Diagnosing what has gone wrong with leadership, government, and social confidence lately has led me to do a lot of thinking.
If I was to think about what makes for a Democracy (assuming there is such a thing) then I see it based on four ‘pillars’:
1) The Social Contract
This is an unwritten understanding that is rarefy ever talked about. It basically says: ‘We all agree we will allow you to lead us provided you act in our best interests, are just, legally integral, and show a duty-of-care to all members of society’.
2) The Public Sphere
That there is a free flow of critically analysed information within society. That this is open to all. That sources are valued for their integrity and even handedness. That discussion of ideas and concepts is multi-channelled, and is protected from being badly tainted by powerful interests.
3) The Methodology
That there are recognised methods by which public interests are voiced to the leadership, and that these methods are both free from corruption and are maintained for their validity over time.
4) The Executive
That there is an administrative system that puts into place policy and works efficiently. That this system serves the peoples’ interests (and ONLY the peoples’ interests), and is accountable for its actions at all levels.
Taking the above into account, one might notice that the UK’s issues lie in a ‘fracturing’ of all four pillars —
1) The Social Contract has been broken by governments who have imposed austerity, promised ‘jam tomorrow’ and come up with nothing — except even more economic inequality
2) The Public Sphere is awash with ‘fake’ news, rumour, deliberate fear-mongering, inaccuracy, sloganising, and constant interference from powerful corporate interests.
3) The democratic Methodology is badly confused and confusing. Plebiscites and representation systems vie with social media and populist campaigns. This leads to outcomes that are contradictory and divisive. We don’t know what result to trust, or how to interpret it when it arises.
4) The Executive has become corrupted by scandal and unethical behaviour. MPs expenses claims, corporate involvements, and eccentric voting behaviour have left the populace cynical. It is harder now than ever before to distinguish between a ‘moral’ MP and a one who’s only in the job for their personal gain.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
It’s fixable. But it’s going to take some work.
An election could clear the air a little… but we need to rebuild all the above, and I can’t see that happening without it being the focus of much careful thought.