Democracy, one of our most coveted liberties, is under threat from increasing centralisation and unaccountability of government.
Whilst the recent European Parliament elections make the EU appear democratic, a closer look at the legislative process reveals a clear absence of democracy. The UK has 72 MEPs out of the 736 in the European Parliament, meaning that MEPs we elect have hardly any voice in Europe. Even when MEPs across the EU form political blocs in the Parliament, differences still persist, which prevent each country’s MEPs from wholly pursuing their national interest. The greatest deficiency of democracy, however, lies with the unelected lawmakers of the European Commission. Three quarters of the UK’s laws come from the Commission in Brussels, which is not directly accountable to the electorate of member states.
With UK citizens already forced to cede so much power to the European Union, surely we deserve a choice about losing any more of our sovereignty? Unfortunately our government doesn’t think so and in July 2008 ratified the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, without giving us the referendum they promised. And that’s not the only instance of the government stifling democracy.
Numerous government functions are carried out by quangos, and despite Gordon Brown saying that they are “often government in secret, free from full public scrutiny", there are still hundreds of them. By passing on decision-making to these non-governmental bodies, the government is effectively unaccountable for many of the decisions that have huge effects on local communities. After the general election in 2005, health authorities and primary care trusts – the main quangos in healthcare – threatened to close local hospitals, but the government could not be made responsible for these decisions. How is it democratic that such important decisions are made by unaccountable bureaucrats who we haven’t elected?
Diminishing democracy is written by Akhil Shah, who finished second in The Young Writer on Liberty 2009.