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We've lost faith in our democracy

COUNCILLOR Jane Palmer is a nice lady. She’s given 18 years’ loyal service to the borough and deserves some relaxation in her retirement, but she’s perplexed. Perplexed by our lack of enthusiasm at local elections compared to the US, where voters recently stood in line for up to four hours to cast their vote.

COUNCILLOR Jane Palmer is a nice lady. She’s given 18 years’ loyal service to the borough and deserves some relaxation in her retirement, but she’s perplexed. Perplexed by our lack of enthusiasm at local elections compared to the US, where voters recently stood in line for up to four hours to cast their vote.

Having spent a significant part of my adult life in the United States I’d like to explain. But err…where to start?

In most North American towns the chief of police is an elected role, as are judges and other notable public figures. Failure to perform is a sure way to be replaced.

Most issues of local significance are put to popular vote.

It’s not a foolproof system but it certainly allows more participation and less public frustration.

Compare that to the way the promised referendum on the EU was hastily withdrawn once it was clear the public would vote ‘No’. Within hours of the Irish rejection, politicians were calling for another vote and will probably do so until they get the answer they want.

John Prescott couldn’t wait to cancel the referendum on Regional Assemblies once he saw the Government would lose.

Look at some of the so-called ‘public consultations’ staged to take place in the most inconvenient locations in the middle of the working day.

Even when the public do express an overwhelming opinion, ways are found for politicians to ultimately have their own way.

The truth is that the public have lost faith in democracy as practiced in Britain.

They don’t actually believe their vote will make any great difference. In the US, voters can change local policy and most of their key public servants at the ballot box.

The contempt felt by many British politicians for public opinion is clear for all to see. Cancelling referendums, fixing public consultations and ignoring residents’ views are no way to express their love of democracy. As for councils who cancel meetings claiming they have "nothing to discuss", I can’t see voters standing in line for four minutes.

The views on this page are Vic Barlow's and not necessarily those of the Express

 

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