You can’t always get what you want
‘Of the people, by the people, for the people,’ said Abe. Everyone has their own ideas on how things should be done. But it’s tricky to decide who’s right. Well, luckily we’ve got Dave, and E-petitions.
Britain, formerly Great, has existed as a liberal democracy for some time now. MPs are elected to represent the interests of the people, not just to do what people tell them to. This immediately raises the question of whether people choose an MP or a party, and whether either can really act in the interests of someone they don’t know? What are my interests? Obviously this problem is compounded by the fact that the current government don’t have a clear mandate in any traditional sense.
Anyway, it’s not all doldrums, it means that we get a pretty stable system and there are probably too many people for any kind of Senate on the hill ideas to be practical.
Then along came E-petitions, and the Romans finally looked outdated. After a few unsuccessful attempts I managed to log on and got a glimpse into the public’s psyche. It made for interesting reading – with the most popular suggestions such as ‘CHEAPER PETROL AND DIESEL’, ‘Keep Formula 1 Free To Air in the UK’ and +/- capital punishment appearing on the front page. There are also a lot of suggestions relating to the riots such as the current leader: ‘Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits’, or ‘Increase policing DONT CUT IT’ – although I’ve read so many comments under articles in The Guardian and The Daily Mail that I’d already got the gist of public feeling on this.
There are some interesting ideas; and the use of grammar and capitalisation is truly innovative. But there are also a lot of reactionary and divisive suggestions, punctuated with anger. Is this what the people want?
In principle E-petitions are appealing and hopefully people will be able to raise issues that may not otherwise have been considered. A link with the public can’t be a bad thing. Alternatively the debates could just be used to clog up parliament and just be conducted on a superficial level, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. Cameron does seem to have a good hold over PR and his recent proposals, relating to the riots, demonstrate a willingness to move with public opinion.
Increased political participation sounds good. Calm considered debates would give us the chance to weigh up the pros and cons of each argument, to see the problem from different perspectives, and to moderate our opinions based any new information presented. When people are engaged and involved they have time to think, and can propose ideas based on an understanding of how things actually work rather than reaching for visceral solutions. Being ignored results in resentment, anger, and extremist views.
You can’t always get what you want; but we can’t just dismiss ideas that we don’t like.