A threat to democracy

If we have learned anything over the past 18 months it is this: that the first rule of politics—power must never be trusted—still applies. The British government will neither regulate itself nor be regulated by the institutions that surround it. Parliament chose to believe a string of obvious lies. The media repeated them, the civil service let them pass, the judiciary endorsed them. The answer to the age-old political question—who guards the guards?—remains unchanged. Only the people will hold the government to account. They have two means of doing so. The first is to throw it out of office at the next election. This works only when we are permitted to choose an alternative set of policies. But in almost every nation, a new contract has now been struck between the main political parties: they have chosen to agree on almost all significant areas of policy. This leaves the people disenfranchised: they can vote out the monkeys but not the organ-grinder. So, voting is now a less important democratic instrument than the second means: the ability to register our discontent during a government's term in office.

Applying the first rule of politics, we should expect those in power to seek to prevent the public from holding them to account. Whenever they can get away with it, they will restrict the right to protest. They got away with it again recently.



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