Michael Portillo adds insult to injury -: “the public fails to recognise that democracy must be participative”
Helen Marcus of Civic Voice has written to the Financial Times responding to Michael Portillo’s advocacy of funding political parties out of tax revenue. She points out that there are two important factors that should militate against this idea:
“The current parties fail to attract sufficient members to fund their activities because they no longer represent the aspirations of the public and seem incapable of any appropriate response. They should be left to go the way of other organisations who fail to adapt.
“Propping them up with taxpayers’ money would bar the way for new groups with possibly better ideas to take their place and take away people’s choice.”
She asks two questions:
- Why should the normal functioning of market forces be subverted for these parties, which are now widely seen to be undermining democracy?
- If political parties are paid for by government, how long will it be before they are controlled by government?
Politicians want people to play a passive role in political affairs as subjects, not active democratic citizens
Mrs Marcus also takes issue with Michael Portillo’s remark that “the public fails to recognise that democracy must be participative”:
“It calls to mind nothing so much as Bertolt Brecht’s famous quip that ‘the government has lost the confidence of the people … the government must elect a new people.’
“Perhaps from the lofty height of his ivory tower he is unaware that thousands of people try hard to participate, through civic societies and countless other amenity groups, many of whom have more members than the political parties. They are frequently rebuffed and disparaged by those in power for their pains.
“It is not the public that is at fault, but the politicians, as described by Professor Vernon Bogdanor in his recent book, The New British Constitution, where he says that ‘… the people are still kept at arm’s length from Parliament and government, still expected to play a primarily passive role in political affairs. They are to remain subjects, not active democratic citizens.’ “