The BBC dilutes democracy in its debate for Democracy Day

On Monday at lunch time I joined an invited audience in the Speaker’s House in the Commons to debate democracy for the BBC. They filmed and recorded 90 minutes of debate.

They invited an American Professor to lead the discussion. He was intelligent and articulate but not grounded in the realities of UK democracy. His starting issue was John Stuart Mill’s idea that well educated people should have more votes than anyone else. This out of date and unpopular idea was never going to fly, but he was determined to find someone in the audience who would argue for it, for no obvious reason. We wasted the opening minutes on an anachronism.

I was not allowed to comment throughout most of the programme despite trying to do so. I listened patiently to a long debate about proportional representation and new systems of voting. Some there seemed to think this would solve the problem of the disjunction between many voters and current politics. The Professor seemed in BBC style to encourage this viewpoint, and he had himself introduced the topic as his second important issue. He did not of course point out we have recently had a national debate about this and voted against a change in voting system. Nor did he or anyone allowed to speak on this topic point out that where different voting systems have been adopted – for EU and devolved Parliament elections – it has not resolved the problem of the gap between voters and politicians.

When I was finally allowed to speak at the very end of the session I made two big points. The UK debate about accountability, relevance and the relationship between electors and elected is dominated today by the questions of who is the demos and what powers remain for the government? The Professor had not mentioned or called anyone else likely to mention the words European Union or devolved governments. You cannot today talk about democracy in the UK unless you examine the transfer of substantial powers to the EU and ask what that has done to democratic accountability. Nor can you understand UK democracy without examining the relative and changing roles of the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Irish and Welsh Assemblies and the Westminster Parliament.

The rule of law and habeas corpus democracy is 800 years old this year, and the English Parliament at least 750 years old. On these large anniversaries we need to ask ourselves the fundamental question, is our democratic inheritance compatible with our current terms of EU membership? What do we do about all those laws and decisions that are made by the EU, which we cannot change if we change the MPs and government in the next Parliament? Those self same laws cannot be changed by our MEPs either. When if ever will there be an EU demos? And do we want to be part of it?

Maybe it was accident that these matters did not get discussed. Maybe it was by design. Maybe next time the BBC could ask one of us UK acadmeics and political thinkers to lead the discussion, or at least to be allowed to point out what the real UK issues are today. They are certainly not the question of giving educated people more votes. They include do we get a vote at all to influence the European laws that rule us? And does England get a vote to decide its issues?


  1. DaveM
    January 22, 2015

    Mr Redwood,

    It’s not my normal habit to be flippant regarding the subjects mentioned today, however:

    is your spelling of the word “academics” intended to be ironic?!

  2. Lifelogic
    January 22, 2015

    “Maybe it was accident that these matters did not get discussed” given the BBC’s record I hardly think so.

    The BBC has a clear agenda to destroy what little is left of UK democracy. People like Ken Clarke and John Major are endlessly invited on and ask to say uninterrupted whatever they want on the BBC. Whereas people who want less EU are nearly always accused of racism and endlessly heckled by lefty interviewers. They are equally biased on their global warming/expensive religious energy agenda and on higher taxes and an ever bloated state sector.

    They never for example point out the huge difference in total remuneration between the 20% who work for the state sector (with pensions included) and the 80% who do not. It is about 50% more and for fewer hours and more sick days. They also have their silly equality agenda constantly taking about gender pay gaps, glass ceilings and quotas. This despite the fact that women without children already earn more than men and it is quite clear they tend on to freely chose different types of jobs and to study different subjects.

    The BBC can hardly ever even utter the word England or the democratic bias against them in the UK devolution system.

    Cameron, by appointing Lord Patten to the BBC trust clearly showed that he wanted these absurd BBC biases to continue. Cameron is at heart a “BBC think” person, essentially pro EU, pro green crap, pro over expensive energy, for the breakup of England and for ever higher taxes and an ever bigger state.

    80% of UK voters want an EU referendum now or very soon and yet, thanks to Cameron’s wet and serial ratting approach, he is going to throw a second election to parties that do not even want to give them one. The country is crying out for a real Tory/UKIP government but where are the real Tories no where to be seen?

    1. Hope
      January 23, 2015

      You will note that Lord Hill, Madelson, Patten, Kinnock, Briton all held non elected EU jobs and all, except Hill, rejected by the UK electorate.

      Briton, described yesterday’s news the press as an EU fanatic, was another brought in on as an adviser to Cameron in 2010. Does anyone still think Cameron is a Eurosceptic? Perhaps most come to realise he surrounds himself with pro EU fanatics might be a clue of his true position especially as some were the political assasins of Thatcher.

      1. Jerry
        January 23, 2015

        @Hope; “You will note that Lord Hill, Madelson, Patten, Kinnock, Briton all held non elected EU jobs and all, except Hill, rejected by the UK electorate”

        (I trust I will not be out of outer saying the following)

        I suspect that many people will likely observe the exact opposite to what “Hope” points out above, all but Lord Hill have stood for and been elected by the popular vote at least once during their political careers, even if they were later ‘sacked’ in one way or another. Not that it disqualifies, either way, far from it.

        “Does anyone still think Cameron is a Eurosceptic?”

        As for people being “Eurosceptic”, forgive me for asking but doesn’t being sceptical mean that whilst one thinks it unlikely that something will happen the way one would wish it is not impossible that it might, thus I suspect the phrase you were actually looking for was Europhobe and thus a term I don’t think anyone has ever used or suggested in the same breath when talking of Mr Cameron.

        “especially as some were the political assasins of Thatcher.”

