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.


158 thoughts on “Declining Democracy

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  • guest

    Komodo
    .
    There is much more to it then you state at “9 Jul, 2012 – 8:49 am”. I think the SNP have over the years been infiltrated by opportunists and carpetbaggers, it mirrors what has happened to the Labour party. I am for scottish independence, but, I know it will just turn out to another right wing thiefdom, if it ever comes to pass!.

  • Mary

    Boris Johnson (in the photo linked to earlier) hoping to bask in the reflected glory of a Murray win, writes this bilge in the Torygraph. He gets paid for doing so in spades.
    .
    ‘After being elected Mayor, he announced that he would be resuming his weekly column for The Daily Telegraph. The Guardian reported that he had agreed a £250,000 annual salary for doing so. The report added that he will donate £25,000 each towards two scholarships: one for students of Journalism, and the other for the teaching of Classics.[26]’ Wikipedia
    .
    Stop bashing the bankers – we have no future without them
    Wrongdoers must be punished, but the City’s jobs and investment are simply irreplaceable, argues Boris Johnson.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/9385743/Stop-bashing-the-bankers-we-have-no-future-without-them.html

  • Mary

    Yes John, I agree with what you say. I used to do jobs around the neighbourhood such as collecting litter, clearing gullies and drains in the road, sweeping the pavement etc but now do not bother. Unfortunately, there is nobody employed by the council to do these jobs. Work is outsourced so that a mechanical drain clearing machine might appear once or twice a year. Similarly, the pavements are cleaned once a year in the autumn. The litter collects in the gutters.
    .
    I would like to put Boris, those nasty pieces of work Iain Duncan Smith, Francis Maude and Grant Shapps et al + Cameron and Clegg on the front desks in Job Centres for a few weeks so see how they cope with the desperate people.
    .
    Did you spot this directive sent to the front line? Note the Orwellian use of the word ‘customers’.

    .
    UK: Official guidelines to deal with suicide by the jobless
    By Robert Stevens
    18 May 2011
    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued official guidance on how to deal with a claimant who threatens suicide.
    .
    The guidelines were issued last month and obtained by the Guardian newspaper from a senior Jobcentre employee. The need for such a six-point plan graphically indicates the impact of the government’s austerity measures on the most vulnerable.
    .
    The “new policy for all DWP businesses to help them manage suicide and self-harm declarations from customers” states:
    .
    “Some customers may say they intend to self-harm or kill themselves as a threat or a tactic to ‘persuade’, others will mean it. It is very hard to distinguish between the two … For this reason, all declarations must be taken seriously.”
    .
    /..
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/may2011/suic-m18.shtml

  • Mike Rogers

    I’d just like to emphasise points made by Giles and Fedup.
    .
    Tony Blair came to power after the untimely (and unexpected) death of John Smith, followed by the the anti-sleaze hysteria whipped up by the media against the Tories. Given Blair’s background, I’d rate him as a trojan-horse politician: placed into the system by well-heeled “sponsors”, who then try to manoeuvre their man into important positions. Unfortunately, I suspect the system is full of such trojan horses.
    .
    Nick Clegg is very likely another trojan-horse politician. Just look at his education background. He is ideal “Atlantic Bridge”/”Common Purpose”/Bilderberger material. (Of course, he’ll be “sponsored” by a Bilderberger, not one of them.) Charles Kennedy’s drink problem was not, to my knowledge, a new phenomenon, so the shock-horror revelation in the media is suspicious. After Menzies Campbell’s stop-gap leadership, Clegg appeared out of the mists to become the new LibDem leader.
    .
    And how on earth did the Tories choose Cameron? Out of a list of strong candidates, they chose him. I suspect he is probably eminently controllable. Just a placeholder figurehead.
    .
    The trojans control the system. They are self-perpetuating and self-appointing. Of course, it was ever thus but I suspect that power has now simply moved to a different elite clique.
    .
    Just another reason why our so-called democratic system is unlikely to change from within.

  • Mary

    Paul Tucker, said to become a shoe-in for King, will appear before the Treasury Select Committee at 4.30pm today. More theatre for the people.
    .
    Little about him on Wikipedia and this preamble on his BoE biography is rather hazy I think you will agree.
    .
    From 1980-1989 Paul Tucker worked as a banking supervisor; a corporate financier at a merchant bank; and on projects to reform the Hong Kong securities markets and regulatory system following the 1987 crash, and then the UK’s wholesale payments system, leading to the introduction of real-time gross settlement.
    .
    http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/about/Pages/people/biographies/tucker.aspx

  • Komodo

    Guest- No doubt. “This is hell nor are we out of it”….but without Salmond the SNP would still be picking up one or two constituencies, and outgunned even by the Liberals. Look what happened when Swinney took over for a while. Salmond may have reasoned that what was good for the SNP was good for him and propelled the party into the credible zone in order to further his own chances. But I doubt it. I think he rose to the challenge for its own sake.
    .
    Possibly the only reason the Liberals held onto their peripheral seats (W. Country, Scotland) for so long was that they tended to field rather good constituency MP’s, incidentally. While the Libs had no say in Parliament, these acted effectively as independents. Food for thought, there.

