It was in 1976 that the office of No 10 was first criticised as an ‘elective dictatorship‘. Thirty years later and now the Prime Minister hasn’t even been elected to his supreme position, while his First Secretary of State, and arguably the most powerful member of the Cabinet, sits in the Lords. So too do six other Ministers. Perhaps we should be grateful that at least his constituents voted for Gordon Brown to be an MP. Such is the way we are now ruled.
It is putting our democracy, and perhaps British politics itself, at risk. A symptom of this is mass abstention. In last month’s Euro election only one voter in eleven voted Conservative and this made them the winners! (One in eighteen voted Labour).
The combination of a weakened democracy and strengthened executive is very dangerous, as, to take just one notable example, our liberties themselves are imperilled by an extraordinary expansion of surveillance and controls that is permitted by the spinelessness of a suborned parliament. This is far from the only area where the controlling instinct of an over-centralised state constantly lobbied by vested interests and unchecked by countervailing power is doing great harm, think of what the City has got away with. Critical coverage in the media has helped limit the damage. But for all its welcome noise this is not much more than the proverbial dogs barking at the caravan.
At last there are signs of a breakthrough. The expenses outrage has aroused the public from its lethargy. The awakening was long overdue. Larger scandals, from the financial crash to mendacious wars, were the real weight that broke the public’s trust. The exposure of MPs’ house flipping, moat cleaning and attitude of entitlement were just the last straw. Today, voters desire for change could prove irresistible – provided it can gain and retain its full voice.
But the political class is showing every sign that it thinks it can isolate and manage the anger. (…)