So another day and another revelation that a billionaire has been putting money up to a political movement in order to ensure he got what he wanted. What price democracy?
The simple answer is it’s how much a few members of the human race decide to put up to support their view of how the world should be. It doesn’t seem to concern a great number of people that these handful of individuals are not only buying democracy in their own countries but actively using their money in other countries to manipulate the outcome of elections and other voting systems participated in by the voting public.
Yesterday it was revealed that Robert Mercer, co-owner of right-wing news organisation Breitbart, allegedly directed his data-analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign. Mr Mercer, whose firm was paid £4.8m by the Trump campaign to persuade swing voters, offered his firm’s help to Ukip leader Nigel Farage for free. The firm is said to have advised Leave.eu by harvesting data from people’s Facebook profiles to decide how to target them with individualised advertisements. I have no proof of what the cost of this service would have been but the electoral commission was not informed of Mr Mercer’s work. All services worth more than £7,500 must be declared. Still we know by the Tory Election Fraud of 2015 nothing will come of it.
So there is just one case of a foreign billionaire having an influence on our so called democracy. Want some more?
Our national press is recognised as being 90% right-wing. So who owns the press in the UK. Well I would think most people reading this article will be aware that it is owned by foreign and non-dom billionaires that use their ownership of these newspapers to spread their thoughts on how things should be in the UK. It is interesting that every one of these newspapers promoted the Brexit agenda during the referendum. And now probably the most toxic of these billionaires one Rupert Murdoch is poised to take over Sky. This will lead to most of our media coverage being dominated by billionaires that are not residents of our country. Sure Murdoch’s bid was turned down last time due to the corruption of his companies being exposed but this time will almost certainly see the bid succeed. He has the backing of May’s government, or should I say he has told the parliament to not interfere.
On top of all this we now learn that a country renowned for its lack of democracy, Russia, has been actively interfering in the political process of countries all over the world. Investigations into probable Russian involvement in the Donald Trump presidential election is on-going and it has now been revealed that Putin’s boys and girls were active in ensuring the Tories got elected in 2015. It also now seems that Russia was involved in ensuring the Leave vote succeeded in the referendum.
So what some of you may ask. How can these people possibly influence the outcome of an election involving tens of millions of people.
Simple. All it takes is to influence just a small percentage of the electorate, the so called swing voters. Because they do swing from right to left in their politics is probably the reason they are so easily influenced. A negative photograph, say a politician eating a bacon sandwich here, a fake news item there and the job is soon completed. Downright lies are now acceptable and when they are proved to be lies well it’s too late. The world has moved on. Cheating is OK. Above I referred to the Tory election fraud that is currently under investigation by twenty-one police authorities looking at thirty Tory politicians. Anyone want to guess what the outcome of that will be. My guess is many cases will be proved but the whole matter will be put aside with perhaps a few small fines. The argument from our ‘free’ press will be the world has moved on. Now where have we heard that one before.
So how can we in the UK every hope to ‘take back control’ of our democracy. Many thought they were taking back control with Brexit only to find they have less control. Our MPs are running scared of the right-wing press and voting for what they know is a very bad idea. Witness the recent Article 50 vote. Our parliamentary process is more controlled not by the thoughts of the electorate and more by a small group of people than every before in the modern era of politics. Clearly our ‘First Pass The Post’ (FPTP) system doesn’t work. It allows a handful of media owning individuals the means to influence a small group of the electorate to ensure a certain political party is elected. Governments in the UK are more often than not given the right to rule with less than a clear majority of the electorates votes. In the case of the present government this was only 37%. This undemocratic way of electing a government becomes more stark when it is shown that of the actual people eligible to vote only 26% voted for the present government. It could reasonably be argued that the 30% that didn’t vote therefore gave up their right to democracy. However, this is a rather closed eyes argument. It would be better to look at what causes such voting apathy involving several million people. I personally lived for a number of years in a voting district that was represented 100% by Tory politicians. That is from the Parish Council all the way up to the MP. My vote, which I nonetheless made each election amounted to nothing. Simply because it was a FPTP system. It was a rare occasion that the winner , always the Tory, got anywhere near 50% of the vote but they always won. But if we return to the figures for the 2015 General Election and discount the 30% that did not vote it still shows that 63% of those that voted did not vote for the winning party. As an active opponent of UKIP I have to admit they received a large percentage of the vote but ended up with just one MP. How is that democracy? This is something the Lib Dems have suffered for years and I am sure parties such as the Greens receive a larger portion of the vote than is reflected in their one MP. Clearly FPTP works very well in a two horse race but in multi-party politics it corrupts democracy. It also allows others the opportunity to manipulate the democratic process as argued above.
To return to the main theme of this article it seems that as wealth has gyrated to a smaller and smaller group of individuals so those people have succeeded in manipulating the political system to their advantage. Therefore our, and many other countries political systems must be seen as broken. In our case I would argue that a quick and easy fix would be to bring in a system that does not rely on a FPTP method and therefore spreading the political success across a greater proportion of the electorate.
Now all we need is the political will to effect the change. Any chance, probably not. So as it finally disappears over the horizon can we all wave a heart-felt farewell to democracy.