‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Why low turnout for PCC elections may be good for democracy

I have written before (see post for 7 October) about the loosening grip which the main political parties have over voters. This trend was highlighted in the low turnout and the election of independent police commissioners and an independent mayor in Bristol this week.

Declining party membership, financial problems, new (cheaper) media and lack of distinctive policies all threaten the dominance of the established parties. Protest votes have largely deserted the Liberal Democrats now that they are in government.  Newer parties such as UKIP and Respect have been picking up protest votes, but there are already signs that these newer recipients of the protest votes are themselves unstable and liable to fragment (see my post for 23 October).

How can any of this be good news for democracy? 

The quality and quantity of candidates may (I only say ‘may’) improve. Good candidates, who would not want to stand under a party label, may be attracted to put themselves forward for election as independents, if they see other independents being elected.

Voters may be less likely to see contests as foregone conclusions and be tempted to vote for independent candidates. More genuine competition for seats may improve democracy. The fragmentation of power may also result in parties and individuals learning to work together across party boundaries. This may ultimately be good news for democracy, if not for the political parties.

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