More power for our politicians
Power. It’s often a term shaped as an accusation, levelled to politicians as their sole motive for wanting to be an MP. “I want to change the world”, is what they’d usually retort back. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you can’t change the world without some sort of power, either hard or soft. Politicians however, are increasingly disproving these stereotypes. For better, or for worse.
George Osborne is embarking on reforms to cede yet more power to the Bank of England and its governor, Sir Mervyn King. It provoked the Treasury Select Committee into drawing up a 66 page report titled “Accountability of the Bank of England”, where they voice concerns over the escalating power of the Bank. When analysing measures like this taken by Conservative politicians, it can often be put down to ideology. This can be seen in various policies, such as taking schools away from the control of local authorities and encouraging the formation of so called “free” schools, and attempting to remove the Secretary of State for Health as the head of the NHS. The Tories are ideologically married to the concept of less state is more, so to speak, and so enact policies where power is transferred away from the state. This, as a general theory, chimes with the public due to a conception that politicians are power hungry and too powerful. Taking away powers from politicians is therefore seen as a good thing to some.
Passing the parcel when it comes to power is something that’s not limited to those in power on this shore. Recent events in Europe saw the Prime Ministers of both Italy and Greece resign in unconventional circumstances. Neither was asked to step down by the people who put them there in the first place. We are also seeing a political paralysis in Europe where no leader is providing the leadership necessary to solve the crisis. The politicians are staring history in the face and closing their eyes, hoping it will be sorted out somehow. These events raise serious questions about the present state of our democracy. How can it be right, for example, that an indication to hold a referendum is the pivotal moment which leads to the ousting of a democratically elected leader in favour of a technocrat? Essentially, support for more democracy has led to less democracy. In Italy, an entire unelected cabinet was appointed.
Are these the actions of politicians craving power? Presented with an opportunity to shape the world in the face of the Eurozone crisis, they have been found shying away from the situation. Are these the actions of people who wish to change the world? Faced with these testing times, they have chosen to give their power away, regardless of the democratic responsibility they carried. The same could be said of George Osborne. It is often said of democracy that it is not the perfect system, but it’s the best that we have. Our politicians are making a mockery of this. By choosing to give the power away that we as an electorate have given to them, they are protecting their job titles by shifting the target of blame to somebody unaccountable to the electorate. We may as well not be electing anyone.
A politician should be judged on his or her decisions, not somebody else’s. In modern times it has been the case that politicians will give power away in an area which they think could, in the future, be their undoing. It is the equivalent of separating the good bank from the bad bank. Except only the good bank is accountable to us. With power comes responsibility, and responsibility for decisions of the highest importance should be left to our politicians for good reason. The theory that they are too powerful ignores the most important part of the power equation – they are ultimately accountable to us. We recognise the importance of their power by ultimately holding power over them. This is the way it should stay. Anything less is a cop-out. Democracy is not about electing someone to appoint somebody else to do the job that they were elected to do. The Tories often gesticulate about how they want to take more power away from Brussels, instead they should be concentrating on fulfilling their role with the powers they already have. There is a fine line between the ideology of less state is more, and political liability management. It’s time that politicians re-examined their motives and realised their responsibility, the legitimacy of democracy relies on it.