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April 6th: The day British democracy dies?

8:45 am - March 29th 2010

by Lee Griffin    

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There are many problems with British democracy, and also many upsides, but the one thing about UK government is certain; every MP, elected by their constituents, has the option to vote on laws that are being put to parliament and to scrutinse their contents. On April 6th this basic element of our democracy will be undermined for party political expediency and corporate interests as the Digital Economy Bill is attempted to be shoehorned in to a session on the same day Gordon Brown is expected to call the next General Election.

The Digital Economy Bill has many problems, it is poorly worded, it is detrimental to our liberties in a way that would not be tolerated if the liberties being thrown to the wind were ones we exercised in the streets rather than virtual highways, and furthermore it is in part drafted by corporate lobbyists in the form of the BPI.

There was some hope earlier this month when Harriet Harman “promised” that there would be debate on the bill, however those words have turned (predictably) in to shallow and hollow shadows of themselves. Harriet Harman has given the House of Commons less than one day to debate a bill than similar sized bills of the past (Harman’s own Equality Bill had a good 12 days worth of parliamentary time for scrutiny). Labour (through Harman) have effectively said today that the kind of scrutiny usually reserved for our laws matters less than their own authoritarian decision that the law must pass before the next election. The BPI come before the concerns of the people.

Yet no party is coming out looking good on this subject. The Tories want this legislation to pass, they have too many close ties with the industry and too limited a knowledge about technology to stand up against it; and despite grassroots protests by Lib Dem members the party powers have been curiously quiet on the whole subject. Yet this is why it is so confusing as to what the rush is.

Democracy means nothing if after we’ve elected our MPs, and after any of them have stated that they want to debate this bill properly before it is passed in to law, this bill is still forced in to being. It will not have been democracy that passed this bill, it will have been the executive decision of the Labour party left to pass by a Tory party unconcerned with our civil liberties. And worse still it will not have been our MPs that draft the final and representative form of the law, it will be those with corporate interests and lobbyists such as the BPI that have money to burn on ensuring that their wishes supersede that of the UK population.

If our MPs don’t vote down the bill at second reading stage, or successfully table some form of motion or amendment to run the bill out of time, then on April the 6th we might as well have not had a representative democracy at all. Write to your MP and (calmly) tell them how angry you are with this affront to our democracy, let them know that while you know the second reading is conventionally a vote on whether to “consider” the bill, that due to the lack of parliamentary time it is effectively a third reading vote…whether they want it to pass in a form that is completely and utterly out of their control.

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About the author
Lee is a 20 something web developer from Cornwall now residing in Bristol since completing his degree at the lesser university. He has strange dreams, a big appetite, a small flat, and when not forcing his views on the world he is probably eating a cookie. Lee blogs independently from party colours at Program your own mind.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Our democracy ,Technology

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Reader comments

1. Robert Allen.

British democracy is already dead. We are a member of the European Union.

If performers and their lobby groups want to stop anyone from downloading their music, they should try making music or movies that are worth paying for.

@Xenophobe Roger Allen.

“Cornish democracy is already dead. We are a member of England.”

“English democracy is already dead. We are a member of the United Kingdom.”

“European democracy is already dead. We are a member of the United Nations.”

And so on.

Do you realise how ridiculous you Europhobes are?

I suspect many politicians fear and suspect the internet because they (currently) don’t control it. How hideous that there should be an entire online world that they can’t regulate and boss around.

“British democracy is already dead. We are a member of the European Union”

So we must therefore ignore anti-democratic practices that originate in British political institutions?

6. Robert Allen.

@Blanco. I am not a europhobe or a xenophobe.

For the record, I am also against the United Kingdom as a union. I think Cornwall should have a parliament, as should the English, I also favour devolved parliaments.

As for the UN, I disagree with that institution aswell, like any institution that erodes sovereignty.

@Planeshift. Of course not. I disagree with the DEB as much as anyone. I was just observing that democracy to all extends and purposes is already dead.

7. the a&e charge nurse

[6] well said – nothing stultifies debate quite like casual accusations of ….ism, or phobe.

I must admit, I’m getting fed up by the way they are trotted out at the drop of a hat.

EU legislation may have far reaching implications for ALL of us.
Let’s take health, to cite just one quick example;

As to the main post – Lee has already nailed this one but I am not optimistic that our MPs will have quite the same powers of analysis – and even those that do are unlikely to spend too much time worrying about the government’s long standing propensity for central control and command, especially when there is a general election looming?

D’you think they might have already taken the money, so they have to deliver the goods?

And is it right that people with no qualifications in the area should be deciding on the legislation? We wouldn’t allow that in any other domain of high-level decision-making, would we?