        Yes and many on the right will never forgive them even though by mid 1990, like it or not, Mrs Thatcher whilst still adored by those elements of the Tory party, it was clear that she had started to badly miss-judge the wider electorate (even within some very true blue areas of the country), thus her demise wasn’t just about the EU but more mundane domestic issues. I seem to recall that even our host has was unhappy that she pressed on with at least one policy, and the Tory party has never recovered to this day in Scotland because of it (whilst probably becoming one of the main recruiting sergeants for the SNP during the 1990s as well)…

  3. Lifelogic
    January 22, 2015

    SNP MPs will now vote routinely on English matters says Nicola Sturgeon. So what is Cameron’s position on this?

    The Tories need to become essentially the party of England, for lower taxes, for cheaper energy, for a far more efficient state sector and for far less EU. Why can this wet leadership not see this when it is so blinding obvious?

    1. stred
      January 22, 2015

      Maybe it was an accident.. that the effect of the EU was not discussed and anyone likely to bring the subject up was not allowed to. Maybe it is an accident that the death of a Coronation Street actor was covered as the main subject on the news when the renewed shelling of residential areas in a European city in the depth of winter had resumed and was not covered at all. The BBC takes its EU orders seriously.

      Has anyone considered the possibility that the Salmon, Sturgeon and other separatists may be coming to Westminster to deliberately rile the English to the point where the Sassenachs decide to go their own way and the Scottish referendum becomes irrelevant. The SNP MPs discussing the nuclear deterrent seemed to be doing their bit in Westminster yesterday, describing it as something we should not have on principle but still wanting to stay in NATO and let the Americans and French pay for it. They have so many hypocritical windbags, they could run a wind farm in their expensive parliament.

    2. Richard
      January 22, 2015

      Mr. Cameron is perfectly happy for the SNP to vote on English matters, particularly those concerned with the EU.

      The Conservative Party, and Mr. Cameron himself, do not wish England or the UK as a whole, to leave the EU. He has stated this quite clearly.

      The SNP are also fervently pro EU and Scotland will be given the power of the veto should there be an EU referendum and there is an overall vote to exit.

      This is of course why the Conservative Party are so keen to keen to keep Scotland and England together and why there is no chance that the Conservative Party will ever become the “party of England”.

      By the way, the Conservative Party has only promised an EU referendum “if Mr. Cameron is PM in 2017” (Mr. Hammond repeated this only recently in the HOC).

      It is not Conservative Party policy therefore and the EU referendum could be stopped, even if the Conservatives are the majority party after the next GE, simply by ensuring a change of PM.

  4. Jerry
    January 22, 2015

    This is the sort cr*p of programme ones gets when a broadcasters programmes have to be “accessible” (what ever that woolly phrase means), when even the main PSB channels have to consider their audience share (ratings) rather than simply making what people should be watching, and when because the commercial and subscription broadcasters have been allowed to cut their own PSB content to the point that it has all but vanished assuming that they were ever expected to have any in the first place – and on that point, how ever good or bad the BBC programmes were on Tuesday can anyone list any similar programmes broadcast that day on the other networks that marked our parliamentary history?

  5. Lifelogic
    January 22, 2015

    Meanwhile I see the High Court has ruled that the Government has been “discriminating” against travellers.

    “Discriminating” in the sense of “applying the same green belt planning laws to them as to everyone else” one assumes.

    Discrimination laws and the dreadful Human Rights Act take democracy away from voters and gives it to unelected judges to interpret almost every issue in they way they choose. Often in the interest mainly of the legal profession by creating uncertainty and multi level and endlessly conflicting and often totally irrational judgements.

    1. Iain Gill
      January 22, 2015

      The government abolished physical car tax discs so that the rest of us cannot see so easily how all the (illegal ed) cars and vans drive around with no tax disc immune from the police who are too scared to take them on (or to use the politically correct language the coppers on duty did a risk assessment and found there were insufficient police on duty and available to enforce minor crimes when serious physical resistance is likely).

      Reply Unlikely explanation. The new technology is said to be better at spotting the offenders as they want the revenue

    2. Edward2
      January 22, 2015

      Blair appointees in the judiciary are becoming a real problem.

    3. Mark B
      January 22, 2015

      Just do what the Irish Republic has done. Make trespass and criminal offence.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 23, 2015

        Well certainly trespass, setting up and and refusing to leave should be. But often they own the land and it is a lack of planning permission issue.

        1. Edward2
          January 23, 2015

          Agreed and extend squatting laws to commercial property too.

  6. Mark B
    January 22, 2015

    Good morning.

    Slightly off topic.

    The BBC has been in receipt of monies from the EU. This in my view, compromises the BBC. As such, it is very questionable that we will ever get fair answers to the questions raised.

    The threat to our democracy (sic) comes from within. The biggest threat coming from the Houses of Parliament, followed by the EU, corporate business, and their useful idiots, the followers of the RoP.

    All those things that we have now, had to be taken. The Establishment and the Political Class have never given things freely. General suffrage for all is barely 100 years old. If we are to maintain what little freedom we now have, and control over the way we are governed, we are going to have to start with a clean sheet of paper.

    I also wish to point out, that the SNP want a say of certain English only matters if they feel they affect Scotland. But what of Scottish matters if they affect England ? Will we have a say ? To answer my own question, obliviously not, as we have devolved power to them. So now, as a consequence, a minority could hold sway over a majority, with the majority totally powerless. And you still think we live in a democracy do you ? A separate English Parliament would have solved this issue yet, you baulked at it and went for Balkanisation of my country.

    Shame on you all !!!

