The Germans, they say, don’t like it being up to them. At least, in a survey in the papers this weekend, it was announced that a majority of Germans have given up on democracy.
Actually, what the 51% surveyed said was that they were disillusioned with German democracy as it stood – which could mean a whole range of things. But let’s not spoil a good headline with facts; that’s not part of the game.
And, anyway, don’t they have a point? Germany has a more representative electoral system than Britain enjoys most of the time, but ended up with a grand coalition after last year’s elections. That hardly smacks of the strong leadership many crave for, apparently.
In Britain, we like democracy. We wouldn’t do without it. Just along as others make the decisions and we can blame them for it. In other words, we have the name without the substance. We have an electoral procedure, without the fundamental principle behind it – citizenship.
As liberals, we fight for people’s right to choose, but we also know that if they choose not to involve themselves in their community, their society and themselves will be the poorer.
In the past, when I met a socialist (hard nowadays, outside our party, that is), I have found this is a basic distinction: for them, the economic structure is fundamental, for us, the constitutional set-up. We now may be only party which even admits to the limitations of the free market, but that sense of the political, in its widest sense, remains crucial to our outlook. It’s a stance which is not shy to declare that Britain has yet to achieve a true democracy.
But for those who are proud that we’re not like Germany, there’s this thought left: will they be the only western European nation with a grand coalition, come our next general election? After all, if our antiquated system produced a hung parliament in 2008 or 2009, whenever Gordon the Gorgon chooses, who would make natural allies? A wise man’s bet would be on the two right-wing parties: that way, Gorg would stay in power, with Mr Cameron his home secretary. What fun that would be, if only you could watch from afar and not be a citizen of that poor, lost nation. Viva la democracia!