If they only have one day to debate the bill, it could be very easy to delay for a small group of MPs…

@6 & @7: If the EU and its laws are eroding British sovereignty and democracy then vote for a party that promises to withdraw from the EU (there is one, you know?)

If you can’t muster the votes to elect a UKIP government then clearly your position doesn’t have a democratic mandate.

I utterly despair at this weird myth that Europe is somehow holding a gun to Britain’s head and forcing it to do its bidding. Just leave then. But complaining about the erosion of democracy because you can’t get the votes to leave is profoundly self-contradictory.

I calmly wrote to my local MP Tony Wright (Labour) informing him that I’m a potential voter and that this is one of the areas of concern for me. He calmly ignored it and calmly didn’t bother replying.

Shows you the kind of people we have ‘representing’ us, they clearly only represent themselves and their paymasters, the lobbyists. This could go down in political history as one of the most effective and efficient bouts of corporate lobbying.

Just goes to show you what a few free holidays and stays on billionaire yachts can get you, I wouldn’t mind so much, but it’s so fucking blatant at what’s happened here it’s sickening.

13. Robert Allen.

@Jim Bliss

Don’t worry. I will vote for a party that promises EU withdrawral.

UKIP will not form the government, that much is obvious. But that does not mean to say that just because out Parliament will consist of rabid Europhiles in the form of the LibLabCon that the country as a whole is pro-EU (opinon polls show much opposition to the EU).

Alot of the grassroots supporters of the Conservatives are eurosceptic, Alot of pre-1994 Labour supporters are eurosceptic. The only party with a pro-EU base is the Liberal Democrats, alot of there votes simply are protest votes, and may not reflect public opinion as a whole.

In the European elections, the pro-EU Conservatives still won, but as I said, there supporters are eurosceptic and may be too loyal to desert to UKIP (and allow the Labour Party to gain).

But as ” the a&e charge nurse” said, this blog is about the DEB, so I will leave it there. I would though invite all of you to join the British Democracy Forum, so the issue could maybe be debated there in more detail.

Is it me on on a liberal forum are the liberal commentators outnumbered 2 to 1 (at least?) which is odd, why do those on the right and hard-right come here so often to just be told to bugger off?


Why can’t somebody just shout “Object!” like that vile little Christopher Chope did? Or would that not work for this?

For Christ sake, it really isn’t hard. Elect the LibDems. You maybe against them, give them one parliament only if needs be – but just sitting by and saying how shit New Labour is – and then going out to vote for them, or by not voting giving the Tories a victory, it is beyond me.

Rally as many people as you can – tell all your friends and family to put an X by the LibDem candidates name, make it a protest vote if you so wish, anything. But break New Labour and New Tory if you want a change, it is up to you, NOT MPs.

Why can’t somebody just shout “Object!”…?

I too wondered this. Anyone? Bueller?

If performers and their lobby groups want to stop anyone from downloading their music, they should try making music or movies that are worth paying for.

If there is value in downloading music or movies, why isn’t this value passed to the creators/publishers/rights holders? If there is no value, why bother doing it?

19. Alice Odwu

Democracy does not have much currency anyway…look how well the public were listened to over the expenses scandal? They will still be allowed to employ a relative. The people have been heard.

It should be no great surprise that “New” Labour is rail roading this through. (By the way, has anyone else noticed that the “New” epithet seems to have disappeared of late…?). This legislation is fundamentally flawed, and the no-hopers in government just don’t seem to care.

I agree with the sentiment of the article, and some of the contributers above. The whole nauseating New Labour project has proven to be a disasterous mistake. Sadly the lumpenproletariat hardly seem to care that this government has become the greatest threat to our liberties since Dunkirk!

The Eurosceptic die hards, and assorted right wing fantasists in UKIP are doing us all a favour: if enough of them desert the Tories, they only make a hung parliament more likely. It isn.t the EU that poses a threat to our liberties; it’s the deeply illiberal elites in the Tory party, “New” Labour and the “know-nothing” Libertarian, anti-immigration, anti-climate change, neo-con protectionists in fringe parties like UKIP that are a clear and present danger.

What Britain needs is a hung parliament, followed by voting reform, and then (hope against hope) a radical government. We need legislators who will actually DO something to tackle growing social inequality, begin to tackle global warming and environmental issues, improve our education and health services, and deal with the huge budget deficit by real, structural changes.

We don’t need more voodoo economics, or to be under any illusion that we can cut taxes, make savings in departmental budgets, and expect economic growth to save us. Taxes will have to rise, cuts will have to be made – we need politicians brave enough to tell us the truth, and honest enough to admit they were wrong!

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