Democracy … when is it democracy?

By definition Democracy is "Government for the people, by the people."

In the UK we operate the "Westminster system" which is a winner takes all system, and results in a "political party" autocracy. We consider this strong government, but if we analyse it carefully we see that it is little different from a dictatorship. Yes, if we don't like what they are doing, we can throw them out at the next election while, with a dictatorship we might need to be murder him to get him out of office.

The ultimate result is that we often, or should I say usually, have a government that does not command a majority within the country. Yet, we vest in that government total power. The checks and balances are relatively minimal, with the House of Lords largely confined to a reviewing role.

In the USA we have a different system with clear divisions between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. While the President is granted near total power, he can be and often is over ruled by the legislature. The House of Representatives similar to our House of Commons reflects the population distribution, while in The Senate there is no loading of the number of representatives for each individual State based on population. The judiciary is also independent and has the power to over rule legislation where it falls outside the constitution. In theory this makes for a more balanced Government with far less likelihood of legislation not reflecting the will of the majority of the people at the time.

The original Greek democracy also had what we may call a division of power. The general government was run by "factions", akin to our political parties. The body that ultimately decided on which of the factions would hold sway on any issue, was elected by a simple lottery of all the people. Very much like our Jury system. This system also gave a fair chance of decisions being approved that reflected the will of the majority of the people.

The European democracies tend to adopt proportional representation, which usually means that no political party has an absolute majority or absolute power. This means that to a degree government needs to build coalitions and consensus to get legislation through. We call this weak government, however it has a stronger likelihood of reflecting the will of the people. This is naturally reinforced in countries like France where the people are not against taking to the streets when they disagree with the government.

The Swiss system is based on consensus government and is perhaps closest to satisfying that definition "for the people, by the people".

How could we change the UK to ensure that we have "government for the people, by the people"?

Our parliament needs to be a place where we see all the diverse opinions of the people and I mean including the BNP, UKIP, as well as the various Muslim groups.

The easiest way would be to increase the power of the House of Lords so that it had the power to deny passage of legislation and to change its composition. Let us say that 50% can be made up of people granted life time peerages for their achievements for the country and 50% made up of people elected by proportional representation. Obviously we would need to ensure that the lifetime peerages are not simply bought.

The Prime Minister should then be free to appoint a cabinet, not necessarily made up of representatives of either the houses. In this way we could end with an executive arm that is drawn from experts in each different field and not simply politicians who think they know what they are doing.

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