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Power and democracy

Observing developments in the forthcoming US Presidential Election on top of those in Britain since 2015 (the Coalition Government, the 2015 General Election and now the EU Referendum) there certainly seems to be something in the theory that there is a growing ‘disconnect’ between ordinary voters and the Establishment and political elites in supposedly Western First World democracies. Rust contributors have often commented upon the themes of lack of respect, distrust and sheer cynicism now openly directed towards what might be termed professional career politicians who are adept at telling the electorate how to think and behave but somewhat less diligent when trying to keep to their ‘do as I say, not as I do’ demands on personal integrity and honesty.

Part of the problem is the desirability (or indeed need) to be seen to be consistent. Anyone who ever adopts a particular view on a ‘political’ issue might well find it coming back to bite them on the backside at some point in the future. Take economic policies as an example – at points in recent British history, many of the political great and good (and their supposedly intelligent economist advisors) in all political parties were not only in favour of the UK adopting the Euro and/or the ERM but said so publicly and rubbished their peers who disagreed.

FLAGSThese days, of course, it is very hard to find anyone who will admit to ever having held these views, largely because – quite possibly only via random chance as events subsequently unfolded – their opinions and supporting arguments were proved to be 100% wrong. It is not unknown for those who espoused views of the ‘A’ persuasion, and argued passionately in favour of them at the time, to conveniently forget this fact and later instead adopt the (diametrically opposed) views of the ‘Z’ persuasion and argue those with equal conviction and vehemence.

Part of the career politicians’ eternal dilemma is that it’s jolly helpful always to be right on everything, most particularly history. A bit like being in your school’s debating society, where you have to become proficient at arguing in favour of both sides of any argument or proposition, just in case the master in charge tasks you with mounting the case for either of them in a forthcoming debate or exercise.

cameron2It’s ironic that the current EU Referendum has highlighted the issue, as we begin to behold the spectacle of fundamentally-opposed senior politicians coming together to support either the Remain or Leave campaigns.

Who would have ever imagined that we’d be seeing David Cameron on the same platform as David Milliband, Sadiq Khan or Harriet Harman, for example?

It seems to me that the spectacle diminishes every one of them. Given their known (opposing) views on virtually every subject, how can they bring themselves to do it? Oh – hang on – it’s because, although they disagree on everything else under the sun, they all agree that remaining in the EU is best for the UK, isn’t it?

That doesn’t quite ring true, of course. How can it, when they all have different – and sometimes contradictory – reasons for believing that Remain is best?

Some hold that the EU, with its market of 500 million people, is best for business and the economy whilst others believe that the EU is great because it protects workers against the worst excesses of big business capitalism.

It’s difficult to avoid the impression that – had the Tories been united (rather than split) on the benefits of remaining in the EU … or indeed had Labour decided to nail its colours to the Leave mast … all these politicians of different hues – whichever side of the current debate they sit – would have been equally happy (and skilled) at arguing the opposite case should political expediency, or party loyalty, have demanded it.

That’s why the electorate are so ‘disconnected’.

To finish with – as a good example of the ‘confusion’ afflicting many people at the moment, I quote below in full a letter that appeared in The Independent recently:

What strikes me most about the EU debate is the extent to which Brexit supporters seek to redirect blame onto the EU for what is in so many respects our own government and country’s failures over many decades.

Failure to build sufficient homes. Failure to invest in adequate National Health services. Failure to invest in education and new schools. Failure to invest in public services.

If we had vastly more investment in what matters then surely so many would not be falling over one another to condemn immigration for all our woes and problems.

ballot boxEurope in the end is about us becoming European citizens, not raving nationalists. And that means working on all we have in common, starting with human rights.

Together as Europeans it is surely blindingly clear we have far more collective world power than any one of our countries on its own.

And as far as democracy goes I think we need to take stock: the UK is surely most undemocratic country in the whole of the EU, with 800 totally unelected members in the House of Lords.

So my vote is 100 per cent yes for a democratic Europe. Not for hyped-up nationalism and so called “sovereignty” in a country where an elitist 5 per cent of population still owns 90 per cent of land and estates.

JEFF WILLIAMS, POOLE.’

To my mind, Mr Williams is as deluded about how Western democracy works as any of the politicians and fellow voters he complains about. His ‘dog whistle’ hatred of what he regards as the undemocratic UK Establishment/Tory government conveniently fails to take into account that the Tories – albeit narrowly – won the 2015 General Election.

Furthermore he seems to be arguing that it’s somehow better to be ruled by an unaccountable EU elite than it is by a democratically elected UK government.

Some people should be careful what they wish for.

About Miles Piper

After university, Miles Piper began his career on a local newspaper in Wolverhampton and has since worked for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He has also worked as a guest presenter on Classic FM. He was a founder-member of the National Rust board. More Posts