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Blog: All three major political parties in the British House of Commons – the Tory Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democratic Party – imposed a three-line whip in a vote yesterday 24 October on a motion calling for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The motion was based on a petition signed by more than 100,000 members of the public. The motion was lost by 483 votes to 111.
A three-line whip is the strongest instruction that a British political party can give to its members in Parliament. It is a strict direction to vote in a particular way on a particular motion. Members of Parliament are expected to vote, not according to their conscience, but in accordance with the wishes of the party machine.
A opinion poll just published shows that 70 per cent of those polled in Britain want a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. It also shows that 49 per cent would vote to leave the EU as compared with 41 per cent who wanted to stay in.
Now it is a strange thing but the Members of Parliament who are being instructed to vote by the party machine were not elected by the party machine. They were elected by members of the public who were registered to vote. Once elected, the theory goes, Members of Parliament represent that electorate in Parliament.
But here we have a situation where Members of Parliament are being instructed by a party machine to vote along particular lines. Voting in obedience to the party, they represent not the electorate but the party machine – and in particular the tight-knit group of politically motivated hierarchs who control the party machine.
What we have, in fact, in most so-called western liberal democracies is not democracy at all, but elected dictatorships. Voters go to the polls every four or five years to elect a representative. So far so good. But between elections the system is a dictatorship. The public are kept at arm’s length from decision-making. This is called representative democracy. Now it may be asked why the voters cannot themselves decide what they want. That would be far too dangerous. That would take power away from the political parties. That would be participative democracy. The last thing that the party elite that currently wields power intends to do is to cede that power to the people.
Moreover, this system is dominated by the political parties. Although theoretically, any citizen can stand for election to Parliament if he or she pays the required registration fees, in practice only those citizens backed by political party machines stand a realistic chance of being elected. So how does a citizen go about acquiring the backing of a political party. Simple. By swearing loyalty to the party machine. In practice, this means following the party line on virtually all occasions. Once elected, the same procedure applies. Unless an elected Member of Parliament toes the party line, he or she will not get appointed to government office and may well be deselected as party candidate at the next election. So the thing to do for an ambitious candidate is to do whatever the party wants him or her to do or say. That way lies preferment and power. Forget about free speech. Forget about principle. Forget about following your conscience. All that is for losers. In practice, the Member of Parliament “represents” his voters by obeying the dictates of his party. Which is where the three-line whip comes in.
An even more egregious example of elected dictatorship is Greece, the cradle of western democracy. Yes, it’s true that in ancient Athens they had participative democracy. But that was then and now is now. Today the Papandreou Government is forcing down the throats of the Greek people austerity measures – decided outside Greece in Washington, Berlin and Brussels – which the Greek people do not want – as they have made abundantly clear in demonstration after demonstration after demonstration. It has got them nowhere. Elected dictatorship is alive and kicking in the land where democracy was born.