People power and the restoration of democracy

Many people in this country turn off when the words ‘politics’ or ‘politicians’ are mentioned.  Ask people why they react in such a way and you will hear many different answers, but there will be several common themes.

Among these are the feelings that politicians are incapable of telling the truth and they work in their own interest; there is no point voting because politicians in the different mainstream parties have indistinguishable views on the major issues; and that politics itself is now irrelevant because the wishes of voters are ignored.

So it is that we hear politicians pontificating about ‘reconnecting’ the public with the politics and encouraging people to ‘engage’ in the political process. These sentiments by politicians are evidence that our politics is broken. It is an admission that politics is not working for the people. But despite this that same political class responsible for breaking our politics and bringing about the disconnect and lack of engagement refuses to acknowledge itself as the root cause of the problem. That is why we need a new approach and why I am supporting the idea of Referism.

What we have before us is not democracy but a hollowed out shell. Politics in this country, as in many others, has become a one way conversation. Politicians speak and they expect us t0 listen. The political class is set in ‘transmit’ mode but refuses to flick the switch to ‘receive’. They present their non binding manifestos and declare this is what they want you to vote for. This is the ‘democratic’ choice laid before you. But the manifestos have not been constructed by listening to the wishes of voters. As such the elections in this country are largely meaningless and – importantly – the ability to bring about real change is denied to the electorate.

It is the pursuit of power that accounts for most of those people who join parties and become politicians. The notion of entering politics to ‘make a difference’ or merely to ‘serve’ is seldom a genuine explanation, and in any case it lasts only a short time after election success.

I can vouch for the reality of this having been elected as a Councillor with the best of intentions – and then having seen at first hand how any effort to carry out the wishes of the people who voted for me was met by inertia or outright opposition from civil servants. This was accompanied by warnings from local party leadership that positions on key committees or ascent to deputy or chairman roles depended upon not rocking the boat. That is why so many Councillors get involved enthusiastically for the right reasons then turn native after their election. For my part, I resigned rather than compromise my principles.

The problem is that during a term as an elected representative there is absolutely no need whatsoever to take heed of what those who cast their votes actually want their Councillor or MP to do. When I argued in open Council that Councillors should listen to what people in their wards wanted and do all they can to deliver on those wishes, I was told that we should act as leaders and tell the people what we believed they needed instead. The very idea of letting people decide what they want is anathema to those who hold power.

The power in this country resides with the political class, and the civil service which only seems to serve its own interests and objectives. It should reside with the people. That is what democracy is supposed to be about.

So it follows that in order to restore democracy to this country power must be taken back by the people. The power our politicians possess is the ability to make decisions requiring them to determine how our money, collected through taxation, is spent. If people had the ability to veto decisions by refusing to allow their money to be spent, the power of the political class – supposedly our representatives and servants anyway – would be removed. Ordinary people would be calling the shots, which is as it should be.

In the Referism model politicians would have to ask us for money to spend. They would become accountable if forced annually to seek our approval for spending and therefore receive our money. If their request was, for example, for money to hand to the European Union as part of our contribution to Brussels’ unaccountable spending a majority of voters could deny the request and prevent that money being handed over.

Money is power. This works not only in the world of business but in the world of politics. When it comes to government spending it is our money being used, therefore we should have the power.

The Referist idea is developing and more people are joining the debate. Do join the debate and share your views about how we ordinary people can take back power and how this democratic ideal can supplant the system of elective dictatorship in this country.

14 Responses to “People power and the restoration of democracy”


  1. 1 graham wood 01/06/2011 at 2:30 pm

    I also fully support Dr North’s idea of Referism, which in effect is restoring the historic understanding we in the UK have asserted for hundreds of years, namely that the State is subservient to the people, not vice versa. Successive governments and the political elite do not subscribe to that tenet. They now believe that the Executive is all powerful and can pass any law it likes if it has a majority in Parliament – irrespective of the will of the people.
    Referism will reverse that mistaken calculation. It will specifically “refer” the goverment back to the electorate who must have the power to approve or veto the budget annually.

    Thus for example, if the usual payment of approx Billion £10 as our compulsory annual ‘Danegeld’ to the EU is “nodded through” the H of C and eventually Parliament, then the people must have the power to say NO. That these extraordinary sums of taxpayer’s money (including the proposed Billion £12.5 final total, so far, for Eurozone bailouts) MUST NOT be stolen from us, may not be authorised by us, and that Parliament must ASK us if we approve. Long long overdue reform!
    Graham Wood

  2. 2 WitteringWitney 01/06/2011 at 4:44 pm

    Nice post AM and most definitely with you on the Referism angle. You may wish to provisionally pencil in July 9th for a little event in London?

  3. 3 Liz Elliot-Pyle 01/06/2011 at 4:56 pm

    I am one of those people who have become totally disillusioned with politics. I had hopes that David Cameron might be an honourable man and things might change – but that is all over. I am very interested in politics, but as far as I can see there is really nothing to choose between the 2 main parties. There seems to be no reason to vote at all, except as a protest (which will be ignored anyway).
    I would vote for the devil himself if I thought he would take us out of the EU – but then I would not believe any cast iron promise or manifesto committment, so nothing any of them could say would make me believe them.
    I think this idea of referism is a wonderful one. But how to overcome the vested interests? As you say yourself, AM, the civil service would not like it one bit (not to mention the politicians). So, how can we do this?

