Tony Garnett • Blog Posts

@yanisvaroufakis – find your answer to Europe vote.

Read him in today’s @guardian. Brilliant. Read “The Global Minotaur” plus “And the Weak /suffer What They Must?. And weep”.
But wait? Democracy in Europe for sure, but what do you think about democracy in Britain?
Probably the same as Gandhi thought when asked what he thought of Western Civilisation. “I think it would be a good idea”.

A first past the post system, effectively disfranchising millions; the media overwhelmingly Conservative; an unelected second chamber; local and regional governments the puppies of Westminster.
That’s not democracy in anything but the PR meaning.
Of course, as George W Bush often reminded us, “democracy” and “freedom” have special meanings for particular occasions. In his case for American world hegemony.
In the UK the landed interests thought democracy was achieved after they had wrestled the power of the purse from the monarch and then reluctantly shared it with the new money generated by the Industrial Revolution, profitably marrying into them, of course.
After that, through the 19 Century and beyond, they dragged their feet, using the armed forces and imprisonment to fight the extension of the franchise. When at last, unable to hold back the demands of the democrats, they recognised “we must now educate our masters”. They passed Forster’s Education Act and started the gutter press.
These “newspapers”, written in simple English for those with little formal education, full of sex, sport and gossip, banged the Conservative and patriotic drum, as they do to this day. Control the “free press” and you control the vote.
Why, after all, would a ruling class give up its power without a fight? And we have a very sophisticated ruling class. Our civil war was 350 years ago. Our rulers are flexible and cunning, preferring manipulation and the velvet glove to the iron fist: that is held in reserve.
Do you really think they would stand by, playing by the Queensbury rules, if their power was threatened? The police and then the army would be on the streets in an instant if real democracy threatened their property, their control over the levers of government and their ability to rule.
Of course, to maintain people’s belief in their “democratic” settlement they need an “opposition”, one that will periodically take office, though not power. This allows the real rulers to refresh themselves in opposition without seriously disturbing the status quo ante.
The gavotte is danced. Whig history is taught in schools as the brave march to these truly democratic uplands, an example to the world. Everyone is expected to buy into it. Most do.
So those who own capital continue to exploit those who do not. The same rulers, refreshed in each generation by some new opportunistic chancers, continue to keep the peace and rule by consent.
Call it an elected dictatorship if you like, as the Tory Lord Hailsham did.
Just don’t call it a democracy. It doesn’t just offend me.
It offends the English Language.
Remember “A Conservative government is an organised hypocrisy”.
Not me.
That was the Tory Benjamin Disraeli.
He would have known, wouldn’t he?

So in addition, and complementary to Varoufakis’s initiative, Britain needs a New Chartist Movement, to take the fight to our rulers.
The demands?
Proportional representation.
Truly free and independent media to tell truth to power.
Strict control on the lobbying of PR companies.
Devolution of the power of the purse to the provinces, enabling a local democracy to function and connect with a refreshed subsidiarity in Europe.
Extension of democratic rights into the workplace.
A permanent move out of Westminster, breaking up the spectacle of schoolboy stunts. Moving into a half circle model, like most legislative bodies. Repair the present decrepit building and make it a museum.

Too Utopian? Impossible to achieve? That’s what they said about The Chartists. But in their failure they changed Britain forever.
Not enough for you? Well, throw in the abolition of the Monarchy, removing all its symbolic power as you abolish the Lords, our unelected second chamber.
Make the BBC financed by subscription and liberate it from the yoke of No. 10. Model its governance on The Observer. Ensure the viewers and the employees are represented on its governing body.

All that will do for a start.
Culling Murdoch, the Rothermeres and the rest of the Tory propagandists will keep the New Chartist Movement busy for a while.