  7. agricola
    January 22, 2015

    Thank you for being a questioning voice. We know that the EU is not going to give way on it’s route to what looks like chaos from here, so let’s stop playing about and go for out via Article 50. The only conceivable way I see this happening is a cooperation between UKIP and Conservatives in the next Parliament. The CMD route is already a none starter if you believe the voices coming out of the EU, and he is determined to keep us in there anyway. My conclusion is based on the reality that all other political parties at Westminster are for staying a member of the EU.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 22, 2015

      Indeed 80% want a referendum now or soon & yet Cameron is still going to lose the election without some dramatic move toward UKIP – just 15 weeks is it now? Cameron’s idiotic “fruit cakes and closed racists” approach is just idiotic.

      UKIP largely have the right policies and Cameron has largely backed the wrong ones most of the public want a fair deal for England, an EU referendum, cheap energy, public services that actually work and far lower & simpler taxes.

    2. Timaction
      January 22, 2015

      I don’t know how many times Junker, Merkel, Hollande and Baroso have to say there will be NO major renegotiation before Mr Cameron stops his lies and spin on the EU.
      None of the legacy parties want to leave the undemocratic dictatorship of the EU. They agreed and created it by stealth and lies. They keep wheeling out the same quislings (Clarke, Major, Heseltine) to repeat the same nonsense about having a “voice” at the top table. 1 of 28 with qualified majority voting in most competencies now! Costs of £14.5 billion net for £77 billion trade deficit. Billions more to pay for the health, education, tax credits and housing of millions more coming here. What a deal our politicos have struck!
      Only one party wants out and it isn’t the tired old failed legacy parties.

    3. Lifelogic
      January 22, 2015

      Indeed Cameron’s long grass, EU renegotiation and then a referendum in 2017 will simply not fool the electorate for a second time. It is yet another con from the man, just like his Cast Iron drivel, “I am a low tax conservative at heart”, “we are repaying the debt”, “will be in the black by 2018” and his increasing of IHT promise to £1M per person – but then they just decreased it every year.

      1. Stevie
        January 23, 2015

        In my mail box this month I have had at least twenty begging letter from various members of the Conservative Party seeking both the promise of my vote and a donation ranging from £10 to £100. I have been a supporter of the Conservative party but not a paid up member all my voting life and have seen great social changes with past Conservative Governments freeing the working man from the need to be attached to a trade union to cite just one, not that I’m anti trade union but the unions like this present government failed to hear the cries of their supporters outside their comfortable protective bubbles and for this reason both institutions s have lost millions of their supporters.

    4. Narrow Shoulders
      January 22, 2015

      I see in today’s borrowing figures the entire £2.9 billion extra demanded by the EU was paid (in January not December of course as our PM refused to pay the bill -before December).

      I do hope these negotiators never have to stand up for anything really critical.

      How is our membership fee for this club justified?

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        January 22, 2015

        I reread the report. This was paid in December. Spineless.

  8. Narrow Shoulders
    January 22, 2015

    Good points Mr Redwood, especially the role of the EU in the disconnect.

    Three changes which may go some way to re-engaging more voters.

    Reduce the role of parties and their control of candidates in politics by throttling the spend and influence of central offices thus making candidates more accountable to their voters than their party.

    Make it easier for new entrants to campaign on single issues locally and nationally

    A “none of the above” box on the ballot paper.

    1. Mondeo Man
      January 22, 2015

      ‘None of the above’ box.

      Now that WOULD do for Ukip. Most of their voters would choose it if it were there.

      Reply You do not need a none of the above box. If you really do not like any of the candidates and cannot be bothered to stand yourself, then all you need do is write on the ballot paper None of these or cross them all out. You may feel better but as a result you have no impact on the result.

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        January 23, 2015

        Reply to reply.

        Spoiling the ballot paper is reported in the manner of vandalism and regarded as you have stated Mr Redwood as having no impact. An official none of the above box would be recorded, offer an establishmemt choice as opposed to the perceived anarchy of a spoilt paper and allow the voter a voice to send a message. Elections are not just about voting for the winners they are about being heard in a meaningful event unlike a vox pop or opinion poll. Surely the more voices recorded the bigger the mandate for the winner

  9. alan jutson
    January 22, 2015

    Sounds like the usual BBC stitch up.

    Trying to be clever themselves, instead of sticking to simply reporting the facts.

    Perhaps someone should have argued that only those who pay income tax should vote, after all its rather easier to define.
    That should have got the debate going, it is after all their money which is being spent !

    Many criminals are clever !

    1. Lifelogic
      January 22, 2015

      The BBC is a cabal of mainly dim, lefty, fake “equality”, big state, art graduates and magic money tree lefty economists. Many with huge chips on their shoulders. Just look at (programme specified ed) presenters.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 22, 2015

        They are all also pro more EU and hugely pro the green crap religion, this despite most not knowing a the difference between a Mega Joule and Megawatt nor having any understanding of “positive feedback” in the scientific sense.

        1. margaret brandreth-j
          January 23, 2015

          Forgive my ignorance , but is there any other type of positive feedback?

          1. Qubus
            January 24, 2015

            Oh dear, Oh dear! Have you not heard of negative feedback?

          2. Margaret Brandreth-J
            January 25, 2015

            In my line of work we generally talk about negative and positive feedbacks in respect of the endocrine system, however any chat about a non scientific feedback loop ,to mind does not exist.There is a stimulus which heightens a return to produce more of the same i.e a positive feed back loop, whereas if something is in a deficient quantity then there is a stimulus to make up the a negative feedback loop . This basic science is applied to much physiologically but I fail to see how it can be transposed to be something not based on a scientific principle!

    2. oldtimer
      January 22, 2015

      Agreed. It was a stitch up, not an “accident” but “by design” to borrow JR`s words. The format, content, choice of speaker, editorial control of the agenda and speakers called would have been carefully planned to serve the BBC agenda. The BBC is not a neutral broadcaster. We know this for a fact based on its previous behaviour re “climate change” matters. The underlying theme on this latest occasion clearly was to promote the EU cause.

