The fundamental values of Britain’s democracy are under serious threat, such that it has become a sham. In the spirit of Norfolk’s Boudica, Robert Kett and Thomas Paine, we call for wholesale reform.
Democracy Undone’s concern has been heightened, in particular, by the subverting of democratic process by the Blair regime which ruled Britain from 1997 to 2007, and the interwoven criminality in the press, banks, arms industry and Parliament during the same period.
Tony Blair’s style was presidential. He ruled by cabal rather than cabinet and took advantage of the weaknesses in Britain’s democracy to take the country, on false pretexts, into illegal wars which had devastating consequences for the people of the countries and even the regions in which the wars were conducted, and also heightened threats against the U.K. itself. If democracy is, indeed, a form of government where the constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, independent courts of law, etc., then Britain is falling far short, for, as Thomas Paine pointed out more than 200 years ago, “[T]he whole is a government without a constitution, and constituting itself with what powers it pleases.”
What we are calling for:
- True equality before the law. Which means impartiality of the courts and that even those in the highest positions of power must not be exempt from law. In the words of Albert Venn Dicey (February 4, 1835 – April 7, 1922), the British jurist and constitutional law theorist whose “An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)” is considered part of the British constitution “[E]very official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen………………..[Appointed government officials and politicians, alike]…and all subordinates, though carrying out the commands of their official superiors, are as responsible for any act which the law does not authorise as is any private and unofficial person”.
- Real democracy – an elected executive, parliament and head of state, with separation of powers and a free and diverse press. Leaders must be proportionately elected by the people and be given the power and authority by the people to always act in the best interest of those people.
- The abolition of discrimination relating to bloodline, caste, race, upbringing, education, friendship ties to whomsoever is in power, religion, ideology and point of view, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, wealth, status, criminality, state of mental health, etc.
Key elements of real democracy
In order to deserve the label modern democracy, a country needs to fulfil some basic requirements – and they need not only be written down in its constitution, but must be kept up in everyday life by politicians and authorities:
- Guarantee of basic human rights to every individual vis-à-vis the state and its authorities, as well as vis-à-vis any social groups (especially religious institutions) and vis-à-vis other people.
- Separation of powers between the institutions of the state:
Government – Executive Power,
Parliament – Legislative Power, &
Courts of Law – Judicial Power.
- Freedom of opinion, of speech, the press/mass media
- Religious and non-religious liberty
- General and equal right to vote (one person, one vote) and free and fair elections
- Good and representative governance with the focus on the public interest and absence of corruption
According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, full democracies are countries in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but these will also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. Flawed democracies, on the other hand, are countries that also have free and fair elections and even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties will be respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation. It goes on to declare that: If democratically-based decisions cannot or are not implemented then the concept of democracy is not very meaningful or it becomes an empty shell.
Worryingly, in its Democracy Index 2011, Britain is, albeit rather optimistically, ranked below Malta, the Czech Republic and Uruguay, and just above Costa Rica and Mauritius. Clearly, Britain would be making a big mistake if it became complacent.