Democracy: Time to Stop Beating Around the Bush
As someone who has had their fair share of protesting; I’ve protested tuition fee increases within the walls of the Millbank Tower, I’ve occupied University buildings, Students’ Union buildings and I have even set up petition campaigns and yet of all these, not one campaign has had a success story other than the consolation prize of gaining the respect of my peers for at-least trying. My failures were never the direct result of somewhat lacking in ability to manifest my voice but more so a failed result of not manifesting my voice by using the correct channels.
Civil disobedience in 21st century Britain is pretty much based on outdated methods that simply do not work. For example, in one day alone, and done in very much an old-fashioned way, over 30 million people took to the streets and protested the war in Iraq. Did it change anything or stop the sending of our troops there? No. With 36,000 petitions submitted to the government, having over 6.4 million signatures, all you are getting at the end of the tunnel is a debate and in most cases, not exactly what you wanted in the first place. Was 100,000 petition signatures enough for the proposed NHS reforms to be dropped? No. Anti-G8 protesters occupied a building to protest against the G8 and what did they get for it? A night in a police holding cell followed most likely by court the following morning.
What are these methods of protest achieving? We have to assess this empirically, and if we do so then it has to be said that marches, petition signing, occupation movements and most other methods of protest being used today do not work! They may be all good for building on the community spirit but as for achieving ends, they actually achieve very little. This only results in people becoming disillusioned with democracy as they feel their voices are not being heard. However, in many ways, democracy is very much alive and the only disillusion being brought about is due to the incorrect methods being used to channel voices. Most are simply taking the wrong directions based on prehistoric and out-of-date road mapping.
It is not so much about what you have to say but more so ‘how’ you say it and to whom you are saying it to. Signing a petition is no different to chanting outside Parliament into thin air; the world will hear it but the bicameral chambers will not. By correctly understanding the right channels to democracy you really can make your voice heard and most importantly you can make your voice count. Although, like the ‘good ole days’, our community leaders are no longer out-and-about standing on-top of milk crates; voicing their passions and challenging the status quo through the means of a dusty old megaphone, they are still there but they are now found possessed hiding inside around four to five interns working extremely hard behind a computer desk in an office.
Mostly every Member of Parliament (MP) will have their own constituency office and they will have a team on call ready to deal with and meet the needs of their constituents. We do not vote in elections to elect MPs who we then have to petition to be heard. Not at all. We elect them so they can represent us! I actually know of more people achieving tangible change through simply emailing or writing a letter to their local MP than many people gathering up Parliament Square to protest something. I have heard issues raised within parliament from local MPs that have not had one signature, let alone 100,000 signatures, and all because one constituent simply wrote to them. Democracy is not simply being accessed correctly, and if one constituent wrote to their local MP and could make change happen, image if 100,000 petition signatories wrote to their MPs? I do not think they would have the staff to match the incoming letters but regardless it is your direct channel to democracy and being heard.
It is time that people up and down the country realised this and it is time for you all to start making your MP work for you. It is down to you to hold your MP to account. Elections are never a long way away and the more accountable you can hold your MP, the more likely you will either end up losing a very poor representative that never listened anyway or possibly gaining a hard-working representative that actually listens to you.
You can find your MP and write to them today here : http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/