Richard North, 28/05/2012  

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Jeff Randall is always an entertaining writer, with the unusual ability to see something of the world outside the bubble he inhabits. He thus talks a very great deal of sense, and especially today.

If reader feedback on popular websites, he says, reflects public anger, many people are … at boiling point. Fury is the norm, not just with ministers but the police, other public officials and the media.

Randall then lists a lot of the things that might have given rise to that anger, the latest being the rather unsavoury Baroness Warsi, who adds to a suspicion that cheap-and-nasty corruption is the new British disease.

With so much cause for grievance, now, you might think, would be the right moment for an upsurge in political engagement – but it's not happening, Randall says. A recent study by the Hansard Society shows that, far from embracing mainstream parties, the electorate is more withdrawn than at any time in the past decade.

Now read my previous piece, if you haven't already done so. Tell you what - I'll save you the bother. The key bit is this: "From a lot of different inputs, it is evident that politics – in this country and elsewhere – is going AWOL. People have had enough and they are switching off in droves".

Essentially, we're saying the same things – the differences being that Randall gets paid and I don't, and he has a much bigger audience, even though I've said it earlier and better – with far more analysis. But then, I'm not in the bubble.

You can plough through the Randall piece if you like, but I'm in a good mood this morning – although I don't know why. I'll save you the trouble again. He writes:
Coalition politics is proving a disaster for conventional democracy. Disillusioned citizens are simply dropping out, as they conclude, justifiably, that the system is giving them neither what they were promised nor what they would like.
As you will have noticed – probably far ahead of me - he is confusing chicken and egg. We've actually ended up with the coalition because we don't have a democracy in any meaningful sense. Witterings from Witney lists some of the deficiencies, and they've been around a long time. Thus, so many disillusioned citizens dropped out that we ended up with the Cleggerons. They (the Cleggerons) are a symptom, not the cause of the disease.

The crunch issue is that people will take part in politics if they think that their input will make the difference. If they have no means of effecting change, and voting becomes a meaningless ritual, an increasing number of people don't bother and we end up where we are today.

The trouble is in this country is that people don't get angry – but then I suppose that is also our greatest strength. Life is full of contradictions like that. We wouldn't want angry people storming the streets. It makes life even messier and more dangerous.

But we can still address the deficiencies that are causing this problem. And, entertaining though he is, Randall isn't doing it. Anyone who can talk in terms of a "conventional democracy", without realising that we are nowhere near achieving anything close to what might be considered a democracy - "conventional" or otherwise - is missing the bigger picture.

I'll give you a few more pieces to read … like this one, and this short one, and especially this. Read Randall, read these pieces when or if you have time. Then, if I've got it wrong - not that I have, of course - tell me. The forum is still open for new applications for those that want to try - although read this first.

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