Human beings are curious things. They combine supreme intelligence with bovine stupidity. They can maintain mutually opposing views whilst appearing unconcerned or even embarrassed. It goes without saying that we live in a democracy, whilst some of the criteria for making such an assertion would tell us that we are totally wrong. Consider the three levels of governance at the top of the United Kingdom, to see what I mean.
In pole position in our much vaunted democracy is the Queen. Placed in a structurally bigoted appointment, she looks down on us and must secretly laugh at the absurdity of her position. As the richest Social Security scrounger of them all, the sole requirement for becoming the number one kiddie in the country, was be the child of a monarch. When daddy died, she had to promise to rule over us and be a good Protestant. It’s the second bit that really burns my bacon. If she were suddenly to become a papist she would be removed from her throne. So: two epic fails in our testing ground for democracy.
On the second, but still quite rarefied level, we have the upper house. Chosen by the Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the House of Lords is stuffed with hundreds of the unelected. They will never have to undergo the indignity of seeking the approval of the electorate. The 1911 Parliament Act stated its intention to ‘substitute for the House of Lords as it presently exists a second chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis’.
Of the third level, it is true that we get a chance to decide our democratic fate. Once every five years. For about 20 minutes. In this I include the walk to and from Bankhead Primary School to choose the Member of Parliament who will represent me for half a decade. So – my democratic contribution to the government of the United Kingdom is 10 seconds per decade.
Maybe we need to sit down and discuss democracy in the light of the constitutional requirements of the UK. Unfortunately, even though the Constitution is regularly mentioned on political programmes I am, as yet, unable to procure a copy of this vital, but rarely seen document. So, here we sit, with an invisible constitution which is alluded to whenever the status quo is challenged. We have two levels of government which are legally closed off to 99.99% of the population, yet we are apparently a democracy.
I call shenanigans.