Democracy: Absolute Power


Monarchy degenerates into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into savage violence and chaos. Polybius

As we brace ourselves for the most hotly contested parliamentary elections for decades, I?m clutching my vote with profound reluctance to use it. After prolonged exposure to drab manifestos, reciprocal Commons scuffles, the UK?s first TV election debate and ominous red briefcases it?s not anxiety that grips me, only apathy. Our casting vote will facilitate Gordon Brown who saved the world, sorry the banks, and incurred unprecedented national debt; David Cameron who pledges to mend our broken politics whilst being bankrolled by a tax-avoiding non-dom and Nick Clegg?s Liberal Democrats.

Further down the trough we have the Green Party who have used logic to build a green Britain but have ultimately pigeonholed themselves; a party who don?t acknowledge Belgium and another who don?t acknowledge multiculturalism. That just about sums up British politics; self-interested, corrupt and 33% racist.

Hold on. Trivialising politics may be fashionable but in modern Britain one must doff one?s cap to those striving to make a difference. If we don?t like them, we have the power to choose a more suitable candidate; the fundamental trait of Democracy. However, as we helplessly observe our economy crashing around us and legislation, how much power do we really have over our politics?

The British Parliament is the most developed political system in modern history. Fed up of French autocracy, the First Statute of Westminster was passed in 1275[1] to enable free elections. Representative Democracy was born. Comprising nobles, bishops and priors, Parliament wasted no time gaining control of taxation and legal authority concurred by King William the Conquerer himself.
I can?t place any scenario where money and power aren?t synonymous, as Edward II discovered when being deposed by Parliament just 52 years following its formation. Contract law, right of ownership and the British legal system followed[2]. Britain became the most developed society in Europe while the rest were clubbing each other shouting Fromage!

Since these dawnings, decision-making has been in the hands of the few despite the many having the final word. What to those in power want? More power. I suspect the temptress of corruption and collusion entered the fray early on. Young William didn?t directly benefit from tax collection but you can bet your bottom dollar he didn?t pay tax on rent he received from his vast land arrears.

This rings true today; Stephen Byers nonchalantly offered to change the law for cash on- camera and went on to boast about his former ?work? as a political prostitute[3]. Is this not stark evidence of corruption? Drawing an analogy from insider trading he?d face an unlimited fine and a prison sentence. What of Byers? He?s been ?suspended? from the Labour party. Period. Again, power in the hands of the few.

What influence do we have over decisions taken at the top? We can write letters to our MPs. In today?s world of 140 characters I?m impressed if you?re still reading this article. We can protest. Serves well to highlight issues that are subsequently left resolved. Form trade unions. An influential tool in the 70s, today even Unite aren?t allowed to strike. Become a banker. Banks have effectively become a trade union against the UK, with the Government almost powerless to introduce tough legislation for fear they?ll jump ship and leave us skint.

Take the Digital Economy Bill. Internet suspension affects a plethora of industries, not to mention infringing human rights, and has been met with vehement criticism. Yet its now law. The BBC is probably the world?s most unique media conglomerate, yet its being forced to downscale thanks to garish C4 and buck-toothed ITV receiving our license fee. Public opinion ignored. I?d imagine the BBC would have expletives to direct towards government if it wasn?t so damned impartial.

Some may say all political power is lodged with a minority, with elections a mere formality. Even with competing parties, the expenses scandal represented a collective contempt for the people of Britain. Isn?t absolute power the defining characteristic of a Monarchy? Perhaps we?re coining reciprocal Parliament without realising, but it may explain why voting cards a made of paper.

[1] & [2] This Little Britain, Harry Bingham
[3] BBC Politics

Jules Hallam