Nik Butler: British democracy has been built with layers of bureaucracy

A letter from Andrew Campbell in last week’s edition is worthy of a considered revisit. It reflects many of the sentiments I have highlighted in previously published articles and echoes many of the concerns voiced online and in cafes.

Let me begin by getting the classic Sir Winston Churchill quote out into the open “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Britain has over the course of several decades developed systems for the management of our daily infrastructure and personal well being.

British democracy has been built with layers of bureaucracy, good intentions, paper work and dogma it has evolved in part due to the hard work or selfish goals of individuals acting in response to concerns of groups or the negligence of organisations and it has, in a manner of speaking, worked well for country, county and community.

However, in the last twenty years the proliferation to communications with speed of access to information has accelerated so that an individual can access information and distribute knowledge far faster than any political party, working group or planning officer. Meanwhile our current electoral system and its media coverage share consistent bias towards parties and party candidates.

Try standing as an independent and you are defined as belonging to the independent party.

The political parties suggest this is beneficial to the community as it makes things “easier” quite what that “easier” is or why things are harder is rarely explained. I guess turkeys won’t vote for Thanksgiving and parties are not likely to encourage people to act as independents. The usual scare story populated by a party system is that “things wont get done” if you have independents in charge of a council. I guess those things are like potholes being fixed, garden waste being managed or youth services being maintained.

A side note here but it was the act of a group of independent parish councillors that contributed to the youth services equation being resolved. An elected organisation such as a council should be expected to actively represent its whole constituency not just the political views of its supporting party members. With county elections in May this year I wonder if we will see more independent candidates on the ballot or will we continue to repeat political patterns which contribute to continued disenchanted feelings of the electorate at large?