A Conservative narrative of democracy

Rather than an abstract, here is the conclusion of my article, ‘Speaking for the People: A Conservative Narrative of Democracy’, being published early next year:

“To summarise, the Conservative view of democracy is not a qualified view but rather a particular interpretation of what constitutes ‘the people’.  Government is by and (especially) for the people, but the people past and present and, in a representative democracy, by those acting in the best interests of the people.  There needs to be leadership and that necessitates a system that allows some degree of autonomy while retaining the accountability of leaders to the electors.  To the Conservative, that balance has largely been achieved in the UK.  There may occasionally need to be some re-balancing, but that is an exercise in ensuring the strengths of the system are maintained and not fundamentally threatened. “

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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10 Responses to A Conservative narrative of democracy

  1. Carl.H says:

    Measuring the degree of autonomous policy Kant be easy !

  2. Lord Norton says:

    Carl.H: Very good. 🙂

  3. Croft says:

    Removing the word ‘conservative’ from the above would seem to be a statement all the parties could sign up to as it’s ever so kindly tells the electorate to ‘shush’ for five years while the politicians make the paternalistic decisions. The ‘strengths of the system’ are I suggest viewed from the perspective of those inside looking out as those are the only people who have ever had any real say in its construction and the debate occurs within the same. We have a whole range of constitutional changes due, few of which can clearly be said to have had an electoral mandate most will go though without asking the public’s view and the one we are given a vote on we are denied a say on the question. If those are the ‘strengths’ I dread to see the weaknesses.

  4. Lord Norton says:

    Croft: Not at all. One of the benefits of our electoral system is that it helps ensure that a Government is sensitive to opinion in between elections – it knows it can lose the next election if it isn’t – and the Conservative view of the people is very different to that of other political parties.

    • Croft says:

      “One of the benefits of our electoral system is that it helps ensure that a Government is sensitive to opinion in between elections – it knows it can lose the next election if it isn’t”

      Well you say that but I think we both know the government – like almost all governments – lose either because ‘it’s time for a change’ or because the economy is dire. The coalition can privative the moon and paint all sheep blue and it won’t make a blind bit of difference to the result as long as the economy improves. The system is deeply insensitive to individual policies and makes it practically impossible to punish/reward parties specifically rather than generally. Parties only have to do enough to win not do enough to gain support from the majority of the(ir) voters for the majority of their manifesto.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Croft: Governments generally do lose because they are no longer seen as competent in handling the economy, but they are also sensitive to opinion polls and this can affect behaviour. Some Prime Ministers have arguably been over-sensitive to opinion polls.

      • djb13 says:

        Yet, our electoral system offers no manner for a challenge to Labour from the left or the Conservatives from the right. Between 1997-2005 a Lib Dem vote was often viewed as offering an effective challenge to Labour from the left, yet many voters saw that tactic backfire spectacularly in 2010. Voting Green, Plaid/SNP or BNP; or UKIP or Christian Party is spectacular waste of your vote (unless you’re lucky enough to live in the right half of Brighton, or parts of Scotland and Wales).

    • Croft says:

      “Conservative view of the people is very different to that of other political parties.”

      Who is defining the Conservative view. I rather suspect the cabinet, the backbenchers and the party activists would not all write the same definition.

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