The car crash Coalition and the corrosion of democracy

Is this Government corrupt? It depends on how you define corrupt. If the focus is upon demonstrable criminality then the answer would have to be no. More pertinently, is it corrupting?

Recent events should concern anyone who believes that healthy democratic practice is important for a healthy society. I wrote several months ago that the Government already had a Fin de siecle feel to it. If anything the evidence of sharp practice is arriving ever more frequently. [Read more…]

Caring diddlysquat about democracy

[Originally posted at Dale&Co, 27/09/11]

One of the less pleasant characteristics of the Coalition government is its cavalier attitude towards transparency, accountability and Parliamentary process. This is part of a more general impoverishment of democratic practice.

We hear reports of serious, but relatively small scale, issues such as Ministerial advisors using private email accounts for Government business in order to evade oversight and avoid Freedom of Information requests. We have last week’s news reports of the proposed scheme of Ministerial buddying with big business. This is a scheme which, in many other contexts, would be condemned as tantamount to formalising the corruption of the political process.

The Government is not above ignoring the letter and the spirit of good Parliamentary practice. Examples proliferate. [Read more…]

Governing in the private interest?

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.

Franklin D Roosevelt

Anyone interested in the health and sustainability of liberal democracy should be concerned if the levers of government come under the control of concentrated, sectional interests. That is the case whether the interest is corporations, the military, trades unions, bureaucrats, or organised religion. By happenstance such situations may result in benign government with a concern for the broader interest. More typically they result in government not for the many but for the few.

The merits of pluralism have been much debated. Political processes in which all have the potential to prevail, on the basis of the strength of the case they can make, capture something important about the nature of liberty. They are the antithesis of systems in which entrenched and powerful interests systematically shape and dominate the agenda. It is a topic close to the hearts of Liberal Democrats. Genuinely pluralist political practice remains something to strive for. Its attainment is by no means assured and precarious at best. But it is nonetheless a noble aspiration.

These thoughts crossed my mind at 3.30am this morning as I was enjoying some bonus time awake courtesy of rather too much late night caffeine.

While I was waiting to see if sleep might revisit I read the recent Democratic Audit report Unelected Oligarchy: Corporate and Financial Dominance in Britain’s Democracy. And the content is alarming enough to keep a good democrat awake at night all by itself. [Read more…]