Friday, December 16, 2005


Radio 4's consistently excellent 'Analysis' programme is worth a regular visit.

On this week's show, 'Generation Hexed' , David Willetts said:

"What amazes me, to be honest, is how passive the younger generation have been in the face of these social and economic changes. I think that they have made the terrible mistake of walking away from conventional politicians and giving up on us rather than trying to influence the political debate so that the political parties respond to them. All the evidence is that people in their twenties, they’re much more likely to be sort of members of an environmental pressure group than trying to shape the policies of the Conservative or Labour parties. And I think that’s bad all round. It’s certainly bad for conventional politics and I think it’s bad for the younger generation as well.

And the danger is that at some point they find a voice that isn’t incorporated into mainstream politics, but so far that voice has been surprisingly mute."

You can see the whole programme's transcript here.

A few observations:

I know of almost no-one outside of the revolutionary left or right (and they appear to be converging) these days who will make the case against liberal democracy. 'Rational Choice' theorists of the free-market right sometimes prefer market mechanisms to ballots as a way that the public can register 'choice'.

But, broadly, there is a mainstream consensus here.

Similarly, within this consensus, I know of almost nobody who will make the case that Direct Democracy is more attractive than Representative Democracy. Every now and then, people* forget the virtues of Representative Democracy and make crude 'people-power'-type demands - but when challenged, they usually back off and change the subject.

Yet I have only ever heard small handful of high-profile politicians make the case for Representative Democracy. And never in an overt way as part of a message to a younger audience. There appears to be a view that to do so would make them look arrogant.

Am I alone in thinking that this is quite a dangerous situation?

*I'm particularly thinking of Simon Jenkins here.

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