In Response to “Tony Blair: Is Democracy Dead?”

In Response to “Tony Blair: Is Democracy Dead?”


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“Democracy is not in good shape. Many systems seem dysfunctional” says Tony Blair in The Telegraph. Photo: Wikipedia

I feel your pain Tony Blair; I would definitely feel underpaid with £67,000 a year. Thank God the salary of the MPs is set to rise by 9% to £74,000 next year. Pardon? That’s still not enough?

Mr Blair, it is good that you think that democracy is in crisis because the representatives don’t get enough money. After all, raising the amount of money MPs earn will definitely help with the public’s perception of politicians as power-hungry elite working only for business interests and themselves.

Do you know who else are also underpaid? Care workers. And soldiers. And a bunch of other people, especially in the public sector, who just might make even less than £67,000 a year.

And do you know what politicians most definitely are not? Private sector. In fact, politicians are the epitome of public sector. Their job is to represent the citizens in bargaining for policies and to make decisions concerning the society as a whole. In theory, at least.

Which is exactly why we want people who are genuinely interested in the common good to represent us. We need politicians who hold their post despite lacking the salary of a private sector CEO. For “true democracy”, we need politicians who are elected because they are listening to their constituents (yes, even the poorest ones), understand how the system works, and are willing to make compromises with their eyes on the prize of the best outcome for all.

However, we are not getting the “varied, vibrant, and rigorous” youth with raising politicians’ salary. We are getting more power-hungry robots going after money. An elite separated from reality. We are only going to end up with an aristocratic system of sociopaths, and soon enough someone who hasn’t gone through Eton and or Oxford PPE has better chances in landing on Mars than landing a job in Westminster.

This reform is not in the money, Mr Blair. It is exactly in the opposite direction.

I don’t want to undermine the difficulty of being an MP. A whole lot of them clearly do earn their salary. It is a very demanding job. A post where one has to always confront an army of upset citizens no matter what one does. The media fuels partisanship and keyboard warriors take on every word you say. It is definitely challenging, probably even impossible, to please all the sides of the political sphere on any given issue.

But you just cannot compare democracy to the world of business. The public sphere isn’t a corporation. You cannot buy the best and the brightest. Leadership should not be for sale.

There is name for the system where money selects the leaders though: plutocracy.

Reforming the voting system from the current first-past-the-post system would actually be an efficient way of re-establishing the political centre. Healthy competition created by eliminating the party ownership of some constituencies might even spark the public with a whole new interest in politics. Just think about that.

Why would a student in Canterbury even vote when everyone knows that Julian Brazier is going to win anyway? Do you think giving MPs more pocket money would solve this?

I understand that the establishment does not have to care about young people given that 20-somethings do not vote as surely as older people. Similarly, I understand that politicians tend to be chronologically closer to their graves than their time in university as well as (I would still argue) quite well-off financially, which understandably makes pensions and tax cuts more prominent factors in politics than tuition fees and welfare. Somewhere in this paragraph you might find a hint why young people feel alienated from the establishment.

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The paradox here lies in the stagnation of real household income and in the over-financialization of the economy. Photo: Wikipedia

You say that the problem here is with the people not getting what they want fast enough, but maybe some folks’ needs just plain and simple aren’t considered. Maybe some needs are just more equal than others. The system will deliver results for the people when it quits putting them in an order of preference.

It is not the case that the public would not want to pay for better services, but that they feel that the costs are divided disproportionately and unequally. The paradox here lies in the stagnation of real household income and in the over-financialization of the economy.

I do agree that polarisation has become a major issue in modern day politics, but it’s not going to be fixed by allowing more intermingling between the public and private sectors. That’s just a shout-out for lobbyists. (And although you state that partisanship is killing democracy, I do not know whether to take it as a good or a bad sign that a former Labour PM is paraphrasing Maggie Thatcher on tax reforms and public benefits.)

Politics is hard. Populism has always been there, and it is not just because of Twitter. Modern politician’s main purpose in life is to gain power and to hold on to it and, because the public is used to politicians offering them easy answers and unable to distinguish between political rhetoric and reality, those who shout the loudest do indeed prevail. The public needs to be educated in politics, that’s what helps. For instance, studies have shown that those who know more about the EU tend to support the Union more than those who lack a sufficient level of knowledge.

The relationship between governing and governed would be further improved if the former could every once in a while transcend from their ivory towers to allow greater interchange between the public and its representatives, even during the times elections are not at hand.

You dare to wonder why so many people feel disillusioned with the political system. The electorate has lost its faith in its power to make a difference, which unfortunately is also influenced by loudmouths such as Russell Brand for his own personal gain.

Democracy is not going to be revived only by making a career in politics more attractive, but by making educated voting more attractive. And private sector governance has nothing to do with that.

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