      1. oldtimer
        January 22, 2015

        I should have added that when Miliband said (or so it is asserted he said) that he would “weaponise” the NHS the instrument of choice was the BBC. That is also clear from the daily torrent of stories about the NHS and its failings under the present government.

        It is also worth noting that the man in charge of strategy at the BBC, Mr Purnell, is a former Labour cabinet minister. I do not doubt that part of the BBC`s strategy is its survival in its present form; that includes the defeat of any party or party members that propose radical BBC reform such as a return to the subscription model on which it was originally founded.

  10. Old Albion
    January 22, 2015

    Frankly JR, the idea that we live in a Democracy is laughable.
    We have the EU making most of the decisions for us. The Westminster puppet government duly implementing them.
    England is denied any political representation.
    And the BBC fails to recognise any of these problems.

    1. A different Simon
      January 22, 2015

      Perhaps they should have their named changed from BBC to EUBC ?

      Like much of the rest of our establishment they are treacherous to the core .

    2. Iain Moore
      January 22, 2015

      “And the BBC fails to recognise any of these problems.”

      Indeed, I would go further it isn’t just a failure, but the BBC has institutional issues and refuses to recognise these problems.

    3. Mitchel
      January 22, 2015

      Well Peter Mandelson,in his pomp as an EU Commissioner,back in 1994 did graciously advise us that “the age of purely representative democracy was coming to an end”.

      The fact that someone who claims to be an Englishman said it is shocking enough,the lack of outrage in the media at the time even more so.And so it has come to pass.

    4. Iain Gill
      January 22, 2015

      The way the biggest parties select their candidates is the biggest problem. No matter which party you vote for you are likely to get someone from the same narrow social circles, and background.

    5. REPay
      January 22, 2015

      The academic in question, Michael Sandel, is a left wing critic of free markets and a darling of the liberal intelligentsia who believe in an elite operating in the interests of poor people (except “redneck gun owners” about whom they are scathingly condescending – white van man’s equivalent). They are not bound b though not following their agenda and that the federal state’s only weakness is that it does not have enough resources and power. He would tick every box for the BBC. Your experience is not surprising. Expect a lot more of this over the coming weeks or Tories being put up against UKIP spokespeople to split the centre right.

      In NYC just listened to a law professor on NPR (BBC equivalent) incredulous that the population opposed higher death duties, even though the vast majority of the electorate in the US, 64% by a current opposes them. No one put the counter argument, he was the spokesperson for the opponents of his views. The President is trying to raise them. At least the BBC often allows centre right people the stage.

      How about a discussion on the merits of a country (The UK) that deprives its citizens of the vote if they live abroad for more than ten years?

    6. Lifelogic
      January 22, 2015

      “the idea that we live in a Democracy is laughable”

      Indeed it clearly untrue. The only people whose votes are worth anything are floating voters in perhaps one hundred marginals who get to vote for the least bad to two possible winners. Once elected (as we saw with Cameron) they do not do anything remotely like what they promised anyway.

      MPs respond to party not to voters’ wished once elected. Then we have the over riding EU controlling most things and which is clearly out of any real democratic control. Finally we have the judges using endless laws and the human right act to distort the law to a huge degree from what was intended and what is sensible.

      Democracy? Yeah sure, it is about as daft as claiming that licence fee payers have any control over the BBC or claiming that Cameron is a low tax, EUsceptic, climate realist at heart.

    7. English Pensioner
      January 22, 2015

      And if the EU do allow us control, the Scots, under absolute monarch Queen Nicola, will be making the decisions for England.

  11. Roy Grainger
    January 22, 2015

    PR would increase the disconnect between voters and politicians. You only have to look at countries like Germany who have this system. After the election there are days, or weeks, of closed-door meetings between politicians of various parties trying to form a coalition and trading what policies they will implement with an inevitable watering-down of the manifestos they were elected on. It also allocates disproportionate power to small parties. Having Nick Clegg as permanent Deputy PM under both Labour and Conservative coalition governments would hardly be a democratic outcome. Perhaps the professor should recommend this solution in USA which is entirely a two-party state and would therefore seem far more likely to benefit from it than UK – the barrier to entry of a 3rd- party there is so high that none can ever succeed, unlike (say) UKIP and the Greens here under the existing system.

  12. Mike Stallard
    January 22, 2015

    I want to question the authority of the Professor. Universities are certainly not what they used to be. What right does he have to speak about a foreign country of which he knows very little?
    I did not see the programme myself on the grounds that I am in Australia. Here – no EU. Lots of silly rules no doubt, but they are chosen and accepted by the people who make them. And they all get a vote too. Things are thrashed out where they ought to be – in a free parliament.
    We are drifting farther and farther away from what we profess as English speaking people.

  13. Bert Young
    January 22, 2015

    The choice of an American to lead the BBC debate is typical of the crass thinking that goes on in that establishment . The USA is desperate for us to stay in the EU because it sees the link we have with them as the anchor point in order for them to get their message across . Their link with Germany and France suffers the problem of language and reliability .

    Our link with the EU has all but finished democracy in this country making the election of MPs an hypocrisy . You are right also to point out the need for us to re-define the control over laws for England ; the recent statement by Sturgeon who will insist on Scottish MPs voting on the NHS is a blatant reminder of the need for this reform . I have previously mentioned the need to neutralise the Scots in a response to one of your previous blogs – I put it as a major feature of the forthcoming election .

    Preserving democracy without independence from outside influence is not practicable . Obtaining this independence without a determined leader who has the trust of the country is , to say the least , questionable .

