That got me thinking about terrorists, freedom fighters and the consequences of their attempts to change the form of government in their country. The United States believes that its brand of representative democracy is a model that should be adopted by the whole world. I will pass over the fact that you need a great deal of money to be elected as a representative of the American people and consider only the concept of one person one vote.
We like to think that Magna Carta is at the very heart of democracy. In fact it was a very limited concession by the king of certain powers to his barons and magnates. Absolute control by one man became shared control by almost a hundred men. The five million or so other Britons living then in what is now the United Kingdom had rather less say in the running of the country than the laird’s favourite horse.
The high point in our history must be the period from Trafalgar to the start of the Great War when we established an Empire on which the sun never set. At the time, the average Member of Parliament needed less than a hundred votes to be elected. In some of the Rotten Boroughs there were barely enough electors to form a four at whist.
Universal adult suffrage is less than a century old in this cradle of parliamentary democracy yet we expect it to work at once and without problems in countries that have never had voting rights. If you have been living under a dictator for forty or fifty years it is unreasonable to ask you to make a mature judgement on a representative who himself knows nothing of parliamentary procedure.
Perhaps we have to face the reality that you must replace a dictator with a junta appointed from several interested parties. After a decade you might allow limited voting for the individuals who want to represent the factions. It would be similar to the election of candidates by local constituencies of a single political party from a list of possibles provided by the central party managers.
While countries new to democracy are learning how to make universal voting work, it is time that we considered whether representative democracy has any place in modern Britain. It made sense to elect a representative when an express rider from Edinburgh could take a week to reach London in the winter. It makes less sense now when we can watch the result of a bomb attack in Syria as it happens.
Perhaps we do not need to be represented at all but should be allowed to give our opinion as problems arise. The principle of one man, one vote is based on the idea that Jack is as good as his master.
If we do need representatives to impose some sort of order on the chaos of real time voting, then we should require them to live and work amongst the people they represent. They do not have to attend the chamber of the House of Commons where they behave like childish boors. They can sit in their constituency office listening to and joining in debates. They might even invite a few worthies to listen with them so that they can give some instant reaction before the elected members are required to vote.
It would certainly improve the governance of the country if you kept politicians out of London and away from the national press and television. The forty-five per cent of Scots who were prepared to take a leap of faith to escape Westminster rule have a great many supporters where I live in Lincolnshire; London is widely regarded as a cancer that is draining the vitality of the remainder of the United Kingdom!