Has Democracy As A System of Government Run Its Course?


In a speech in the House of Commons on 11 November 1947, Winston Churchill said: No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. Since then democracy has shown itself as a far from perfect system in that the inherent assumptions are that every voter has the capability to understand the issues, and the people elected to deal with the issues have the appropriate experience and wisdom to conduct the majority view of the people. Recent elections throughout the World demonstrate that neither assumption is reasonable. The result is a range of governments derived from populist to unwitting authoritarian.

My attention was drawn to the breakdown in democracy in Europe during the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, and later the Lisbon and Nice treaties, where various EU member Governments were unable to achieve ratification of these treaties on a free vote but were instructed by the Brussels apparatchik to continue to poll until they achieved the required result, i.e. undemocratic attrition.

In the UK we have two clear examples. The BREXIT referendum attracted the largest turnout of any election in recent times by percentage of votes, and numbers who voted, thus should be deemed to be compliant with the fundamental principle of democracy. Using the fundamental principles of democracy the outcome should be accepted by all, and the Parliament of the day thus mandated by the people to conclude the exit process. Yet the remainers, or remoaners as I prefer to call them, are so vehemently opposed to the democratic result that they continue to attempt to thwart the BREXIT process without any consideration of the damage that they inflict on achieving a good divorce settlement for both the UK and the EU. To these people I say that you have no regard for democracy, the history and future of the UK, and the turnout for this important vote, but are instead far too consumed with blinkered argument with little concern regarding the damaging consequences for the people who voted, and subsequently respected the outcome of the referendum. I can assure these people that if this referendum were to rerun the vote would be more overwhelming.

Who are these people who cannot accept a democratic majority, and why do they think that they can abandon the principles of democracy in favour of a minority? I noted during the Andrew Marr show last Sunday that Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, was stating that BREXIT is so important that it should ride above party politics or personal ambition of Government members but every sentence he uttered was both party political and promotion of his own ambitions. During this week he has furthered both by stating that Parliament should have a legally binding vote on the BREXIT deal before it can be ratified – yet another attempt to thwart the process, and thus the will of the people. What a hypocrite. For balance I can also identify a Conservative MP, Anna Soubry who caused eyes to roll on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons this past Monday when she continued to vent her vehement attack on BREXIT and her party leaders. If she does not understand the principles of democracy why is she in Government?

Then we have the devastating miscalculation of the recent General Election. Short-sighted and blinkered arrogance in the extreme.  My thoughts on reading the Conservative Party (latterly described as Presidential) Election Manifesto are already published. Why did no one with political clout in the Conservative Party face down Teresa May and alert her to the inevitable consequences of such a poorly considered manifesto? I can suggest that study of the ‘Art of War’ by Sun Tzu is required study by her in future campaigns.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn understood such consequences and saw an opportunity to seize power. He used the rise of a populist vote, especially with younger voters more consumed in their smart phones than in the real world. He promised them anything for their vote even though it was clear from the outset that none of these promises were remotely deliverable, as per populist socialist governments in South America and Africa. His was a particularly exaggerated socialist agenda that had none of the subtle argument proposed by the likes of Tony Blair. This was blatant abuse of process with the certain outcome of bankrupting UK plc. But why did these voters not see the inevitable outcome?

Today Jeremy Corbyn sees himself as the socialist saviour and although verbally supporting the BREXIT outcome he is using it as a party-political football in an attempt to unseat the Conservatives to seize power for himself. For the remoaners who think that BREXIT will be bad for the UK economy I ask them to consider the devastating consequences of a Corbyn led Government. The centre left government under Tony Blair left the Treasury coffers empty (as with all previous Labour Governments since WWII) – but this will be nothing compared with bankruptcy as Corbyn pursues a left socialist agenda. Perhaps his followers should consider the irony in my past blog ‘General Election 2015 – A Sorry Tale’.

The BREXIT campaign was bruising but, from my dialogue with people, they understood why they wanted to vote as they did irrespective of the blindingly aggressive rhetoric from both sides. My view is that the politicians were so outrageous that their words became an incoherent noise. The doom-and-gloom merchants such as David Cameron and George Osborne hid behind rigged outpourings from the likes of OECD and IMF clearly geared to frighten voters, but subsequently found to be completely false and unfounded. The UK economy has prospered post-BREXIT, and the EU is beginning to understand that THE UK is not about to bail out Europe for the third time in the past one hundred years. Teresa May has offered what the International Court of Arbitration would likely deem as legally obligated under the Lisbon Treaty. Any more requires valuable reciprocity from the EU. The second largest contributor to the EU is obviously a real loss to them, but they had the opportunity to address the needs of the UK people, but chose in their blind arrogance, to ignore such needs. Now they want to put valuable trade for both parties at risk to continue to prop up a failed system which is blatantly undemocratic. My instinct tells me that there will be substantial turmoil within the EU countries if trade is not maintained with the UK. The interview with the Foreign Minister of Spain, Alphonso Dastis, by Andrew Marr last Sunday was very revealing as he clearly stated that the close relationship between the UK and Spain pre-dates the EU. He argued that seventeen million UK visitors to Spain each year plus some 750k of UK citizens choosing to retire in Spain is not something they intend to put at risk.

