Democracy 2015 is a political movement with a simple idea – to provide the ordinary citizen with true representation in the governance of our democracy, which it believes has stagnated under the auspices of political gamesmanship and elitism in the political class. To do this it seeks to stand independent of political parties and to get people with ‘real world’ experience into Parliament, while collating its policies through engagement with the public. In a time when the ruling class is derided as being ‘out of touch’, or worse, seen to be governing solely in its own interests, Democracy 2015 is one symptom of public discontent. Occupy, low voter turnout and last summer’s riots are others.
The Leveson Inquiry and the scandals over Parliamentary Expenses and Cash for Honours are all lodged in the public perception of politicians. Democracy 2015 argues that to instil a sense of responsibility to our democrats we have to redefine the role of the politician. In a bid to free them of the corrupting influence of power and privilege, candidates would only be allowed to serve in Parliament for one five year term. Complete transparency of their activities and expenses would be maintained. The campaign’s originator, Andreas Whittam Smith, (a founder of the Independent newspaper) has pledged that funding would only be accepted from private donations of a maximum of £50.
In its unadulterated state, an (essentially) bipartisan chamber allows for the competition of two ideologies. Nominally, Labour and the Conservatives associate themselves with democratic socialism and lasseiz-faire economics. The reality is that a series of concessions by Labour to the economic model of the right over recent decades now precludes any true contrast or debate of ideologies. Essentially, the central forum for democratic discourse has become compromised by the convergence of the political elite. At a time when the hidden economic fault lines of the last thirty years are finally being revealed, the consensus shared by the majority of our politicians desperately needs challenging. The indecisive result of the last election pays testament to this – where no major party offers a credible analysis of the national crisis none is particularly favoured. The ideological redundancy of our current representatives in the House of Commons gives cause to hope that Democracy 2015 can provide change. It pledges to formulate policy after a comprehensive consultation with the public, through correspondence and public meetings. Judging by recent polling for YouGov, this means that a champion can truly be found for increasing taxes on the wealthy (62% in favour), regulating finance (69% ) and taxing financial transactions (61%). In an economy weighted toward the rich and indebted to the financial sector, Democracy 2015 could begin to unravel the monopoly of wealth and power enjoyed by the elite.
However, the election of a party ‘above’ ideology is not as simple as it seems. The redundancy of left wing economic thought over the last thirty years has led to the acceptance of a largely Thatcherite economic policy – that government should take care of the rich as the rich, the true creators of wealth, will take care of everyone else. The insufficiencies of the current model, overly indebted to the City for growth, has been exposed by the current economic crisis. This can be seen in the public attitudes shown above. However, lacking opposition, the political consensus has seeped through into the public perception of good economics. This can be seen in a poll by YouGov, where 53% (versus 30%) of people believe that austerity, the head-between-your-knees position of a Thatcherite economy in crisis, is still necessary for our economy. This iniquity tells of the responsibility of politicians to communicate ideas, a duty that they are not performing now and could not under a supra-ideological movement such as Democracy 2015. Politicians have a responsibility to formulate contrasting, systematic ideologies for government and present them to us. The election of Democracy 2015 to a majority in the next election would concretize public-held economic assumptions and remove our only nationally relevant forum for ideological debate, our only way of questioning them. Abandoning ideological debate just because it is neglected is the wrong course of action. However, while Democracy 2015 cannot ultimately provide a sustainable alternative to party politics, the threat it poses to the feathered tranquillity of an obsolete, political class is real. As it gains in popularity and sponsorship it can only cause fearful politicians to sit up, take notice, and re-engage with a disenfranchised public.