Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

FOR anyone who still thinks we live in a democracy, the article by our excellent associate editor Sion Simon (`The night we couldn't believe it', 2 May) should be compulsory reading. Here, plain for all to see, is laid bare the true nature of the British parliamentary system and the attitude it engenders in those who control it. It has oligarchy, with strong implications of tyranny, written all over it.

Before the election, Si6n Simon had felt himself `disenfranchised throughout [his] politically sentient life'. That cannot happen in a real democracy, which by definition gives the people (demos) power (kratos). Between 508 and 322 Bc, Athenians lived in such a democracy; the only one that has ever been allowed to exist, where all citizens (males over 18) met in Assembly every nine days and took all decisions about Athenian policy. They were the parliament. 'Disenfrachisement' for an individual (unless the Assembly actually voted to disenfranchise you) was impossible in such a system. True, you could often feel your voice was being ignored (most of Aristophanes' comedies exploit the feelings of helplessness of ordinary people) but there is nothing undemocratic about being outvoted.

When they came to power, Sion Simon felt it was a 'miracle' that Labour had finally seized `virtually absolute control of one of the world's great nations . …

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