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George Monbiot - 28 May 2020


When you consider the defensive rings set up around established power in this country, you begin to question the very notion that we live in a democracy.

Let's list them:

1.  Our outdated, first-past-the-post electoral system, that grants crushing majorities to parties that win less than half the vote, and shuts out smaller challengers;

2.  Our unreformed political funding system, that allows billionaires and corporations to outspend and out muscle the electorate.

3.  A toothless accountability system, exemplified by the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission, whose rules and powers of enforcement are so weak that big money can drive a coach and horses through them.

4.  The continued failure to balance this system with any meaningful participatory, deliberative democracy.  This failure grants the winning party scarcely-challenged power, on the grounds of "presumed consent", for 5 years.

5.  An unreformed, cod-mediaeval Parliament, whose preposterous rituals and incomprehensible procedures could scarcely be better designed a) to bamboozle the public and b) to favour former public (i.e. private) schoolboys, educated in a similar environment.

6.  The House of Lords, some of whose seats are reserved for hereditary aristocrats and bishops (by the way, the only other country in which religious leaders have an automatic right to sit is Iran). The rest are grace and favour appointments, keeping power within existing circles.

7.  The absence of a formalised constitution, which allows, among many other issues, the Prime Minister to amass inordinate power, bypassing Parliament and governing through "special advisers".

8.  The network of opaquely-funded think tanks, which, working closely with the billionaire press (see below), formulate and road test policy.  Their personnel circulate in and out of the Prime Minister's office.

9.  The print media, most of which is owned by billionaires or multi-millionaires living offshore, who use their newspapers to defend their own interests and those of the governments they support. 

10.  The BBC, that since its inception has been meshed with various arms of state, that was spectacularly disciplined when it went off message in both 1987 and 2004, and has been putty in the hands of government ever since.

Is it any wonder we find ourselves ruled opaquely and disastrously, by entitled (and titled) incompetents?  I'm sure I've missed a few. Please fill in the gaps.

Extract from my Twitter feed @GeorgeMonbiot and see also my blogs at

Image courtesy of the Guardian Opinions page (24 Oct 2019).


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