Wednesday 7 June 2017

What's Democracy Got to Do With it? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

Much of my writing over the last few weeks has focused on topics that I think matter in the lead up to #GE2017:  gender, age, leadership, love and hate, propaganda and so on. Here I am concerned with our political system itself: democracy, defined as:

. . . a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

- which is important both in terms of the challenges to democracy during this election and the future of democracy after polling day.

Let’s just reflect on a few issues of significance right now:

-      Following seven assurances that she would not call an early general election Theresa May presented the country with a largely un-costed manifesto on which there have been innumerable U-turns/changes. When Labour (and other political Parties or an occasional journalist) points this (and other deficiencies in the Conservatives plans) out Mrs May tells us that ‘Jeremy Corbyn is trying to sneak into No 10’ or ‘Jeremy Corbyn is just trying to get votes’.

It’s confusing I know as to why these are problems during a general election.

-      In the run up to the final date for new voter registration Labour and other Parties issued numerous reminders of the importance of suffrage – in speeches and through social media – with details on how to register. The Tories on the other hand not only did little or nothing to encourage new/additional voters but even attempted to block out Labour’s adverts with anti-Corbyn propaganda.

-      Whilst the importance of voting and voting in an informed way, remains the focus of the Left (see for example Matt Turner’s Everybody’s Doing It, and you should too: 5 ways young people can help Labour win there is much sneering elsewhere. Just a couple of tweets here as example (and there’s worse, much worse):

Under 30s love Corbyn but they don't care enough to get off their lazy arses to vote for him. (Tory candidate with 10 years commons experience).

Will defo vote but most young people don't & won't vote. They're naive & thick as dogshite. Simple as. Tory landslide. (Floating voter, 23).

(In contrast to this I, like many others, cannot remember another time when so many people (of all ages) were so engaged by and enthused about politics. On a walk into town yesterday I passed three mid twenty-something men. ‘The young have got to get out to vote though’, one said’. ‘Take your friends’, I shouted back to them. ‘Don’t worry, we will, we are’, they replied, smiling at me).

-      The Lobbying Act 2014 provides a set of rules for people and charities that publicly campaign on issues in the run up to elections to ensure they do not influence how people vote:

More than 50 charities, many of whom routinely campaign against Conservative policies, have signed an open letter to all main party leaders calling for a commitment to overhaul the controversial Lobbying Act ‘as a matter of urgency’ after the election on 8 June.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “The Lobbying Act is a democratic car crash; it weakens democracy and curtails free speech…. ‘Limiting charities’ engagement in political debate is detrimental to a healthy democracy. We’re urging the next government to commit to reforming the act,'

-      That the Conservative general election campaign is built on slogans (‘strong and stable’, ‘coalition of chaos’, ‘put your trust in me and my team’, ‘magic money tree’ and even just recently ‘make Britain great again’) and on the smearing of the opposition is clear to most of us. And yet it is hard to pick through the many lies that are being told, about policies and personalities, that offer an alternative to what we have now. Just as bad is the lack of attention given to the alternative; as messages of hope are drowned out by the cacophony of hate and fear. (I have provided many examples in previous blog entries see for example AND . Just one further example here )

Labour's Money Tree
The Conservatives' Money Tree

-      The mainstream media has much to answer for. The BBC in particular has come under particular attack for its right wing leanings and there is much evidence to support this critique:  

'Thousands came out to see Corbyn yesterday. But you wouldn’t know that from watching the BBC'

The recently released protest song Liar, Liar (currently at No 4 in the charts) is critical of Theresa May and the current government. This track is not played by, nor available to listen to, via the BBC because of so-called ‘impartiality’ during a general election. And yet headlines from such publications as The Sun, The Express and The Mail, which are anything but ‘impartial’ and very often draw on misinformation and lies are freely available on the BBC News Website and read out on TV and radio news programmes. Listen to Liar, Liar here:

Writing in yesterday’s Guardian (a supposedly Left leaning paper that has overall been less than helpful), Gary Younge argued:

In America, money selects the candidates before the voters get a look-in. ‘The ideas of the ruling class,’ Karl Marx pointed out, ‘are in every epoch the ruling ideas.’ That’s how a man who talked with Sinn Féin (a strategy that stood the test of time) can be constantly interrogated about his support for ‘terrorism’ while a woman who joined a party that branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist is never asked about her support for Apartheid.

There’s more I could write about, more examples I could give….

Finally, just a brief consideration of some of the things that we are voting for. If the Conservatives win changes will be made in terms of the conduct of elections and who and who is not allowed to vote. When implemented the boundary review of constituencies, the introduction of the need to produce ID when voting and other changes (see will all benefit the Conservatives.

Just yesterday in a final attempt to strengthen her ‘weak and wobbly’ campaign, and to defend the increasing criticisms of her as both Home Secretary and PM, Theresa May announced ‘I’ll rip up human rights laws that impede new terror legislation’. Whilst we reflect on this new and (hopefully final) slogan of #GE2017 let’s just remind ourselves of the detail of the Human Rights Act:

SO: What’s Democracy Got to Do With It?
Answer: A LOT.

TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

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