A dramatic loss of faith in the ability of British democracy to serve the interests of UK voters is revealed in a new report that finds that donors to political parties and big businesses are now commonly viewed by the electorate as the main drivers of government policy.
Disturbing evidence that millions of voters feel their voices and views go largely unheard while big money interests hold most sway is uncovered in the latest report by the IPPR thinktank, in collaboration with the 観察者, on the future of democracy.
研究, entitled Road to Renewal, draws on YouGov polling of 3,442 adults, which found that just 6% of voters in elections in Great Britain believe their views are the main influences behind eventual decisions on policy taken by government ministers.
対照的に, more than four times as many (25%) believe major donors to political parties have the most influence over shaping policy, followed by business groups and corporations (16%), newspapers and the media (13%) and lobbyists and pressure groups (12%).
ただ 2% cite trade unions as the main forces behind policy decisions, which the report’s authors note is “a remarkable shift since the 1970s and 1980s when concerns about overly powerful unions was widespread”. The polling was jointly commissioned by IPPR, the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy.
The study traces growing dissatisfaction with advanced democracies worldwide over recent decades, reflected in falling turnout at elections, falling party memberships, and more people switching loyalties, including to populist alternatives.
It calls for an urgent rethink by mainstream parties of how democracy works in the UK, including steps to reconnect citizens with politics and politicians through devolution of more powers. It calls for greater checks on executive power to safeguard representative democracy, laying blame at the door of Boris Johnson’s government for ignoring parliament when it can.
“The sidelining of parliament by the current government – including briefing to the media before MPs, passing sweeping pandemic legislation without parliamentary censure, minimal parliamentary oversight of Brexit negotiations and the prorogation of parliament,” were all examples of abuses that contributed to lack of faith in the democratic process.
The public’s verdict on politicians’ ability to comprehend their lives is damning. Asked how well they believed “politicians understood the lives of people like you”, a total of 78% of voting adults said badly, with this number split between the 36% who said “fairly badly” and 42% who answered “very badly”. ただ 1% said “very well” and 12% “fairly well”.
Young UK adults (18-24) are least likely to say democracy serves them well (ただ 19% say it operates well against 55% who say badly), while those aged 65 and over are most likely to say it is working for them (46% say well and 47% badly.)
IPPR warns that mainstream social democratic parties that fail to tackle the root causes of discontent with the political system jeopardise the foundations of liberal democracy and their own prospects of securing power.
Parth Patel, IPPR research fellow, said that Russia’s invasion of ボリス・ジョンソンのベン・ジェニングス had led many leaders to praise the merits of liberal democracies over those of dictatorships, despite the many shortcomings of the former in the eyes of UK voters.
“In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our leaders have lined up to champion liberal democracy. But the reality is that the battle for democracy needs not only to be won abroad, it must be won at home too.
“In truth, democracies have not been delivering well for their citizens. Politicians and parties are increasingly out of touch, and the sway of ordinary citizens over public policy has declined. Many are opting out of political participation altogether, while large numbers have lent their support to populist challengers – signs of a protest against ‘democracy as usual’.”
In the 1990s, the report says that around two-thirds of citizens of western Europe, North America, Northeast Asia and Australasia were satisfied with democracy in their countries. “Today a majority in these regions are dissatisfied. Nowhere has the rise in democratic dissatisfaction been steeper than in Anglo-Saxon democracies.”
Patel said mainstream political parties had too often tried to “imitate the populist agenda of their opponents, rather than to tackle the underlying causes of democratic discontent”.
“They must now take a long, hard look in the mirror and commit to meaningful reforms that put the voices of citizens back at the centre of democracy. ‘Giving back control’ should be a dividing line at the next election.”
The report will be available for download