“Slouching Towards Post-Democracy”

Colchester Lib Dem Nick Barlow writes perceptively here about the erosion of democracy. The public face of democracy is till there (elections) – but real control is being taken away from those democratically elected:

…This, of course, is the usual modus operandi for the Tories. Big, bold claims about opening up services, providing choice, freedom and everything else, while actually instituting systems that take power further away from the people than it was before. There?s a huge illusionary trick being pulled off as Cameron and Osborne dazzle the crowd with language that sounds as though they?re giving away power when in reality they?re doing anything but. Under the guise of devolution, power is actually being pulled away from the people, insulated from any direct accountability and the possibility of any real local control.

Consider Osborne?s much-vaunted city regions. How will they be run? Through a board where almost all of the members are indirectly elected and the one that is (the regional mayor) won?t have any structures around them to provide checks and balances or to scrutinise them. Just as we?ve seen with PCCs, you?ll get to vote for someone once every four years and hope that they?re doing what you voted for during that time. Meanwhile, we?ve already been told that any decision to approve an increase in business rates will need to be approved by the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership. LEPs have already been given massive amounts of money to spend outside of any democratic control, and how long before the usual steady creep gives them even more unaccountable power over local decisions?

postdemocracyTo me, it feels like the institutions of post-democracy are being assembled around us, and the key part of post-democracy is that while democratic forms still exist for the public face of the system, they have little say over the operation of power within it. The rhetoric of democracy is being used to introduce systems that hollow out the practice of it, telling people that they are free while gradually removing any of the tools they may have used to exercise that freedom and make power accountable. That?s the prospect being laid out in front of us ? no sudden change from one system to another, just a gradual whittling away of power ? and if we?re going to confront it, then we need to get comfortable talking abour power.