• Development Intelligence

The slow death of democracy

We are surrounded by pundits endlessly droning on about how the Tories are in a terminal nosedive, how everything is falling apart, how the end of the world is nigh, blah blah. But as ever with almost all political punditry, even if one allows for the tribal political loyalty/partisan view of the commentator, this view is always narrowly focussed, myopic and lacking any wider international context.

We put it to you, dear reader, that what we are actually witnessing is the slow, painful, step by step decline of democracy. The evidence:

First, history has shown us time and again that all empires and ideologies end up imploding, some faster than others. Communism did. Fascism did. The empires of the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romans, Greeks, Aztecs – you name them – they all imploded in the end. Nothing is forever.

Democracy has had a pretty good run, frankly. But it has an obvious inbuilt liability to fail: in order to win votes, politicians overpromise. The more they overpromise, the more the voters dislike them. The more they are disliked, the fewer votes they get. It is, almost by definition, an un-virtuous spiral of decline. And after decades of overpromising, the voters are rebelling.

In the UK, the main two political parties have dominated UK politics for between 100-200 years. Their high point came in 1955 when between them they secured over 96% of all votes cast. It’s been downhill ever since, ticking down to around 75% in 2019. Meanwhile a plethora of smaller parties have either grown or set up shop: the SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP/Brexit/Reform, DUP, UUP, Sinn Fein, Greens, they keep on coming, all gobbling up an ever growing percentage of an ever diminishing vote. And don’t forget ‘apathy’, the non-political party that 33% of the UK electorate went for in 2019.

And it’s the same in almost every western democracy. In France, Macron’s political party didn’t even exist seven years ago and is already dying, the socialists are a shadow of their former selves and 41% voted for Le Pen in this year’s presidential election.

In Germany, Merkel’s CDU has imploded and the socialists have had to form a coalition with the Greens for the first time in history to take power.

In the forthcoming Italian General Election on 25 September, the Brothers of Italy – billed by much of the commentariat as a neo-fascist party (ie from their manifesto, right of centre conservatives, but let facts not intrude on the continual ‘project fear’ messaging tactic of liberal Left journalism) look like they will win. And remember, this after we’ve had EU and presidentially appointed technocrats (who needs elections, huh?) as well as Berlusconi’s ‘bunga bunga’ era and the Five Star radicals.

In Spain we have Vox and Podemos, and in Greece we have Syriza and before them Golden Dawn, all of them totally new political parties either actually in government or knocking on its door. Democracy is piece by piece being dismantled by Andrzej Duda in Poland and Viktor Orban in Hungary. And it is literally under military attack in Ukraine. All the while a technocratic unelected supra-state in the form of the EU takes ever more powers away from its democratic member states.

Bit by bit, year by year, democracy in falling in on itself. It’s not the Tories. It’s not UK politics. It’s democracy that has the problem. If democracy is indeed dying, what comes next?