Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Democracy Deficit and a Participation Crisis? AS Politics

The powerpoint for AS politics students on political participation and the democracy deficit is here.  The quote, or slogan, that starts it is suggested by Roger Scruton in his "Dictionary of Political Thought", while an article by Rowena Hammell for "Politics Review" provided much of the substantive evidence for the 'democracy deficit'.

I mention at the end an article by Sebastian Payne for the Spectator, which suggested that elected mayors is where it's at, if you want to get things done as an elected politician.  He summarises some of his key findings here on the Spectator website.  His article had extolled the virtues of Bristol's George Ferguson, amongst others, where he noted that the officially Independent mayor had, in the space of 17 months, banished cyclist-unfriendly bendy buses, revoked Sunday parking charges and signed off on several new primary schools.  The broader thrust of his article noted that mayors were not only able to take city-level action far more effectively than national governments and leaders could in their current ossified state, but that mayors also picked up new ideas from different cities around the world.  Payne ends his blog post by acknowledging that directly elected mayors have not really taken off in Britain, and that the jury is still out in those areas where they exist (including London of course).  Nevertheless, in a time of apparent institutional decay and political ennui, powerful, individually elected mayors may still be a possible answer to the crisis of political participation in Britain.  As Payne says:

But with ever-decreasing turnouts and the rapid rise of Ukip, our mainstream parties, politicians and institutions are no longer catering to the needs of voters. Powerful mayors may well be the solution Britain is waiting for.

[Incidentally, even Payne's example of a successful activist mayor, George Ferguson, has some serious down-sides, according to a letter on the Spectator site from one disgruntled Bristol resident ("The man in red trousers") who points out that Ferguson was elected on a mere 28% turnout and has pursued a rigorous anti-motorist agenda.]

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