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    January 22, 2015

    JR: “They include do we get a vote at all to influence the European laws that rule us? And does England get a vote to decide its issues?”
    These are pertinent questions. The former is never addressed by those who advocate the UK staying in the EU. This follows on from the denial of the loss of UK sovereignty argument in the 1975 referendum by the pro-EU brigade.
    As for the latter, I wonder what your leader will have to say about that whilst in Scotland today? I am not optimistic.

  15. Iain Gill
    January 22, 2015


    Thanks for this post, I agree with everything you say. I am surprised that you are surprised though, its the same on most topics immigration, NHS, and so on, the rational obvious views are held back while the views of those the media luvvies think fitting are given centre stage.


  16. Martyn G
    January 22, 2015

    I read elsewhere that the BBC through Capita is ruthlessly chasing those without a TV license and that around 70% of those convicted and fined are women, presumably because they are more often at home when comes the knock on the door. And possibly also because the fairer sex often do not know their rights under the law.
    As to bias, I note that the BBC hasn’t mentioned a word about the recent 10-minute rule Bill to remove subsidies from wind farms having been passed (seemingly thanks to the 2 UKIP MPs) through Parliament the other day. That, surely, shows BBC bias against anything that goes against their ‘no climate change people allowed on the air’ policy.
    That removal of those extremely expensive subsidies seems to me to be an extraordinarily important step forward for tax payers and common sense (at last!) which ought to have been broadcast across the nation.

    Reply A Conservative MP with the encouragement of myself and others introduced the Bill. We managed to win the vote on it, but of course the Bill will now fall as there will be no time allocated to pass it through the rest of its stages. I do not see how this is thanks to UKIP!

    1. alan jutson
      January 23, 2015

      Reply – reply

      From your comments then John, it would seem that this effort was a complete and utter waste of every body’s time.

      What is the point of even proposing something, if everyone knows in advance that there will not be sufficient time to complete it.

      I really do despair !

      Reply We wished to highlight the issue – we cannot carry it or gain the time to debate it because we do not have a majority! Lib Dems love windmill subsidies!

      1. Lifelogic
        January 23, 2015

        Cameron, the wet Tory leadership and their duff compass is the reason you do not have a majority and the reason you will not have a majority after May 7th.

        This despite the fact that the country crying out for a real Tory government and Miliband is doing all he can to help the Tories with his general uselessness.

  17. Kenneth
    January 22, 2015

    Due to its enormous resources and insistence on taking part in politics the BBC has strong political power.

    Because of this I think that the BBC should be stopped from holding political debates where only the BBC decides who takes part, and the BBC decides who should be in the audience and the BBC decides the venue, the subject matter and the conduct of the discussion.

    It would be much better if the BBC covered debates from the various parliaments and council chambers where elected members debate under neutral chairmanship.

    There was a time when the BBC would not debate any issue before Parliament had done so. I think we should return to that rule.

    It is undemocratic to have one organisation dominating UK politics when this should be controlled by the People.

  18. rick hamilton
    January 22, 2015

    It is undoubtedly highly unpopular to suggest that taxpayers, or people with higher education, or property owners, or even those granted honours should be given extra votes for their efforts. Waaa it’s not fair !!!

    Personally I am disenfranchised because I made the mistake of representing British companies overseas for more than 15 years, for which as a British citizen you are rewarded by losing your vote. Meanwhile Irish and certain other Commonwealth citizens living in the UK can vote in the GE. Waaa it’s not fair !!!

    Life is unfair, but there was no need for our governments to make it worse by handing over our sovereignty to the EU – ours, not theirs – with no intention of asking the voters first. Was it Monnet who said that the EU should be run by elites ignoring the will of the (by implication, stupid) people ?

    Either you believe that the will of the people should be closely reflected in government policy, however misguided you think they are, or you don’t. The Swiss believe that. I would say the two main political parties in their innermost souls do not believe it, which is why we are all so fed up with them.

  19. Denis Cooper
    January 22, 2015

    All I’ll say about this is that it’s not just the BBC, because Sky and ITV are just as bad and Channel 4 is even worse; the only real difference is that TV viewers are forced to pay for the BBC even if they don’t watch it.

    1. Mitchel
      January 23, 2015

      Indeed,at times I find Sky even more irritating than the BBC…but it just goes to show how closely aligned supranational corporatism and Trotsyism are in terms of their means-to-an end world view.

  20. Atlas
    January 22, 2015

    … since many people wanting to do things these days have to ‘prove’ they can do them, eg pass an exam, I wonder whether such a criterion should be applied to voters in politics? After all, you would not like an operation to be carried out by a Surgeon who was only that because he just happened to be a popular bloke down at the Dog & Duck.

  21. Stephen Berry
    January 22, 2015

    The good thing about the chain of events set in motion by Magna Carta was that it placed a brake on the King’s power. The people who actually produced the wealth of the country wanted to speak before the government took their money and launched another crusade. The basic idea was to limit state power.

    Now, in many advanced countries, the state takes getting on for 50 per cent of what is produced. Politicians achieve power by promising to expropriate the production of one group of people and pass it to the next – so long as they get your vote. It should be the aim of all lovers of personal and economic freedom to limit this power of the state. Whether the power is wielded by Brussels, Westminster or Edinburgh is a secondary matter.

    As the French economist Frédéric Bastiat said, “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.” It is the second part of this quotation which the politicians of modern democracies dare not mention. That is the real democratic deficit.

  22. agricola
    January 22, 2015

    I would commend to all that you read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It was first published around 1946 and is an allegory written to highlight George Orwell’s experience of communism in it’s varying forms during the Spanish Civil War. For Napoleon read Stalin and Snowball read Trotsky. It conjectures it’s beginning in the 1917 revolution and what it developed into. Orwell did not live long enough to see the end of the USSR but foretold it in his tale.

