The annual farce that is the Party Conference season has begun. In the constitutions of most political parties the annual conference figures high in terms of electing party officials and determining policy. Various factions would lobby, argue and make their case. There would be a vote. Sounds democratic. Well not quite. For many years the Tory party have been an exception to this approach. They hold a celebration of right-wing values with their party faithful. Policy decisions are deemed too serious to be left to the herd although plenty of informal discussions take place. Much attention is given to the PR potential of the event with ‘standers’ (standing ovations) being orchestrated and all dissent silenced. All is cosy and rosy in the tory world.
The Blair years renowned for its sofa government, neutered the Labour conference to the point where it is very similar to the Tory conference. Now the Liberal Democrats have gone down the same path. This is their most undemocratic conference ever. For instance, they will not be allowed to vote on the dogs breakfast that is the coalitions proposals for the NHS.
Why do party workers bother? Why spend hours on rainy streets pushing leaflets into letterboxes, addressing envelopes, organising and running fund-raising events just so your thoughts and values can be treated with contempt by the rulers in your party? As the political class has spread its tentacles across all the mainstream parties there has been a correlated loss of democracy. Bright young things leave university, get a job (unpaid) as an intern, become an ‘adviser,’ are then wangled a safe seat, often against the wishes of party activists, become an MP, then junior Minister or shadow Minister all without any experience of what life is like for 99% of the population. But they make policies, often disastrously. They pay heed to what their financial backers tell them (apart from NewLabour and the Unions...) which is why banking reform is three years overdue and still nowhere near.
The annual conference farce is another reminder of how rotten our democracy has become and how much more has to be done to reconnect with the electorate.
It is time for a new party based on democratic principles in which discussion, debate, argument and votes are fundamental.
DNM-O Do Not Moan - Organise.