  • Mary

    How about this grouping of the usual suspects? Don’t much like the sound of it. Mathewson in particular, the ex CEO and then chairman of failed and bailed out RBS.
    {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mathewson}
    There are even connections to property development and the BBC in the list.
    .
    Yes campaign appoints board of advisers
    Sunday 08 July 2012 by Rory MacKinnon, Scotland desk
    .
    Pro-independence group Yes Scotland announced today that it had appointed a board of advisers.
    .
    In a bid to pull more people into the SNP-led campaign, the group said it had tapped retired independent MP and MSP Dennis Canavan to head the group, with former RBS chairman Sir Geore Mathewson as honorary vice-president.
    .
    Mr Canavan, who led the original push for a Scottish parliament, will be joined by, among others, SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, property tycoon Dan MacDonald, and solicitor Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, who was part of last year’s McCormac review which recommended that the Scottish government squeeze teachers.
    .
    Yes Scotland’s chairman Blair Jenkins, a former BBC Scotland executive, said the group reflected a “broad church” and would help shape the campaign’s tone and content.
    .
    He also said he hopes to see a Scottish Green Party member join the group after its October conference.
    .
    The Greens have voiced support for greater powers for Scotland but suspended plans to join the Yes Scotland campaign last month over fears the party’s own arguments for devolution would be sidelined.
    .
    A referendum on Scotland’s future – whether a status quo or with new fiscal powers under a “devo-max” arrangement – is expected in 2014.
    .
    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/121175

  • Clark

    Komodo, I did a “back of an envelope” reckoning last night. If a constituency has 100,000 voters, and voters are prepared to listen to pre-election campaigning for, say, a month before an election, any given candidate can spend only about ten seconds talking personally to each voter, including travelling time.
    .
    My record probably sounds stuck, but a big part of the democracy problem is simply structural. To reach a large enough proportion of the voters, a candidate has to use some form of mass-media. Sound bites, party lines and clichés will inevitably prevail over reasoned argument.
    .
    Not all things scale well; a human 100 metres tall would crush its own bone structure. Democracy needs extra layers so that electoral units can be smaller. My guess is that the size of electoral units should be capped at about 1000 voters.

  • guest

    Komodo
    .
    Forget the leaders of political parties, they can’t function without the support of their parties!!!. These are not political parties with somekind of ideological well meaning intent, these are groups of self-serving individuals who come together for the purpose of their own self-enrichment, by gaining government they can get more for themselves, they do well in opposition, indeed, it has to be stated, the whole system is so rigged the tories always get the biggest slice of the cake in government or out!!!. Look at the Lib Dems thinking liberal Simon Hughes, morphed overnight to the neocons (begrudgingly) supporting Simon Hughes, in fact he turned out to be…I know which side my bread is buttered on Simon Hughes!!!. All peas in a pod.

  • Komodo

    Therefore, Guest….no parties, eh? OBVIOUSLY a parcel of rogues in the nation have attached themselves to the SNP (or any group they think will promote their interests). No need to labour the point. It’s what rogues do. Come to that, isn’t it what you’d do? It’s certainly what I’d do if I had the means.
    .
    What interests me is how the SNP got to the size of support base where the wrong kind of lizard queues up to do it favours. And would it be possible to interest the public dahn sahf in a non-party democracy using similar means? Only if it can clearly be shown to be in the public’s best interest, is the answer. Which means propaganda, which means money. Therefore I am afraid a few ideals will probably have to be abandoned, with the best will in the world.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq Association

    It appears Atos Health workers, unhappy with low pay may strike during the Olympics.
    .
    Atos, an Olympic sponsor with profits exceeding £280 million, is tasked by the agent Cameron lead coalition to ‘slash’ welfare costs by targeting Britain’s genuinely sick and disabled, according to think-tank ‘Demos’ and disability charity ‘Scope’ in a recent study, ‘struggle for survival’ reported by the Guardian newspaper.
    .
    Anita Halpin, honorary treasurer for the National Union of Journalists and a member of the Trade Union Congress General Council questioned the decision to make Atos an Olympic partner.
    .
    She said, “One wonders why this company, with its track record on industrial relations and other allegations, has been deemed fit to be a worldwide Olympic partner.
    .
    “There is nothing magic about the Olympics that suddenly it is closed season on workers defending themselves against bad employers.”
    .
    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/121176

  • guest

    “Come to that, isn’t it what you’d do? It’s certainly what I’d do if I had the means.”
    .
    No Komodo, I wouldn’t, but then, thats just me, and granted a few others, sadly, not enough to make the differance it would seem. You only have my word for that, but you never know, it is said…”One day all things will be known”.