    It could just as easily have been written about the gestation of the EU via Iron and Steel agreements and EFTA to what we see today. The Brussels bureaucracy fit well with the pigs, but I leave you to decide on the role of Napoleon. All the other farm animals are the population of Europe. Nigel might be Snowball in a more active role to subvert the power of the pigs.

    Borrow it from your library, enjoy, and cross reference it to the situation that pertains today.

    1. Mitchel
      January 23, 2015

      As the Soviet dissident,Vladimir Bukovsky, famously said of the EU…”I have lived in your future….and it didn’t work”.

  23. Excalibur
    January 22, 2015

    A powerful narrative, JR. Assuming most MP’s do not read your diary, why not have a copy of this circulated to all Members ? The BBC agenda should be constantly exposed. Our democratic inheritance is indeed being undermined, and is emphatically not compatible with our membership of the EU. Surely there are members of the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties, and others, who are as dismayed as most of us are by the unrelenting erosion of our heritage ?

  24. DaveM
    January 22, 2015

    It is fairly obvious that the EU approach to “democracy” is a continental model and not suited to English people, hence our systems are different. Most English people ignore the laws they think are unnecessary and stupid anyway.

    What bothers me is the fact that the political system in this country – and that includes the BBC – is unchangeable.

    When you think about it, in a country whose population is around 60 million we have millions of brilliant, selfless, successful, experienced, educated, worldly people who could probably do an excellent job of running the country in a fair, balanced and democratic manner, but the choice we have of leaders realistically comes down to Cameron or Milliband. [I left off the m-word today Mr R so you don’t have to delete it, but it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking it!!]

    Obviously there can only be one PM, which is why we maintain a bloated HoL, but then we fill it with actors, singers and friends of politicians. And at the same time people with thinly-veiled political agendas are appointed to run the BBC, which shamelessly promotes the views of the Guardian and Observer even though their readerships are relatively tiny.

    Ultimately, although we don’t like coalition govts, what the demos wants is a mixture of Con, Ukip and a few Lab policies (God knows why the latter, but still). But this won’t happen because Cameron doesn’t like Ukip, and Farage doesn’t like Cameron. Who knows what Milliband is thinking (?) but its fairly obvious that he’d (do almost anything ed) to have a spell in no 10. Most people don’t think that much about politics so accept that they have to vote for Con Lab Lib, or nowadays Ukip, but don’t realise that most politics nowadays seems to be steered by the personal whims and ambitions of individual politicians.

    Effectively what we have then, is a system where two big old parties choose their leader without consulting the public, then smear anyone who dares to challenge them (using their tame media whom most people presume are neutral, and gaze blankly at after an exhausting day’s work thus absorbing the subliminal left-wing messages) and have a total stranglehold on UK politics. They then proceed to ignore any messages the electorate sends by using parliamentary tactics and technicalities to sweep things under the carpet or delay them indefinitely.

    I agree that the BBC is biased and has many faults John, but the party and the establishment to which you have devoted much of your life is just as guilty of controlling the UK demos whilst pretending to represent it.

    What I really want to know is, why is the majority of MPs so desperate to be part of a federal EU which is heading for disaster, and why will they not treat England fairly? I feel more and more though, that despite the fact we think we are the arch-EUsceptics, it’s going to be Club Med and pan-European patriotic movements that are going to be our saviour from the EU beast. I certainly hope so, because I have no confidence that our elected representatives are going to listen to us and save us from the EU themselves.

  25. forthurst
    January 22, 2015

    “They invited an American Professor to lead the discussion.”

    JR continues to play the game according to ‘their’ rules and continually finds himself outmanoeuvred; the BBC put considerable efforts into controlling the political discourse in this country; on behalf of whom we might well ask?

  26. Denis Cooper
    January 22, 2015

    Off-topic, I’ve just read that the Italian Prime Minister Renzi dreams of the euro falling to parity with the US dollar.

    At the moment that exchange rate is around 1.16 euros to the dollar, just a bit below where it was back when the euro was launched in January 1999:

    In the meantime it has been as low as 0.83 and as high as 1.60, which is a pretty wide variation for something which its advocates originally promised would be a rock-solid stable currency, avoiding all the undesirable consequences of those useless old national currencies bobbing up and down like corks on the waves in the ocean …

    Of course a better measure of the external value of the euro is its effective value, its trade weighted index, and it is true that the trade weighted index, has changed by less than the exchange rate against just the dollar, in a range between 81 and 114:

    Now we have the Italian Prime Minister yearning for a 14% devaluation of the currency used by his country, at least against the dollar; if that’s what he thinks Italy really needs then it should have stuck with the lira, which would no doubt have obliged by now.

  27. Shieldsman
    January 22, 2015

    I see the wealthy heads of Britain’s biggest Companies do not believe in DEMOCRACY according to the Telegraph. They do not want the Public who buy their goods and services to have a Referendum on continued EU membership.
    As you point out – the fundamental question, is our democratic inheritance compatible with our current terms of EU membership? What do we do about all those laws and decisions that are made by the EU, which we cannot change if we change the MPs and government in the next Parliament? Those self same laws cannot be changed by our MEPs either. When if ever will there be an EU demos? And do we want to be part of it?

    It has been demonstrated that Mr Cameron cannot give the Nation a referendum, so what would be the point in voting Conservative

    1. Mitchel
      January 23, 2015

      Supranational corporatism which operates through the EU via intensive lobbying is frankly a much bigger threat than mouthy left wing politicians – these people want one world government, removed from democratic accountability, with no borders,no limits to their markets,and a global populace hosed down with readily printed fiat to buy their goods in ever increasing quantities.
      I was pleased to hear the historian, Dr Starkey,argue in favour of selective protectionism on last week’s Question Time and I would be interested to hear our host’s views on the proposed TTIP which Cameron is so keen on but strikes me as deeply sinister.