  4. 4 jameshigham 01/06/2011 at 5:17 pm

    Twitter is going to be a powerful tool in this – trending will see the idea take on more.

  5. 5 Brian H 01/06/2011 at 5:19 pm

    A worthy attempt to break the short path between in-camera decisions and the appropriating and spending of public funds. As long as pols have that power, all the payoffs are stacked in favour of arbitrary actions and arrogance. There must be hard and unavoidable and swift checks on those who disregard their electors’ wishes.

    But, as others have noted, it requires pols to vote into play these controls on themselves. Whatever could induce them to do so? The Tea Party in the US is attempting to take over a major party (Republicans) from below and make the changes themselves, in effect; they are having some success, but against stiff opposition and with frequent setbacks. It will not be a short struggle.

  6. 6 Dave H 01/06/2011 at 6:30 pm

    I’d vote for that. The power of the internet, at least until the EU censors it and only allows approved political comment, should help people make reasoned decisions on what they want.

  7. 7 dave ward 01/06/2011 at 6:42 pm

    “The power of the internet, at least until the EU censors it and only allows approved political comment”

    I wouldn’t get your hopes up…

  8. 8 Stephen Gash 02/06/2011 at 12:31 am

    We in England are constantly told by money-grubbing politicians at all levels that there is no demand for an English Parliament, despite 20 or more polls showing over 63% of people in England want one.

    The usual mantra is “nobody on the doorstep has even mentioned an English Parliament”.

    No, quite right, this is because every single person canvassed, grabs the candidate by the throat demanding we go to war with some country or other.

  9. 9 wws 02/06/2011 at 3:27 am

    Until you’re willing to fight for your rights – and I mean fight for real, not just stand out in the street lowing like confused cattle – then nothing will come of this.

    You can not ask your rulers to change, because they will not. You must throw them off. And that will require not just the willingness to use force, but the reality.

    How badly do you want your freedom? Badly enough to fight for it?

  10. 10 Nick 02/06/2011 at 10:41 am

    wws – yes. The difficulty is we don’t have the weapons. We are forbidden the instrument. The state has all the power.

    How can we demand that Cameron obey us and install real democracy when he can simply have us arrested, silenced and ignored?

    People ignore the reality that we already exist in a facsist police state where we are powerless. We’ve stepped into the worst incident pit known to man. Deaths – even of children havne’t changed things. Thousands of deaths haven’t. Bombs haven’t. wars for the very thing people are fighting for that we support but would suppress at home have had no effect.

    The political class simply demands more power and most people are happy to give it to them.

    Nothing will change. 1.2 million people protested about a war – Blair ignored them. How many does it take? What must be done? A nuclear threat on London by the intelligent, white male middle class who want to be heard? The media would destroy them and the effort demolished by a state empowered to control our very lives.

    We are not a free country any more. There is no democracy, no justice, no truth because too often people prove that they’re not ready for such things, and, more frightening, don’t want them. That’s the scary thing. Not the loss of liberty, but the loss of will to demand it back.

  11. 11 wws 02/06/2011 at 2:36 pm

    An unarmed man can only flee from evil, but evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.

  12. 12 John E Payne 03/06/2011 at 9:34 am

    Whilst I agree in general with this article, it leaves out the role of political parties. We seem to forget that all politicians are made to fall in line with their party policy, even if they, as individuals have an opposite point of view.

    The Peoples Pledge team have very honourable intentions by trying to capture individual MP’s commitment to a referendum on Europe. However we know when it comes to a vote in Parliament these individuals will be ordered to vote along party lines, which could be: Not to have a referendum. In these circumstances many MP’s will not vote as they pledged, and therefore not telling the truth.

    Too often the press and media attack or praise individual MP’s for their comments and commitments, when they should be attacking their party machine.

    I make a suggestion to the Peoples Pledge team to include in their project the official view of each party and their future manifesto’s. Only those parties committing to a referendum in their next manifesto should receive the public’s vote.

  13. 13 Molly Bennett 05/06/2011 at 4:27 pm

    I like many despair of the people in parliament at present, but who voted them in? If it is A majority vote then that says most people are happy to be robbed blind! to follow like sheep the road they are told is the right one, to work the long hours most do and then hand over the bulk of their pay packet to a foreign dictator who will then instruct them how and where to spend the rest. Dear God how did we ever reach this stage? I will tell you, the Modern day ‘Moses’ the EU, offered the promised land to all who joined them and being a nation of people who trusted those in office to do the right thing we agreed to sign up to A COMMON MARKET, and there lies the rub , it was the first of the many lies which we were told from the start, Now we all know exactly what the real plan was all along, So here we are deeply in debt ! a debt that is the largest in our history and paying money we dont have to a political union we neither wanted nor voted for. so what can we do now people ask? We get out! We say NO, We do not hand over any more money to this political union which is so corrupt its own auditors still after 16 years refuse to sign off their accounts . Are we mad? We still own the rights to our country and our people , We have to call the shots and Demand our parliament give back the power to choose ( without the lies this time ) whether we govern ourselves or we bow to a dictator . unless people find the backbone again to speak out we are taking our children down a road to hell!


  1. 1 The plunder continues | Pan Heads and Dead Heads Rock On Trackback on 02/06/2011 at 1:20 pm
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