Friday, 16 November 2012

Democracy's finest hour?

Well, my little rant about the Police Commissioner Elections yesterday hardly encouraged the burghers of the Black Country to vote in droves: the Dark Place's turnout was 12.87%, and the West Midlands average was even lower: 12.35%. You can guarantee that most of those voters were golf-club fascists voting UKIP, birch-wielding Tories and of course police officers. So even if a single candidate gets 50% of the vote by some miracle, the most they'll command is 6.15% of the region's 5 million+ people.

We shall have to bear this in mind when the next Tory MP claims a strike is illegitimate if fewer than 50% of the members voted. But in the meantime, let's ponder this. When elected mayors were proposed, people got to vote in a referendum on the concept itself. Some places voted yes, others voted no. Hartlepool voted yes, and yesterday decided to abolish the post. So if the Tories are so keen on local democracy, why no referendum?

The answer is, of course, that the like the appearance of democracy rather than the thing itself. That's why they like police commissioners. They've watched a lot of Westerns and really believe that a lone hero can clean up this town. Not coincidentally, that's the argument the Daily Mail and other Tories made about certain other law-and-order types: Mosley, Mussolini and Hitler. Democracy is not served by concentrating power in the hands of a lowest-common-denominator demagogue.

Which brings me to my next example, Mr Michael Gove.

You may think he's a harmless Pob lookalike, but one of his favourite concepts is the Academy school. It's a really simple idea. You take a school run by the elected local council and you give it to a 'sponsor', who could be, say, a Tory Party donor and Christian fundamentalist, or a university not entirely unadjacent to The Hegemon. You then exempt it from Freedom of Information laws. You sack the governors and replace them with an unelected advisory board. Parent and staff governors are not replaced. You exempt the school from requirements that teachers actually have qualifications, from minimum food standards and from measures banning vending machines and the like.

To whom is the school answerable? Not the parents. Not the staff. Not the students. Nor the local authority, who you might think would have a keen sense of the areas educational needs and plenty of expertise in logistics, supplies, legal advice, pay, and all the other complicated things a school requires. A council that can be sacked if the local voters decide it's doing a bad job. No, the school is answerable only to one Michael Gove and to whichever dubious corporation decided that running (but not funding) a school would be a good bit of PR.

And that, children, is 'democracy' in action. See also: the privatisation and restructuring of the NHS.


Anonymous said...

i haven't heard anything about it (not that i've been following it that closely) but it looks to me like the purpose of the commissioners are to, well, commission police services...

"The anticipated start date for the contract is February 2013. Bidders should note that this date falls after the expected appointment of Police and Crime Commissioners, and that contracts would be subject to the approval of the Police and Crime Commissioner for the force area concerned, who will become the contracting authority."

(page 2 of: )

The Plashing Vole said...

That was certainly the intention, but most candidates were forced to come out against privatisation during the campaign due to widespread disquiet. Some of them will certainly pursue it, but hopefully most will feel they don't have any kind of mandate.

Jon Tulloch said...

The pob comparison is good because one is so insuferably wooden and the other is a puppet. I always seem to have the image of Obadiah Slope in my mind when the 'bestial' Gove is mentioned though...

Jake said...

Wasn't Gove also the one who was briefly obsessed with providing every school in the country with copies of the Bible? And not just any Bible, I hasten to add, such as schools already have in large numbers and which are available to freely download from a hundred places on the Internet. No, Mr Gove wanted to hand out Bibles to which he had written a foreword.