Democracy in Southend, alive if a little offended
March 4, 2013 2 Comments
Democracy comes in many shapes and sizes. That some systems are more democratic than others seems obvious to me. I do accept that my preferred democratic model does not match everyone’s preferences. I prefer elections at all levels of administration, and want proportional representation. I would also widen the franchise.
I would not claim that democratic models that do not meet my preferences are not democratic.
Saxon King in Priory Park is a local pressure group, set up initially in response to the Saxon finds in Priory Crescent in Southend-on-Sea. They evolved from the remnants of the Camp Bling organisation that successfully campaigned against the road widening in Priory Crescent. I share some common ground insofar that I too have a strong environmentalist streak running through me.
However, I do not agree with everything they do, far from it. Their latest statement includes a line that is blatantly wrong: “… to highlight the lack of democracy in local government and the fact that the voice of ordinary people is ignored.”
I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society – I want an improved democracy. It is wrong, though, to suggest that there is no democracy. I sit in council because I managed to get enough people to vote for me. This is democracy. It is not perfect, but it is democratic.
Ordinary people are not ignored, not by me anyway (or by my Labour colleagues). I cannot vouch for all of Southend’s councillors, but since we all depend on the consent of the people it would be extremely short-sighted to do anything but listen and respond. However, listening does not mean necessarily agreeing, if for no other reason than that we sometimes get conflicting opinions.
At the recent council meeting I was the only councillor to refer to the incident mentioned in SKIPP’s latest announcement. Since, though, a number of other councillors have waded into the fray.
I have called for a public apology from the council, and for the security team to be spoken to in the hope that this incident not be repeated. Insofar as democracy is not just about votes, but also about freedom of speech, then this incident is an affront to democracy.