Tony Benn was, in my opinion, as mad as a March Hare, but this quote of his is truly insightful in the context of our own very particular [Nay, peculiar? – Ed] democratic experiment:
“In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person–Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates–ask them five questions:
“What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”
And we can’t get rid of them, can we? It feels as if they can do what they want up on the Hill and we are trapped with this mandatory, unaccountable coalition of the damned.
I once asked Professor Vernon Bogdanor (never name drop, as Ronald Regan always said to me) what he thought of our government structure and whether as a world expert on government, he felt a mandatory coalition with no opposition was democratic.
Bogdanor was one of the architects of the particular ring of hell which runs our country.
He told me that the electorate of Northern Ireland didn’t deserve any better. (The conversation was then broken up by a third party before it descended into violence). So that’s why we have it, because – in the opinion of the intelligentsia – it’s all we are fit for!
Opposition and accountability would be too hard for us. Perhaps we wouldn’t know what to do with it if we did have it. And so instead we end up with accountability via ‘shock jock’.
The politicians are off to the country to gain a mandate and wave it around to show someone somewhere supports what they are doing. But what sort of mandate will it be?
I despair of the number of articulate engaged citizens who have told me over the past few days that they really don’t think they can bring themselves to vote this time.
We really could be looking at less than a 50% turnout. Can you honestly call yourself an elected politician if you can’t even galvanise half the electorate to go out and vote?
There are people all over the world fighting and dying for the right to vote because they hope it can change things. People aren’t going to vote here because they have come to believe as Mark Twain said: “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”
I have heard it said that 110,000 voters came out for the Brexit referendum that hadn’t voted a month earlier in the May Assembly elections. They did it I assume because every vote counted AND they cared about this vote. It would make a difference, whatever the outcome.
Should we try and get those voters and the other no-shows to come out on March 2nd?
Or alternatively, should we follow PJ O’Rourke’s advice:
“Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards”
Libertarian, animal welfare and open government activist. Occasional media commentator. Tax Consultant. Previously in my parallel life: Commissioner for Public Appointments NI; Commissioner for House of Lords Appointments Commission; Panel member for appointment of QCs both NI and in England and Wales; Chair of appointment panel for UK’s Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority; and all round Quango Queen.