Dysfunctional democracy 3.


I have spoken quite a bit recently about the root causes of apathy and cynicism around our so called democracy. Perfectly illustrated at the first hustings event in Frome on Sunday.

Faced with our main choice of David, David or David to replace the retiring David (with Green Theo and UKIP Alan as alternatives in policy if not in name), the proceedings quickly hit a massive structural problem: Candidates are selected by their political parties and campaign around the party agreed manifesto (set of plans and promises). BUT, the Tory candidate is clear he will vote for what he feels is best for Frome and defy the party whips…. and the Lib Dem points out that in a coalition you have to compromise, so they can’t promise to deliver on anything! So ultimately the manifesto is worthless, making them effectively able to support whatever policy they feel like in reality, while also wheeling in the party faithful….. The other candidates can make any promises they like as they won’t be elected anyway.

Party candidates – at all levels – are entwined with this deep structural flaw. I believe it is part of what confuses potential voters – and turns them off engagement. Only an Independent, clear who they are and what they offer can surmount this.

About the author

Peter Macfadyen

Social activist, ex Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, author, public speaker, undertaker, grandfather.


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  • From John Holman
    I’m not sure that I’m entirely happy with this analysis. I think that the main structural problem is the electoral system, courtesy of which minority parties can only hope to try to effect general debate but can never hope to make any difference to the direction of government. The Tory Dave must think his audience were idiots to believe that he would oppose his party whenever he felt uncomfortable with a policy. He will be whipped into lobbies like the rest of them as Liberal Dave admitted. One can only hope for a radical change in the electoral system and that parties, such as the Greens, will vote according to their consciences and the interests of their constituents and will not indulge in the sort of ruthless whipping that the other parties inflict on their colleagues.

    • John, I agree…… but …”One can only hope for a radical change in the electoral system ….” It’s not going to happen until the current system is either undermined, or becomes totally unworkable (which might occur if a series of coalitions follows May and repeat elections, and they all end in some form of farce).

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