We are fortunate enough to live in a modern, liberal, democracy. This democracy is representative, meaning we elect people to act in our best interests. But, despite this tremendous trust, officials seem willing to take advantage of this responsibility. The 2009 expenses scandal, when we were reminded that greed, corruption, selfishness were rife in the upper echelons of this democracy, led to outcry over the aloof actions of our MPs. People were angry, and as a result David Cameron floated about a new policy; a by-election can be called if 10% of a constituency sign a petition following ‘serious wrongdoing’ by officials. He has now attempted to reinvigorate this initiative.
This language is so ambiguous and loose that it would be almost impossible to pin down; does using expenses count as a ‘serious wrongdoing’? Does voting against the interests of local communities count as wrongdoing? Does a minister supporting the HS2 rail initiative in spite of its potentially devastating impacts on local areas count as a wrongdoing, even if businesses support the plan?
Every so often our democracy reminds us of its fragile foundations; human nature seems to favour the acquisition of power, and to be elected as an MP is one of the highest examples of this. We like to hark back to Athenian models of direct democracy, where everyone has a say, yet referendums are not good for politics. Sometimes decisions are better left to those with specialised knowledge of the bigger picture-think of the debates over the EU. Representative democracy relies on pragmatism; without it the day-to-day decisions would be impossible to make.
…human nature seems to favour the acquisition of power…
The reactionary nature of the policy is key to understanding why it would be so hard to implement; people were angry because they had been taken advantage of, with politicians running amok with claims for moats, duck houses and pornography. It is not a policy that could be practically applied. British democracy means that the electorate is able to exercise its ultimate power once every 5 years-a flaw Cameron attempted to capitalise on through the promise of more accountability.
Cameron looks set to try to pass this legislation before the end of the coalition, but it is nothing short of a political ploy to enable the Conservative Party to spout pretty sounding words such as ‘transparency,’ ‘openness’ and ‘democracy.’ Anything that brings about these realities should be applauded, but any attempt to insidiously link empty motions into this vacant rhetoric should be condemned.
…politicians running amok with claims for moats, duck houses and pornography…
Public support for this idea has shifted; graver concerns of wage stagnation and economic despair dominate discussions. The very word ‘politician’ has become synonymous with apathy, distrust and corruption. This is not likely to change, and while the intent is laudable, it is equally ineffective.
Parties are slowly mobilising for election time; doubtlessly the Coalition Parties have an upper hand, but the need to distinguish between Conservative led policy and Liberal Democrat policies will cause tensions, and Cameron’s adherence to his 2009 statements is little more than a ploy, which will enable him to label his current partners as the perpetrators of an abhorrent betrayal through the tuition fee U-turn.