The conundrum of democracy

Quick one related to stuff I’m talking about on Twitter. Just some stream-of-consciousness thoughts…

We’re in a representative democracy. We vote MPs in and they vote ‘on our behalf’ [Without going into too much detail I have issues with this anyway – do you vote for party? For personality? For their manifesto? Manifestos get ignored. Letters to MPs get ignored. How do they represent people, exactly?] and then … That’s that. We tick some boxes on one day and we’ve had our say for the next few years.

Interesting, then, that there should currently be a discussion about referendums on Twitter (hat tip to Louise Mensch MP who has been mildly irritating the last few days – though she raises a good debate) – we had the AV vote earlier in the year and that went catastrophically wrong. Not because I was in favour of AV and the vote came out against it. But more that it showed up how ridiculous the very notion of democracy is in the UK. The entire referendum made a mockery of it, and made us fools. Both campaigning groups used awful tactics to win votes, patronising and showing utter disdain for the population. Dying babies? It’s a change of voting system, not a death sentence. That made me lose all respect for anyone working on those campaigns. The British public are not stupid, they are not to be treated with disdain and it’s utterly shameful that both sides were allowed to use untruths as fact.

I’m a fan of direct democracy – I think more power should be given to people directly, not given to them on one day and then left in the hands of what is ultimately a bunch of rich people who don’t live in the real world or face real struggles. People whose past employment history would have very little beyond “Parliament”, who send their kids to schools that charge, and who then charge the tax payer for clearing out their moat. Sorry, but I don’t buy that that is a fair and just way to run a country.

But I have an issue with referendums too. What happened with the AV vote is exactly how not to do a referendum. For direct democracy to work, we need to ensure that information regarding the topic is impartial, balanced and factual. That means no emotive dying babies nonsense. No guff about boxers or racing. Pure unadulterated facts. People can then make up their own minds. I don’t want to say that people are stupid – because it’s not always a case of lacking intelligence, but lacking the information or the motivation to do their own research.

One last thing I have noticed. There is clearly a reluctance to go ahead with a referendum – any government worth its salt would happily give the plebs a referendum if it was guaranteed to go their way. Most people in Britain are anti-EU and want out. So who in the government is stalling? They must be pro-EU but they’re keeping awfully quiet – why? What is it they know that we don’t? I wish someone would just own up and explain…

How to Write Effectively to your MP

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with the lovely baby dragon Puffles. There’s a longer post here (with a sample letter about the cuts that people can send to their MP) and a PDF file explaining how to lobby here – but I thought I’d keep it short & sweet. Lots of people feel writing to your MP is ineffective. But many don’t know how to do it properly – or in a way that is likely to get a satisfactory result. Clarity and being specific are key.

1) Be polite throughout the letter

2) Establish that you are actually in their constituency – always include your address (also useful so you can get a response too..!)

3) State the concern you have. ie “I’m worried about the recent proposals to sell off forests”… If you can, state the name of the act, or the details of what it is you’re writing about, to make it clear exactly what is concerning you.

4) Relate it to yourself. How will this affect you? Why should the MP care? ie “I am a horse rider, I go to ___ forest every week and I am worried that if these proposals go through, I won’t be able to go into the forest.”

5) Keep it non-partisan. It’s important that political differences between your MP and you (if any) are left aside. At the end of the day, they are there to represent you, regardless of whether you voted them in, or whether you agree with them.

6) Ask for some kind of action. Advice, reassurance, or a representation to somebody higher. ie “Can you reassure me that this will not be the case?” or “Can you please put this forward to the Minister of ____”… That way, they know what’s expected of them and can respond appropriately.

Tools you can use to write to MPs – Find out what your local representatives are doing in Parliament – Find and write an email to your MP


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