  28. peter davies
    January 22, 2015

    The simple issue of law/policy makers/policy s being a long way from the voters creates a natural disconnect which is a major EU gripe.

    Here’s an idea. If the BBC cant present facts as they are and cherry pick to suit an agenda then there should be a redress/enforcement process for the BBC to mandate it to stand by its Royal Charter.

    As a starter for 10 all politics and news program producers should be mandated to sign a piece of paper on an annual basis to declare that they have abided by all rules and obligations set out in the Royal Charter (something large companies do in areas such security and operational integrity).

    Then create a small body which is tasked with scrutinizing programs, handling complaints and re acting to observations such as this where suspected cases arise of misrepresented/mishandled debates and have the legal powers to hold them to account and take appropriate action.

    We have a large enough tax burden already (and too many quangos) so this should be completely funded from the TV taxpayers fee. If things need to be cut to make way then there are more than enough crap channels which could be shelved for this something like this.

    The weakness in this going forward is obviously the dangers of cronyism from the govt of the day to pick and choose placemen (unless it was a govt scrutiny committee function) -not too sure how that could be overcome.

  29. ChrisS
    January 22, 2015

    We need to be mindful that the BBC is trying hard to promote the proposition that the UK electorate has moved to the left in recent years. That may be the case in Scotland but certainly not in England.

    They are doing this by constant reference to a possible Labour, Green, LibDems and SNP coalition as well as pushing the world and UK inequality agenda on a daily basis.

    Because the Scottish and Welsh electorate is only a small fraction of the total number of voters within the UK, at the general election there will very likely be more actual votes cast for the Conservatives and UKIP than for left of centre parties.

    I expect UKIP and the Conservatives will have a clear majority of votes in England.

    The parties of the Left are clearly bent on a stitch up with the SNP cynically preparing to back Miliband by voting on English matters.

    It’s now absolutely essential that David Cameron comes out with a full and unequivocal proposal on EVEL which he can put to Parliament in the next week or two thus upholding the pledge he gave to England in the same way that he has come through with his commitment to Scottish devolution.

    No fudge over English-only committees etc but full blown EVEL on the floor of the house and at every committee stage.

    I’ve said this many times before but the only reason why Cameron may not retain power is because he bottled it over boundary changes letting the Libdems vote against clear coalition policy. A huge mistake.

  30. lojolondon
    January 22, 2015

    John, the BBC absolutely drives me wild with it’s propaganda. You can bet your life that the American professor was chosen for his strange views and lack of knowledge / respect for our Parliament – probably to bring “blue-sky thinking” to the debate.
    Every item presented by the BBC is slanted, on the news, social magazine programmes, scientific, entertainment, soaps – all toe the BBC propaganda line. For example yesterday the first item on the news was about the delay in the Chilcot Report. now, there are probably at least 100 ways to introduce the subject, but how did Radio 4 choose to do it?

    “Tony Blair completely denies that any delay in the Chilcot enquiry is due to him”. Other newspapers, blogs, radio and TV sources are all speculating that TB is the source of the delay, so the BBC acts as his advocate and puts his / the Labour position. Truly, the BBC is one of the major obstacles to the UK regaining our democracy, and if it was shut down tomorrow morning it would be far too late.

  31. JoolsB
    January 22, 2015

    I see the BBC have been celebrating 750 years since the establishment of ‘the first Parliament at Westminster’ – what a surprise that there was not one mention of the word England.

    Saw you on the BBC’s Daily Politics today John although sadly you didn’t get much of a word in due to the Scots taking over the debate – as usual it was all about Scotland, Scotland, Scotland.

    I see Cameron is rushing up to Scotland today to have a word in Nicola Sturgeon’s ear because he is ‘angry’ about her comments on the SNP’s intention of voting on English only matters. Well angry is not good enough, we want him to honour his promise of English votes for English laws as quickly as he seems determined to honour his vow.

    As with so many things, your leader is so out of touch on this one John. Can you kindly remind him which part of this so called union tends to vote Tory and remind him it’s the one part he insists on shafting. Not a good way to win votes. Your party will be toast in May John if they fail to act on this one.

  32. Mark
    January 22, 2015

    Your points are salient and well made. The evidence that the younger generations are even less likely to vote merely corroborates them: older people can recall a time when voting made rather more of a difference to how we are governed.

    Recently I reviewed the course content of Oxford’s PPE: it seems that the academics continue to push a rather narrow view of the world, encouraging “democratic reform” (including PR voting that allows narrow cliques to hold the balance of power) and trying to consider all levels of government globally through that prism – even where it is utterly inappropriate, such as the de facto bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU and many other regimes, or religious/tribal cultures found in many parts of Africa, the Middle East etc. It seems like a climatology priesthood of political teaching.

    An irony of recent events in France is that it has led to calls from several countries to re-impose border controls, so that would-be terrorists can’t go arms shopping in Brussels to shoot at people in France, or use Spain as a getaway route undetected. Just yet another issue where the bureaucratic EU elite has found itself on the wrong side of events.

  33. Bob
    January 22, 2015

    It’s time that the BBC came out from behind nanny’s apron and learned to play on a level playing field.

    According to an article in the Daily Mail today “Victims of the TV licence bully boys: Women are far more likely than men to be prosecuted for TV licence dodging, and the reasons are deeply worrying

    Read more:

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2015

      Clearly it should not be a criminal matter at all indeed there should be no TV licence tax just for the BBC propaganda.

      Add it to general taxation and deduct from benefits, get rid of all the expensive oppressive enforcement and countless offensive letters they endlessly send out to people who have no TV or watch no live TV.

    2. Mitchel
      January 23, 2015

      We should stop patronising institutions which are effectively controlled by left wing intellectuals by characterising them as nannying,as if we accept that they are administering a medicine which tastes foul but which,deep down, we understand does us good.

