Where’s the Christmas Spirit?

When the condemnation by an independent review of “state-sponsored” doping of Russian athletes is reported on Russian television, followed by an assurance from Vladimir Putin’s Minister of Sport that the accusations are groundless and should be ignored, we feel justified in rolling our eyes. “What else do you expect?” we say. Russia may claim to […]

Is Democracy Too Left-Wing?

There is never any shortage of advice to political parties who seek to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that to do so would be to court electoral disaster. Any indication of a wish to move away from the status quo will, they are told, be seen as a dangerous “move to the left”. It was Mrs […]

There Is A World Beyond Politics

Politics is a tough business.  Politicians need a particularly robust temperament if they are to ride the roller-coaster of political fortune for any length of time.  The bouquets, of course, are welcome and enjoyable when they come, but the brickbats – and they can come thick and fast – can hurt.  Politicians, like Shylock, bleed […]

The Voters’ Anger

The disenchantment of British voters with democracy, we are told, is to be explained by the anger they feel at the failings of politicians. Those failings, it is supposed, are to do with the perception that politicians are “on the make”; but that conclusion – while no doubt partly justified – is surely far from […]

Game On

In a properly functioning parliamentary democracy, voters can do much more than cast a vote from time to time. They should be able to hold their government to account and, if they decide they don’t like it, they can replace it with another – in effect, a government in waiting. If the system works well, […]

Myths, Politicians and Money

In 1989, the American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama published a famous essay which he called “The End of History”. In celebrating what he believed to be the more or less permanent triumph of liberal democracy, he saw the “free market” and democracy as not only compatible but as mutually supportive. The market was in his […]

Consulting the People

It cannot be said too often – democracy is about more than election day. Electing a government is only the beginning. What matters to a properly functioning democracy is whether the government, however decisive its election day mandate, continues to consult and reflect public opinion throughout its term and whether it exercises power in the […]

New Zealand’s Elective Dictatorship

It was the Tory MP and peer, Quintin Hogg, later Lord Hailsham, who coined the phrase “elective dictatorship” to describe a government that – once elected – proceeds to ignore the wishes of the voters who elected it and to do whatever it wishes. His point was that there is much more to democracy than […]

A Win for Labour and Democracy

It is very much to Labour’s credit that they have put in place a more democratic set of internal rules across the board and that the outbreak of democracy now applies to the election of the leader as well. The events of recent days, however, suggest that the party has yet to understand fully or […]

The “Best” System?

In 1974, as a newly elected MP for Southampton Test in the British Parliament, I was interrupted mid-speech on one occasion by a Liberal from the benches opposite. “How can you claim to speak for the people of Southampton,” he demanded “when you got only 39% of the vote?” “Who would you replace me with?” […]