I did like Stephen Robinson's comments in his op-ed in The Telegraph today. Headed: "If only Britain had the problems that beset American democracy", he noted that there were:
two parties slogging it out over important issues, including the role of the state, appropriate levels of taxation, the national defence against terrorist attack. How we would like, on this side of the Atlantic, to have the problems of America’s returning officers this week in trying to deal with rocketing voter turnout.Compare and contrast this with the piece by Alice Miles in The Times yesterday, which commented that “Our rulers are in denial about the big issues and are seeking refuge in the little things,” pointing out that "the next election will be, instead, about the little things, a scatter of issues that lacks any coherence and ideological purpose.”
The expected reward will be a record low voter turnout and an increased disillusionment with politics and it does not take a brain surgeon to work out that these two phenomena are connected. Take away politics from the people and they will withdraw from politics – simple really
There is, of course, another connection. Our government is meeting today to discuss, amongst other things, the results of the US elections. And no, it is not meeting in the Cabinet Room in Whitehall. It has assembled in Brussels for its quarterly meeting, the European Council, comprising the heads of state and governments of the 25 member states of the European Union.
That is our real government, unsullied by elections, bereft of a manifesto, acting entirely outside the mandate of the people without a shred of democratic accountability and, as I observed in my Blog on Alice Miles’s piece, it deals with all the “big issues”.
The only consolation I can take from this is the headline from Deutsch Welle which gloomily reports: “Bush victory clouds EU summit”, predicting that, as the “EU leaders gather in Brussels Thursday for a summit focussed on economic reform… reactions to George W. Bush's re-election and the divisive issue of Iraq are expected to overshadow discussions.”
Whether pro-Bush or Kerry, the joy of Bush’s victory is the apparent discomfiture that has brought our unelected and unrepresentative government. But rather than brood, perhaps its members should note that democracy brings its own rewards.