In the UK we have been brought up to believe our parliament is the ‘mother of democracy’.
However, recent developments are putting that democracy under strain.
The Elections Act 2022 introduced photographic voter ID and at least 14,000 voters were turned away in May, compared to one person who was found guilty of voter fraud in 2019.
The Election Act also eroded the independence of the Electoral Commission as an independent regulator.
Concerns about ‘dark money’ financing parties and electoral campaigns has led the Committee on Standards in Public Life to produce recommendations in 2021, which have yet to be implemented.
The right to protest is undermined by the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and the Public Order Act 2023; we have yet to fully see in practise by how much.
The police use ‘stop and search’ much more against Black and Asian people than against White people.
A report found institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia in the Metropolitan Police. Restrictions on legal aid make justice available only to those who can afford it.
Media freedom is restricted – three companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group, Reach) had 90 per cent of newspaper circulation in 2021, and they effectively set the news agenda each day, which is then lapped up by the BBC, ITV, and other media outlets.
And, of course, only one of the two chambers of parliament is elected.
The House of Lords is increasingly filled by those ‘favoured’ by the outgoing prime ministers (and there have been a lot of them lately). This is not new, but neither is it fair or democratic.
And those in power are seen not obeying the same rules as the rest of us.
Is it any wonder the voter turnout is so low, especially in local elections?
Is it any wonder faith in the integrity of politicians (of all stripes) and our institutions is at an all-time low?
It used to be said that ‘check and balances’ protected us in the UK from cronyism and corruption, but no one can say that any more.
It is precisely because democracy is in such a bad shape, we all need to insist on a stronger code of conduct in public life, and a written constitution setting out the appropriate balance of powers between the executive, judiciary, and legislature.
Please vote accordingly when the time comes.