Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong
Presently, the BBC and other news media are diligently reporting demonstrations in Hong Kong against the China central government’s insistence upon vetting (effectively selecting) candidates for election to the most senior position of ‘Chief Executive’. Indeed, Deputy British Prime Minister the sanctimonious Lib Dem MP Nick Clegg has been spouting that democratic elections must be “free, fair and open” . . . oh yeah!
The clear implication underpinning all this assiduous news media reportage is that ‘we in Britain with our (professed) ‘representative democracy’ are so much better, but do the facts support this? Just how free, fair and open is our electoral system of balloting?
For example, just consider how the main political parties reserve to themselves the processes whereby their candidates are selected and how closed they are and, most importantly, the results. A state with 44 million voters needs a number of filters to arrive at a system of representation in its legislature and government. After all, 44 million voters cannot all sit in Parliament . . not yet anyway, but what advances will new technology bring, assuming those in power are truly democrats and will not stand in its way!
The main parties ~ Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP ~ would have us believe that their candidates are all freely selected by local constituency parties. After all is said and done, MPs are supposed to represent their constituents, aren’t they? Whether they do or whether they put their respective parties first and foremost [ie their individual careers] is another question worthy of consideration in its own right!
In reality, the main parties have ‘national’ panels of ‘approved’ candidates! Now is that not where this piece started?
The methods of ‘approving’ party candidates are somewhat arcane despite the impression the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband would have us accept. Who doubts that it is extremely useful for senior party officers to be well acquainted with one when one [a political rsearcher perhaps] is seeking inclusion on such ‘approved’ lists.
These lists of approved candidates enable a minute number of individuals in parties to control who is included, subject to ultimate veto by party leaders. These lists can be used to include and promote particular groups such as women, black people, perceived minorities, and to parachute them into constituencies with which they have scant, if any, connection. Despite all the parties’ anti-democratic safeguards, individual MPs such as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless are selected and achieve election, not to forget or to overlook all those MPs from the Brit parties exposed for fiddling their expenses!
In other earlier blog pieces here I have recorded the significant amounts of funding both public and private enjoyed by the Major Parties [an Ofcom term]. For 2013, the Major Parties’ incomes were as follows:
Conservatives – £25.4 million
Labour – £33.3 million
Lib Dems – £7.1 million
UKIP – £2.5 million
The Labour Party in its role as HM Opposition also receives public funds known as Short Money. The Allocation for 2014/15 is £5,907,256 plus £777,538 for the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, making a total of £6,684,794.15
In addition, the amounts of Political Development Grants made in 2012/13 were as follows:
Conservatives – £397,097
Labour – £455,193
Lib Dems – £455,193
Only within the last twenty four hours has it been announced that a private donor will give £1 million to UKIP. Small parties, such as the English Democrats, with tiny resources receive no financial assistance but must compete against the Major Parties with vastly greater funds.
The Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties accounting for 94.5% of MPs have devised a scheme whereby they and a number of other parties are designated as ‘Major Parties’ which affords them automatic entitlement to exposure on broadcasting media.
So, not only are small parties with scant resources competing against these parties with their £millions of funds, they are further handicapped by being denied reasonable coverage on radio and television. The English Democrats have been restricted to literally seconds of broadcasting time by the BBC (and none by Channels 4 and 5) whilst the Major Parties are afforded minutes!
Small parties are further disadvantaged by the huge extension in postal voting which means that many voters will have cast their votes before the small parties have been able to distribute election leaflets.
Because of this politically expedient tinkering we now have a Parliament which is dangerously unrepresentative. Moreover, it is difficult if not impossible to effect radical change without wholesale removal of the current crop of Parliamentarians including many in the Lords! However, our crummy political system has an number of additional obstacles for aspiring politicians and small parties to surmount.
Readers of this blog are invited to consider whether Britain’s electoral system really is “free, fair and open” and whether, with the continued presence such out-of-touch politicians, it is likely to improve. Perhaps the citizens of Hong Kong are indicating an effective method of gaining the attention of those in power which needs to be applied in England . . . bunging-up the City for example?
Another recent image of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators
No wonder the 84% of Britain’s citizens in England are still without our own separate national parliament whilst the other 16% in rUK have three between them!