Thursday, 28 February 2008

Pivotal times for the future of Democracy in the U.K

Apologies to those readers whom happen to live outside of these shores, though in todays world none of us can ignore what happens to each other. The days of caring about ones own country first and last have got to end. To this end, I want to share with you something that has been bothering me for quite some time which was wonderfully articlulated in this article in the Guardian on tuesday: I have tried to search for it online but could not find a link. Its by Simon Jenkins and it is about the crucial point at which democracy finds itself here in the UK. I myself can attest to what he says.

First, a couple of facts (no reference given in article, though, in my experience, Simon Jenkins is one of the more objective journalists there).

'In France there is an elected official for every 120 Gernmany the ratio is 1:250. In Britain it is 1:2'600'

This is quite staggering. Yet it gets even more so.

'In France the smallest unit of discretionary local government is the commune, with an average population of 1500. In Germany that figure is 5000 people. In Britain the avaerage district population is 120'000...'

The tabloids have been constantly running 'breakdown of society' story for years now and every response by the government has involved strengthening police powers, getting more police onto the streets and handing out Anti-Social Behavioural Orders (or ASBOS) to thousand of kids and teenagers complete with curfews and restrictions on travel. All this does is pander to the tabloids demands to 'get tough' on youth crime and anti-social behaviour. Result? Our prisons are full, the prison populations having risen by more than 50% under the Blair government (perhaps something do to with the over 3000 new prosecutable laws they introduced) and, apparantly, the situation is just as bad as before.

The answer? Well, the Sun tabloid went further than even i expected, running a Poll on the Death Penalty Debate (something that completely passed me far as i can tell, the 'debate' consisted of a telephone poll of Sun readers and a list of abbreviated text messages from people who cant even spell properly. The result of this 'debate'? That '99% of you wanted it back'... No. 99% of Sun readers, when exposed to hysteria and exploitative, hyped up reporting every morning with no other intellectual stimulus to inform them, choose to abandon all morals and ask for the death penalty back. Interesting... but only as an example of how indoctrination can work...

How in hell is giving kids the badge of honour of an ASBO and locking people away left, right and centre going to help with anything? Jenkins makes the right call as far as i'm concerned. Fact is, if you have a grievance in this country, you go to the police. Not the local mayor, or elected official. The police. The same police who violently break up peaceful demonstrations as lackeys to the government. Im sure there are some nice ones out there, who do the job for the right reasons. Fact is, a hammer might hope to be used to hammer in nails. Its just a tool. It does what it is asked, even if that means hammering someones head.

The police are now the only face of the state that the people see. They are the keepers of public order, according to whatever law the government tells them to abide by. It could be to spy on MP's as happened recently to a Muslim labour MP when visiting a constituant in prison or enacting the Serious Organised Crime Act which prohibits peaceful demonstration within a mile of Parliament without permission. When this is the sole connection between people and state, especially at a time of increasing state parranoia and restrictions on civil liberties, there can be no harmony at the local level. Peoples neighbourhoods are run by faceless distant officials with little power to do anything without the say so of central government.

Until people feel that they contribute something to their nrighbourhood, and until they have a different avanue for airing grievances than the enforcers of peace, they will continue to look out for number one.

We need to have an elected official per 500 people, at the least, so that he actually knows them and their needs. They also need devolution of power from central government so that they can address their own groups needs more specifically and targeted, in a way that centralised government makes impossible. People need to feel represented, this is the only way to form a sense of legitimacy necessary for people to welcome the state, not shun away from it. This way people can organise and feel involved in their own community, make them proud of where they live and bring society closer.

The alternative is to continue ton the road that paranoid fear always leads. A police state.

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