      These people are more sinister than that;behind many a Fabian breast there beats a Chekist heart.They are the heirs to the generation which could not bring themselves to criticize Stalin’s excesses on the basis that the vision justified all the means necessary to bring it about.

  34. Bill
    January 22, 2015

    Thank you for this insight. Can you not hire an independent producer and make a program and then sell that to one of the TV channels? The BBC is hopeless at hosting debate these days.

    The only other point I would wish to make is that democracy is not a unitary concept but has local variants and that one of the complexities of the whole idea is to make the different bits of democratic governance work together satisfactorily. Moreover, I do think one ought to distinguish between elected people who represent the views of their electors and elected people who feel they are in place to exercise their own judgement, even if this is contrary to that of the electors. Thus the electorate wants to restore capital punishment but Parliament consistently refuses to do so.

    But, again, thank you for your critique of BBC stuff.

  35. Oscar De Ville.
    January 22, 2015

    You are right. The BBC, wittingly or not, lost an opportunity in this anniversary year.
    You regularly give an unrivalled economic gloss on major matters ; and it is good that you now turn to the most important issue of all :- sovereignty – or rather the loss of it – first to the undemocratic EU, and now to the assertive Scots and others. The quality and vehemence of responses reflect your own concern. Some of us have fought for sovereignty already, and others may have to do so in future.
    I write incidentally as a namesake of one of the first lay members in the 1265 Parliament, “representing” Yorkshire and the north – but am not kidded. John Deyville was an unlikely democrat, being a man of his time, a military man with blood on his hands as a leader for two years of the disinherited baronial rebels following de Montfort`s fall at Evesham. I don`t think the BBC would have approved of him ! But he had principles and, were he alive today, I think he would have heeded the advice of Lord Tebbit to the Tories some 4/5 years ago – to embrace the purposeful Ukip and win the next election !

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2015

      “to embrace the purposeful Ukip and win the next election” well it is getting rather late now. At the very least they could move to sensible policies of cheap energy, far less or no EU, selective immigration, real English democracy, lower simpler taxes and a far less bloated state.

      But it might make Cameron look rather an idiot for being misguided on these issues so far.

  36. Michael Cawood
    January 22, 2015

    You mention “habeous corpus” yet the European Arrest Warrant drives a coach and horses through this principle to the extent that this principle appears to be null and void in the 21st century.

  37. Colin Hart
    January 22, 2015

    If anyone wants to know why so many people are turned off our political system, look no further than Chilcot.

  38. A.Sedgwick
    January 22, 2015

    “He did not of course point out we have recently had a national debate about this and voted against a change in voting system”.

    We rejected the AV method – complex and the antithesis of simply marking your X.

  39. ChrisS
    January 22, 2015

    I have just heard Jacob Rees-Mogg on the PM programme. He suggested that we proceed cautiously but that England shouldn’t have full EVEL because English votes would “swamp” the rest of the UK.

    Whatever Mr Rees-Mogg means by this, there can only be one result : The votes of English MPs would be worth less than those of those from the other home nations.

    With the latest intervention from Scotland’s First Minister, I can see no other alternative than full and equal devolution across the four home nations. English MPs must then be allowed to sit as an English Parliament to decide on matters that are devolved.

    Anything else would be an unacceptable fudge that would be greatly to the disadvantage of English citizens.

    Where is the problem with this proposal ?

  40. Max Dunbar
    January 22, 2015

    I did hear five minutes worth of a BBC democracy programme on the radio through the week. It sounded banal so I switched over to another station. Having your time wasted by the BBC must be extremely irritating but somewhat predictable. Why have anything to do with them? We all know that they have their own agenda and treating Conservative politicians in this way is one of them. I think that you have complained about this in previous blogs.

    1. @pperrin
      January 23, 2015

      hear hear

  41. John
    January 22, 2015

    I think you will find that we have not had an English parliament since the act of union in 1707.

  42. Warren Randall
    January 22, 2015

    The BBC’s approach to debates is narrative driven and the audience sometimes picked to reflect a popular view within a specific subset of the population that the BBC endorses. BBC3’s “Free Speech” programme is a good example of this.

  43. Amanda
    January 22, 2015

    Thank you for telling us Dr Redwood. The questions you raise are certainly the more relevant to me.

    How would the American measure education? Some are educated, yet still uninformed, some are informed but not particularly well educated. A more pertinent comment would be ‘why are the BBC not keeping to their charter and keeping people informed and thus improving their ability to take critical decisions’ (I have deliberately not put a question mark at the end of that statement !)

  44. BeeCee
    January 22, 2015

    Why are you surprised?

  45. @pperrin
    January 23, 2015

    Everyone is impacted equally by governance – so one man one vote for government.

    However socialised welfare and its funding via taxation has been conflated with governance.

    So regarding taxation/welfare/socailisation – it votes should be in proportion to payments.

    Strip welfare, nhs, and other non-governance issues from parliament and have two separate bodies/elections/voting systems. One for governmance, one for socialist redistribution etc.

  46. Barry Noel Evans
    January 25, 2015

    British democracy – what democracy

    The country has already had two unelected prime ministers in Brown and Cameron and a government nobody voted for. Since the British people have no vote on potential coalition partners it is likely that once again the country will have yet another unelected prime minister and a government nobody wanted. The thought that the snp might hold the balance of power in the event of a hung parliament is a sickening prospect. This is particularly when there only interest is serving the needs of an independent Scotland. The claim made by Clegg on the Andrew Marr show that the lib dems could be returned to a coalition government is even more sickening. Their share of the lib dem vote following the election is likely to be all but wiped out and there would be no democratic mandate for this.

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