It’s been said often enough – democracy is the worst possible system of government apart from all the others, it’s two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner, it’s the tyranny of the majority or even, as I’ve seen pointed out many times in the blogosphere, a tyranny of the minority. We got a reminder of that earlier this week from Max Farquar’s drawing attention to Nadine Dorries’ Sex Education (Required Content) Bill.
A Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.
Which is probably what you’d expect from a capital B Believer who’s found the bit in the Bible that says ‘Thou shalt not enjoy a good shag’ – which I think I must have missed what with all the other sex and violence in there – but given her unusual definition of what was her main home for expenses purposes may have overlooked the bit in Exodus which says ‘Thou shalt not raise a false report’.*
Normally I’d suggest going and reading the post right away, but Max has included a YouTube clip of Nadine’s dribbling introduction of the Bill without much in the way of health warnings about how much brain damage you’ll get from listening to it. You can read it in Hansard if you prefer, or just take my word for it and don’t play the clip. In any case it’s not needed for Max’s main point, which is that while this demented hypocrite was introducing her Bill for yet more bloody It’s-All-For-Your-Own-Good nanny state legislation nearly 520 MPs chose to be somewhere else.**
Perhaps they’d all heard Nadine speaking before?
That meant that in the end only 128 MPs voted on Dorries’ Bill and it ended up passing by 6 votes. Yes, sure, it’s only a Private Members’ Bill and very few of them ever make it all the way to Mrs Queen’s in tray for her signature, but the point is that yet another bit of nannying passed its first reading with the support of 67 MPs – barely 10% of the total. And that’s not the end of the bad news because I decided to take a look at those 67 MPs to see how many people had in turn voted for them.***
And the answer is that since more than half of them represent marginal seats – with majorities as lows as 54 some are very marginal indeed – between them all they polled only 1,495,459 votes last May. That’s just barely over 5%, and even then assumes that every last one of those 1,495,459 votes were from people who voting for those candidates. In reality we know that there are a lot of people who would vote for the bullet ridden, fish bitten, decaying corpse of Osama Bin Liner if it had their favourite colour rosette stuck on it first, while others, especially in marginals I imagine, don’t actually want the person they’re voting for so much as they want to keep out the main opponent. How many is hard to say but from personal observation I reckon it could be as many a third, but even being conservative and saying, oh, a fifth, that makes five percent into just four. But let’s say I’m being unfair and that it’s really just a few thousand, the fact remains that this latest bit of nanny statism passed its first Commons reading thanks to the support of barely a tenth of MPs who themselves had the support of less than a twentieth of the electorate.
And that, ladies and gents, is how a democracy works. It’s not the tyranny of the majority and even the tyranny of the minority doesn’t paint the full picture. Nope, it’s actually worse than that. Democracy, at least as practiced in the UK, can mean tyranny of as few as five percent.
Shit, isn’t it?
* Not kidding, Exodus 23-1, that’s really what it says.
** That’s allowing for a couple of tellers for each side and of course the Squeaker who only votes if there’s a tie.
*** There’s also a little bit of bad news for esteemed libertarian, anti-nanny stater and jewel thief, Dick Puddlecote. Sorry to break it to you, DP, but your blog mascot Philip Davies was one of the 67 who voted for this. You’d have hoped he’d advocate the same kind of personal responsibility and non-nannying approach he quite rightly takes towards booze and tobacco, wouldn’t you?