Tuesday, October 11, 2016

O. Reader on Democracy

Let the people speak

            Democracy was described by Plato well over two thousand years ago as “a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” More acerbic was the Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw - “the incompetent masses choosing the corrupt few.”
            Whatever your view, you have to admit that with democracy you do sometimes get unusual results.       
            Here are three from the UK.    
            The Referendum on whether or not to stay as part of the European Union. The EU did have some unusual laws imposed on the UK, like what sizes and shapes of vegetables shops could sell, and we must note that (while I personally don’t do politics) there were other issues that exercised the minds of a few.
            BUT - it was put to the people. Here in Wales there was a resounding vote to LEAVE. Wales is traditionally a Labour stronghold, and Labour had advised the people to vote REMAIN - albeit not very loudly. But the main thrust of the REMAIN campaign came from the Conservative leaders. And Eton-educated “posh boys” never did sit well with the working class Welsh. So - TO SHOW THEM - and for many, with no more complicated a motive than that, they voted and brought down the Prime Minister. What many may not have thought through is that Wales has been transformed in the last 25 years. Industrial scars have been removed, beautiful parks have been built, and the whole infrastructure is in the process of being transformed. Where has the money come from? Europe. Lobbing money to deprived areas is part of their remit, and Wales was somewhere in there with Bulgaria and Romania. So, the Welsh voted to LEAVE. It will be interesting to see what happens when realisation dawns that a government based in London may not feel quite so inclined to lob millions their way.
            Then there was the new Polar Research vessel. Let’s ask the people to choose a name. So Shackleton Endurance, Polar Guardian, RRS Endeavour, and other worthy epithets were suggested. Some mischievous person suggested Boaty McBoatface. It took off. The nation voted and voted, and overwhelmingly, Boaty McBoatface won. Of course, the powers that be had to say that the decision of the people was not actually binding - so much for democracy - but the damage was done. It will always be known as Boaty McBoatface to the public.
            And finally - most serious of all - there was the popular UK TV show Strictly Come Dancing.  Each week a group of people would compete and the numbers were gradually whittled down as the public made its choices in sufficient numbers to overrule the official judges. So the participants would include professional dancers, celebrities who had done some dancing on the sly, and - just for a laugh - they would put in someone so hopeless, it made the others look good.
            A news reader and reporter, John Sargeant, was entered into the last category.  Two left feet would be a compliment if applied to John. But the public warmed to him. Week after week, skilled dancers were unceremoniously bounced, and John kept on coming back - to shamble his way around the dance floor and tread on the toes of the luckless professional assigned to work with him. He became a national treasure. The whole program became a laughing stock because there was a very real possibility that the public would make him win the whole competition. Eventually, he thought about his serious career, his wife and family, and jumped ship - to collective national disappointment.
            But yes - democracy. It’s a funny old world.


  1. Occasional, can I call you a "non-EU citizen"?
    And why Scotland voted "Remain"

  2. An occasional reader1:53 PM

    Well, like you, I don't do politics. But I can see Scotland wanting a referendum on independence again as they want to stay in the EU. So as the Soviet Union became the Soviet DISunion 25 years ago, so the United Kingdom may become the DISunited Kingdom. And if there are to be "border controls" between the EU and Britain, what about Northern and Southern Ireland now? A lot of head scratching currently going on.