  • Komodo

    I think Clark and Nevermind are right. Representatives must be free to represent the people who voted for them. Grouping elected representatives into power blocs which control their vote is the most certain route to unelected interests gaining control of the system. The party system has served its turn (sometimes very well, in defanging the monarchy, and representing the mass cause of criminally exploited workers against their employers), but it is now decadent and corrupt; a dead idea walking. It instigates illegal wars and fraudulent financial activity. It homogenises politics, and it is deaf to new initiatives. It ensures that the main driver of the country’s policy is who will win the next election, TweedleLab or TweedleCon. If there is one point of fatal,attackable weakness in this country’s politics, it is the party system.
    Clark’s proposed political unit of 1000 people is broadly similar to the scale of a community or parish council. And these gatherings, since no-one gets paid, and representatives are genuinely drawn from all walks, are least subject to party politics. Perhaps the aim ought to be to work upwards from this base, rather than having any truck at all with Parliamentary elections?

  • Scouse Billy

    Some have asked why I said, “Green Party? – Eugenics in the guise of Environmentalism.”
    .
    As Orwell said, “Four legs good. Two legs bad.”
    .
    Let’s put this in Craig’s context that the democratic process is bust (I paraphrase).
    .
    You will need to do your own homework on, e.g., the Club of Rome, UN Agenda 21, Codex Alimentarius, the Optimum Population Trust (patron David Dimbleby), WWF founded by former SS officer Prince Bernhard (as in Bilderberg Group) and its inner core the 1001 Club.
    .
    Here is an overview that delineates the history of the controlling elite and the political parties, paradigms, crises etc. that they use. Alan Watt -The Neo-Eugenics War on Humanity:
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYf7mrEUNP4
    .
    I should add that whilst I value the postings of commenters here re. the minutiae of the NWO and its agents, without a context/framework, they are merely isolated jigsaw pieces – perpetually puzzling the people…

  • guest

    “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.”
    .
    George Galloway used to oppose them on a regular basis, that was not in the interest of the opportunists and carpetbaggers who control the Labour party, so, they chucked him out of the Labour party, must have been a salutary lesson to Simon Hughes and a very small number of others (What Labour does today, the Lib Dems can do tomorrow message), I see they got the message, learnt the lesson, now they are all good boys and girls…

  • Komodo

    Which part of “there are far too many people already” do we not understand?

  • Scouse Billy

    Komodo, if you really believe that, actions speak louder than words – you can make your own small contribution to solving the “problem”.

  • Mary

    Mark Golding you were completely right about the placement of that nasty Rolex clock at Wimbledon. I see that Federer has a 10 year $15m deal with the watch makers. He went off with £1.15m yesterday and Murray £575,000 as runner up. Not bad for a couple of weeks of tennis ball bashing.
    .
    Prize money and ATP ranking points: Today’s champion receives £1,150,000 in prize money, while the runner-up collects £575,000. In total, the men’s singles prize fund for 2012 Wimbledon is £5,770,000, a 10.3% increase on 2011. The winner is also awarded 2000 ATP ranking points, with the runner-up receiving 1200.

  • TFS

    Don’t you think use of the Whips in parliament should be made illegal?

    does it not go against democracy?

  • Parsley The Hare

    Authorities attribute cannibal attackers vicious assault to cannabis, not ‘bath salts’.
    .
    No mention of the certain lifetime’s exposure to and cumulative/combined unpredictable effects of the far more dangerous products of those big pharmaceutical firms, of which the attacker was no doubt guinea pig and victim of such a concoction of delights over the long course of his ‘treatment’. Which could not possibly have had any negative consequences. Oh no.

  • nuid

    “Which part of “there are far too many people already” do we not understand?”
    .
    Far too many. Of the species which is destroying the planet – and wiping out all other species in the process.
    I understood ‘eugenics’ to mean:
    ‘The science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics’.
    .
    What have the Greens got to do with that? And how is it “in the guise of environmentalism”?

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