Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Candidates’ Debate – Simon and Garfunkel got it right. We lose.

The television debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg is a UK first. Despite the hype surrounding the candidates’ debate, the sad fact is that many of us lose, whichever way you look at it. Just as Simon and Garfunkel told Mrs Robinson:

Going to the candidates' debate,
Laugh about it,
Shout about it,
When you've got to choose,
Every way you look at it, you lose.

Voters lose. Not least in terms of democracy.


Some candidates are more equal than others. Some voters are more equal than others.

Something is malodorous in the body politic of the United Kingdom. Perhaps it’s the smell of dead democracy.

How can it be right that in a supposed democracy the electorate hears only some of the party leaders in a candidates’ debate?

In effect the media have decided which party leaders are to be given the hugely important but intangible support in the General Election of air time and column inches. In a democracy should unelected individuals and organisations be allowed to bias the result in such a way?

A system where some candidates are more equal than others is visibly Orwellian.

If the UK is a democracy then all Prime Ministerial candidates should, by law, get the same right to media exposure.

Not only are some candidates more equal than others, it’s also the case that some voters are more equal than others.

Like most UK voters I am unable, by virtue of where I live, to vote for Brown, Cameron or Clegg (even if I were minded to vote for any of the three). Having a candidates’ debate among three individuals that more than 90% of UK voters are unable directly to vote for or elect to any office is bizarre.

Since I can’t vote for these individuals I have no direct way to hold them accountable, even by the very loose standard of accountability of my vote every four or five years.

Worse, many voters have no practical way even indirectly to express their response to this visibly biased candidates’ debate. How, for example, is a Labour voter in a predominantly Conservative constituency supposed to make his or her voice heard? It’s impossible. Such votes are essentially worthless.

The current UK constituency system deprives many voters of any practical possibility of casting a vote that influences the outcome of either the constituency election or the national election.

When the votes of a significant minority of voters count for nothing it’s the worst kind of Postcode Lottery. A Postcode Lottery that does not belong in a mature democracy.

A democracy should be about the people. When many of those people have, effectively, no vote something is seriously amiss.

Some candidates are more equal than others. Some voters are more equal than others.

Only those in an Orwellian Ministry of Truth can reasonably contend that the United Kingdom is currently a genuine democracy.

I have said it before and it remains true: Westminster’s Cheating Us.

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