Posts Tagged ‘How democratic is the UK’

The Sunday review:How democratic is the UK? The 2012 audit by Stuart Wilks-Heeg, Andrew Blick and Stephen Crone for Democratic Audit

08/07/2012, 07:00:40 AM

by Anthony Painter

In the time before everyone on the centre-left and beyond was talking about Amartya Sen, he wrote a book called Development as Freedom. The reason for bringing this up is that the book was a powerful reminder of why democracy is important –something we seem to have forgotten. In some parts of the world as well as in our own historical experience, it is a matter of life and death. Here is Sen on politics and famines:

“Famines have occurred in ancient kingdoms and contemporary authoritarian societies, in primitive tribal communities and in modern technocratic dictatorships, in colonial economies run by imperialists from the north and in newly independent countries of the south run by despotic national leaders or by intolerant single parties. But they have never materialized [sic] in any country that is independent, that goes to elections regularly, that has opposition parties to voice criticisms and that permits newspapers to report freely and question the wisdom of government policies without extensive censorship.”

For Sen, the reason for this is democracy is a basic human capability. It is part of being human in an enlightened sense, it enables us to press for our needs to be met and the process itself helps us to understand what we need and how we can cooperate or support collective provision to ensure that those needs are met.

Now, the UK is not despotic, no longer imperialistic and it is has a free press and democratic choice. No famine is on the way. Yet Sen’s perspective still should raise our alarm bells that, in its latest four yearly report, Democratic Audit comes to the conclusion that the UK’s representative democracy is “in long-term, terminal decline, but not no viable alternative model of democracy currently exists.”

Not only is our democracy faltering and floundering, our democratic reformers have, since Labour’s early reforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s, largely failed to find a convincing story of why that should concern us.


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