So, what does all this say about our current form of democracy. We have politicians who choose the ignore the majority will of the people. We now have far too many career politicians who clearly lack the experience and wisdom needed to execute their office. We have an unelected powerhouse in Brussels who have no regard for the will of the people when it does not concur with their agenda. We have multiparty systems in many countries that govern by painful compromise (rather than strong leadership). We have too many politicians who have little regard for the ability of people to think for themselves and thus govern by fear tactics. And we have an electorate who feel disconnected from the process and thus disinterested. Instead of democratically thinking about an issue in the interest of all, they concern themselves with what matters only to themselves. Is democracy about to implode, and what phoenix will rise from the ashes?




EU/Eurozone – Start Again or Plod On? – Intro


EU/Eurozone – Start Again or Plod On?


The Eurozone is still in crisis. Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc. all need yet more money, but who is prepared to make these funds available to these seemingly bottomless pits? A recent Top Gear program featuring a race through Spain with so-called budget-priced supercars revealed disturbing images of whole new towns developed to completion, even with the signs of intended occupants above shop windows, but without any signs of life or occupation. One of these urbanisations was on the outskirts of Madrid but was so empty that they could have a 5 km street race. A brand new international airport used for just one year and then abandoned. For once Top Gear actually provided a documentary about the situation in Spain more hard hitting than any visual newsreel that I have seen. The image of budget supercars in the £120,000 – £200,000 price range against this devastating backdrop made the experience surreal.

Do we need another Marshall Plan for the Eurozone, but on what basis – there has been no devastating war or natural disaster. So what went wrong with the EU/Eurozone? Can it be fixed, and if so who is prepared to finance it.

Is it broke beyond repair? If so we can’t just abandon it – there is significant collateral damage in the form of ordinary people living in fear of what their future holds. Unemployment is at unprecedented levels in post-war Europe, and we have a whole generation of young people with no apparent future.

I was fortunate enough some years ago to have Henry Kissinger sitting next to me on a flight to New York. I will always remember one comment he made during that flight. We were discussing the difference in attitude between Americans and Brits. He stated that the people in the USA provided far more economic value during their working life than Brits. His criticism of the Brits was that they gained years of valuable experience in the workplace but, at 60 – 65 years old, they were retired off and sent to the scrap heap. He said that in the USA the workforce retired only when they were no longer capable of valuable function, or they chose to retire. On valuable function, this included mentoring the younger generation to impart their valuable experience and wisdom. He said that Companies in the USA retain the older generation to mentor younger people and thus make the younger generation more valuable faster than conventional training.

This reverberates more today than it did then. In the UK we have the crazy situation of valuable resources and experience wasted only because they are over 50 years of age, and a younger generation out of work because education failed them and thus considered of little value to businesses already watching every penny of cost. Many businesses have a dumbed-down performance because their bright young things just do not have the knowledge and experience to keep standards high – another wasted cost? I accept that there is also a celebrity attitude problem amongst a percentage of the younger generation, but there is also a greater percentage that seriously do want the opportunity to perform. We have started to increase the retirement age, but it will be interesting to see if business will capture the older people and use them wisely, or just find other ways to remove them from the workplace. Why do we need a retirement age at all other than to identify when a State pension will be available. If one thinks lateral on this point the employer could offer a reduced salary to an older person receiving a State pension, rather than retire them off, and thus employ the younger person to be mentored at a nominal cost after applying the reduction in salary of the mentor. Two employment issues resolved in one simple move of increasing valuable contribution.

We also have a Government quietly encouraging businesses to prefer younger people over older people in spite of ageism legislation – for good political reason, albeit short-sighted. Businesses need talented people that can add value. Young people need knowledge and experience to be valuable. Older people have this knowledge and experience in spades. When do we bring the 2 together?

Now look at retirement ages in other Eurozone countries, especially those in trouble. Some of these countries scrap valuable resources years before they do in the UK. How much economic value is wasted in the EU with these crazy policies and attitudes – and at what cost?

How many of the towns in Spain would have been built if they had harnessed the knowledge and experience of the older people rather than promote younger people too quickly and thus making poor decisions. I am sure that this is reflected throughout Europe. Picture a young, bright, but inexperienced loan officer coming face-to-face with a known and wirily developer looking for large debt to equity ratios for his next (speculative) development – the loan officer being overawed. Then superimpose an older, very experienced loan officer into the same situation. I suggest we see the difference between ‘yes’, and ‘maybe’ – if you increase your equity input and show me some credit-worthy presales.

So what is wrong in the Eurozone? Just blaming the banking crisis is convenient for politicians, but otherwise short-sighted. Could it be that the formation of the Eurozone revealed historic cracks in economic policy that otherwise had been quietly hidden by politicians hoping that it would not be revealed on their watch. How many politicians in the Eurozone watched in envy as Margaret Thatcher broke the stranglehold power of the UK trade unions wishing they could do the same in their country. I sense that had Angela Merkel been in power at the same time as Thatcher then the German unions would have suffered a similar fate.

What I want to do over the following weeks, with the help of the blogging community, is to develop a serious framework that could work in Europe, and then examine whether or not the existing EU/Eurozone can be adapted to this new framework, or should the existing model be scrapped, as were the EEC and ERM before, and the whole of Europe move into a structure built more on economic and business-driven sensibility rather than the existing political mishmash.

I will post the outline of this process tomorrow.