Everyone’s favourite damp-rag bashing rumbustious politician Nigel Farage has been at it again, claiming today that he “could not care less” who wins the next general election as the UK. “The penny is beginning to drop [...] that we are no longer a self-governing nation” he continued.
On the latter point I agree with Farage. The difference is that I disagree about the reasons, because of course Farage blames Brussels. Yes, Brussels is to a certain extent a constraint. But there are many other constraints too, and the problem is that we never speak about those – because any politicians who understand those constraints would never dare.
Even if Farage were to get his wish and the UK were to leave the European Union there would still be masses of external constraints, not least from the EU (still). These points are developed further here. In short: in a globalised world the big players set the standards, and the UK on its own would not be big enough to be a big player.
Secondly, there are a whole range of reasons why the UK people are not properly self-governing – internally. Bawn (et al) at Georgetown have advanced a new theory of political parties as representatives of narrow interests, not the interests of the people. It’s well worth a read – PDFhere. The question to ask is whether elections (and hence indeed our political system) are set up in the interests of the people of the UK, as opposed to special interest groups. That same accusation could be levelled at the EU institutions too.
Set all of that in the context of the UK election system which favours the two main parties and forces both towards the centre (and does not assist parties like UKIP and the Greens). This means a general election is only decided in the 1/6th of the constituencies anyway, and all that on the basis of less than 2% of the population being members of political parties and election turnout at around 60% in general elections and 30-40% at second order elections… All of this is examined in depth in the latest Democratic Audit.
In short: there are many challenges to the ability of the UK to self-govern. Farage is talking about one of them, but there are many more – but no-one has the incentive to talk about any of the others or to address them.
This post was originally published here.