14 May 2009

Democracy in the UK?

Parliamentary democracy in the UK is big news at the moment with, for example, today's World at One on Radio 4 dominated by stories on MPs' bogus expenses, Lords facing expulsion for taking bribes and the failure of the Speaker to run parliament effectively.

All these, and similar, stories make it rather hard for us to walk the world stage complaining to countries like Pakistan, China, Kenya and Egypt that they really should do more to make their countries democratic like us.

But for me the problem with UK democracy is much deeper; we simply do not have enough of it. Being allowed to put a cross on a ballot paper once every two or three years does not make me feel that I am seriously engaged in making the decisions that affect my life.

I was very pleased to discover recently that Demos has looked at democracy in its widest scope to produce the Everyday Democracy Index. This looks at a range of factors across the community, workplace and family to produce an overall assessment of democracy in European countries.

It is probably no surprise that the North European countries come out top or that the South and East countries come out bottom but I find it interesting the the three largest West European countries (UK, France and Germany) compare unfavourably with their neighbours like Ireland, Belgium and Netherlands.

If the UK wants to boast of its democratic status then it has a lot more to do to even match the current best of class, particularly in the areas of the workplace and activism.

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