Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Voter Apathy Key Is Separation of Political Powers; PETER TROY Argues That Radical Change Is Needed in the UK's Electoral System - but Compulsory Voting Is Not a Solution

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Voter Apathy Key Is Separation of Political Powers; PETER TROY Argues That Radical Change Is Needed in the UK's Electoral System - but Compulsory Voting Is Not a Solution

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER TROY

"THE ambitious are interested in power rather than service" thunders the headline of a controversial piece published in these columns last Wednesday.

It was the bold sub-headline which attracted my attention proclaiming that: "David Cliff says it is time for radical change that must be led by the people, not by politicians".

That is a very salient comment which Mr Cliff supports by a racy analysis of the UK's major political parties, making comments which have echoed my reactions over the past few years, particularly when the author identifies the main cause of low turnouts at election times as a consequence of "system inertia", citing there is no opportunity of meaningful political change.

David Cliff quite rightly advocates that "radical change" lies with the populace and not the politicians.

Though where I seriously disagree is that a solution is compulsory voting, with a small fine acting as a motivator for those failing to turn out. I feel this would be seriously resented by people, as are parking, speeding and TV licence fee evasion fines, which are enforced with draconian legal process by the authorities and become large fines.

The solutions to the much overdue radical change are numerous and require profound fundamental change, this will take time - probably decades.

First, though, there is a need to revisit what we mean by democracy in the 21st Century. Indeed, we should ask: 'Is Britain - or has it ever been - a true democracy?' Democracy means "people power", the word stems from the ancient Greek word, demokratia comprising of two parts, 'demos' meaning people and 'kratos' meaning power.

David Cliff does indeed touch on this in his piece, yet he does not link the fact that people are without real political power, it is not just a matter of poor quality of choice of politicians or their parties.

The unavoidable truth is that our political system is broken. People without power is not a democracy.

I suggest that in terms of a true democracy we have never enjoyed a fully functioning system, where true people power has existed.

Had we had one in the recent past Tony Blair (for right or wrong) would not have been able to take us to war in Iraq in 2003, nor Afghanistan in 2006.

Nor could Sir Edward Heath have led the UK into what was then the European Economic Community, nor Sir John Major have signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 which became the now vexed European Union. …

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