at Wimbledon yesterday afternoon {} this is the terrible state of affairs that some of our fellow citizens are facing.
    Unemployed worker sets himself on fire outside UK Jobcentre
    7 July 2012
    On June 29, a 48-year-old man tied himself to the railings outside Selly Oak Jobcentre in Birmingham, England, dousing himself with fuel and setting himself alight. He was protesting not receiving his benefit payment.
    This horrific event is the direct outcome of the austerity measures implemented by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

  • Komodo

    Anyone wanting power anywhere with a pretence of democracy needs to collude with at least part of the media to some extent. Hence Salmond’s moves towards Murdoch: the SNP’s own publications do not have the mass distribution and are obviously biased in favour of the cause. You can’t expect people to vote for you if they don’t at least think they know what you’re doing. And if you don’t figure in the mainstream.
    As we have seen, the establishment and the press are closely entwined: personally I think Salmond pulled off something of a coup in stealing Murdoch’s (temporary, unreliable, but useful) allegiance from the other Scottish parties. Not tactful, not particularly moral, but practical…rather like Salmond himself. He’s a realist-something in short supply in politics at the moment.
    I see the SNP as a model of what might be done more generally. Mind you, lacking a clear cause, a leader whom people will follow, and media support, it will be a longer struggle than even the SNP’s patient 60-year escalation of the ante.

  • Komodo

    Clear cause:
    How about ending the party system? I don’t want an MP who walks through the lobby baaaing obediently as directed by a bunch of other MP’s who don’t represent me and I didn’t vote for. Simple issue, to which all the rest can be attached.
    A leader: If, due to being all communal and democratic, you don’t appoint one, one will inevitably emerge. He/she may very well be worse than an appointed one. See under Stalin.
    Media support: Or media coverage. First obtained by audacious and newsworthy actions. Not by bitching on CiF. See under Stone of Scone.

  • nevermind

    P.S. Clark, the Green Party? – Eugenics in the guise of environmentalism.

    Care to elucidate this claim, scouser, cause it sounds like you been listening to something weird, how about showing us were it says this in the MFSS.

  • John Goss

    Mary, I really feel for that young man who set fire to himself. To understand what he was going through we need to be in a similar situation. My wider fears are that this is the tip of the iceberg.
    Cameron, the rich public-school educated autocrat, knew exactly what he was doing with his ‘Big Society’ philosophy. He was preparing people to work for nothing. Before his ‘Big Society’ ideal I used to pick up litter, bags of it. I would even have given my time to help clear the area of the River Cole near where I live from the pernicious and invasive import, Japanese Knotweed, but not since Cameron’s pay-free initiatives. People could be off the unemployment register with a paid wage for doing this. Likewise with repairing the roads, which are in a dreadful condition. I keep harping on about Keynesian economics but it is the only way out of the economic mess and would provide disaffected young people with hope who might otherwise see their only escape in taking personal action against themselves, with petrol and matches.

  • Komodo

    Sympathetic as I am to the Keynes solution to depressions, it occurs to me that it still has to be paid for somewhere down the line…if the pre-existing structures and ethics remain, and in tha absence of any commitment to actually producing anything of value, re-inflating a financial bubble is the most politically attractive way of doing this. We need to remember that Oxford PPE’s are not taught anything else.

    Lacking a major war (which either enforces military production at the bleeding edge of technology, or blows up outdated production centres, enforcing their updating when peace returns), I don’t see how we can avoid a return to the boom-bust bubble economics demanded by financiers.

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