The main difference between political parties

You’ve probably heard more than a few people declaim politicians, saying they’re all the same, and you might as well not vote at all.

Such cynicism is understandable, especially after the expenses scandal, but wrong-headed. There are plenty of differences between the parties. On economic policy, for example, the gaps between the parties are growing ever more obvious as the election campaign rattles on.

But there’s something far more important on which there’s an extremely clear divide: their general attitude towards democracy and the freedom of the individual. The current Labour government has passed some really rather draconian legislation, including – but not limited to – the rightly reviled ID cards project.

This has prompted the Liberal Democrats to put together an interesting score sheet at ‘How authoritarian is your MP?’ Obviously, given the source, it’s not unbiased. But they’ve listed ten pieces of legislation attacking civil liberties, and scored every MP on how they voted.

Looking down the list of 619 MPs, what’s striking is that the entire top half of the list (the most authoritarian MPs) are all Labour MPs. Sure, it takes guts to vote against your party. But if you’re sick of economic fudge, and need to see a clear divide between the parties to persuade you to get out there and vote, then this one looks pretty compelling to me.

  • JAW

    Yes, it takes a blithe disregard to self-interest to vote against your party… that is the undemocratic rotten core of the party based system of politics. One solution… abolish political parties? No, it wouldn’t work because they would just re-form secretly. Another solution… let us have a Swiss style democracy with a people’s referendum before any law can be enacted. Weekly voting on any issue could be telephone based, card and password protected, via a special box attached to the telephone, distributed free to every citizen. That would work well. We would have a genuine democracy at last, the only system fit to counteract the approaching frightening incrementally totalitarian authoritarian 21st century.

  • Michael Lewis

    ” Weekly voting on any issue could be telephone based, card and password protected, via a special box attached to the telephone, “

    Looks like we should be funding care-in-the-community programmes a bit better …

  • James

    “Weekly voting on any issue could be telephone based”

    What – a bit like X Factor?

    You only have to take one look at the typical X Factor viewer to know that many of them wouldn’t even know how to tie their own shoelaces, let alone vote on an issue of national importance.

    Lets leave the key decisions to people who know something about the issues rather than the general public who can be so easily influence by the media’s reach.

  • Mike

    James wrote
    Lets leave the key decisions to people who know something about the issues rather than the general public who can be so easily influence by the media’s reach.

    Not a massive fan of democracy then?
    I suspect you think you are one of the special few who is intelligent enough to make decisions for everyone else

  • Mike

    John Stepek and you believe that the Conservative goeernment would bring liberaliam or do you support something else. Anarchy perhaps. Please let us know what you actually support.

  • JAW

    Michael Lewis: I suggest you take your next holiday in Geneva, Basel or Zurich. Wander the streets and ask the Swiss if they would exchange their real democracy for the British version of elected dictatorship. A small clique of a dozen local activists select your MP, who is then coerced and disciplined by whips to vote for the policies of a small clique of 3 or 4 controlling cabinet ministers. British democracy is subtly authoritarian based, as John Stepek is hinting at.

    James: You are a coward who is frightened of real democracy. You want to leave the key decisions to a bunch of habitual liars, thieves, manipulators, self-opinionated ignoramuses, shameless power seekers who know something of how to increase the National Debt by half a billion a day. You have indeed got the very government you deserve.

  • James

    Bravo once again Mr John Stepek. I presume you are soon to be leaving MoneyWeek to stand for a safe Conservative seat in the Home Counties given the content of this article.

    I feel compelled to shower you with a modicum of praise as at least in contrast to your previous articles, you have had the dignity not to attempt to veil your conspicuous bias.

    In an effort to rebalance the objectivity of this article I include the following facts for all those who would deny those privileges to the majority that have always been enjoyed by the moneyed few:

    ~ A greater proportion of young people in England now go on to enter Higher Education than ever before. Currently 36 per cent of young people enter HE aged 18 or 19, making young people today over 20 per cent more likely to go on to HE than in the mid-1990s;
    ~ 12 years ago it was not uncommon for patients to wait over 18 months for an operation –the Labour Government guarantee that nobody needs to wait more than 18 weeks.

  • JAW

    John Stepek has done us all a great service by drawing attention to this Liberal Democrat document. It is worth clicking on the link: How authoritarian is your MP? There is one piece of legislation which damns Labour’s authoritarian tendency more than any of the other 9 quoted. Here it is…

    Abolition of Parliament Bill (Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill) This is a Labour Bill which drastically reduces parliamentary discussion of future laws. It was passed on 16th May 2006 by almost exclusively Labour votes, 259 votes in favour to 213 against. The Bill gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament. All a minister will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks, and automatically the law is changed.

    If you want the perfect totalitarian society… vote Labour.

  • Michael Lewis


    I was refering to the absurdity of the very idea of :

    “a special box attached to the telephone”

    Do the Swiss have special boxes?

  • McCarthy

    There was an astonishing law, in my opinion, which was passed just last week. The Digital rights bill is a broad assault on people privacy and a thin end of the wedge for a snoopers charter. It was a blatant power grab for the government and it just smacks of arrogance. This would be something expected from a communist state.

  • JAW

    Michael Lewis: Agreed, the Swiss presently do not vote at home via electronic devises connected to their telephone, but I would guess that, in time, Europe and the whole world will. “Special box” is my inadequate condensation of the idea of using a card reader, such as is found in most supermarkets and shops, to confidentially and securely transmit a vote to the local Electoral Commission. The technology already exists and merely has to be adapted to the electoral system. It is not quite as absurd as you may believe? Government are always complaining of lack of public participation in politics and poor turnout at elections…. this idea attempts to offer a solution. It is the future and I would guess it is bound to happen. It would make referendums commonplace and cheap compared to rare and expensive as they are today. Real democracy.

  • RJD


    How on Earth that you can you think that we have a better educated population today than 15 years ago? Admittedly the standards then were dire and sadly they are certainly no better now. True there’s an ever growing number of people in ‘higher’ education but that proves nothing about the standard of education, by which I mean academic education. Speak to anyone of serious experience and merit in the education business and they will tell you that the standards are in continual decline, if that were possible.

  • RJD

    The fact is that most of the people in higher education today who would not have been in higher education yesterday are enrolled on second rate courses at second rate institutions. That’s why having a degree today is of little if any value unless it is clearly recognisable by all as from the cream layer, and unfortunately even these worthy accolades are somewhat devalued by the raft of junk surrounding them. Add to that the massive drop out rate from the weaker courses and we’re left with the simple fact that much of today’s higher education is not much than an alternative work scheme that fails to prepare anyone for anything. However it suits this Labour government nicely since appearing to educate people is as good as doing so as far as it is concerned and it also keeps the dole figure lower than it would otherwise be. A socialist government can always show its ‘caring’ side because everybody else has to pay for its unachievable fanciful ideals.

  • RJD

    As for the NHS, ye gods, with the amount of money our political buffoons have thrown at it there shouldn’t be any waiting lists at all. However, it is widely reported and most readily believable that the main driver behind the fall in waiting list numbers has little to do with the obvious and more to do with wait list management. Well at least the NHS managers are doing something.

    Admittedly, I’m a cynical, hard bitten, old school misery. That’s why I can’t be taken in by any socialist dream folly. Socialism has never worked and it never will because it costs more to implement than the population can and will pay. Socialists always, and I mean always, run out of money – usually money they never had but you might have once had.

    I forget the exact quote and who said it but it goes something like, ‘A young conservative has no heart and an old socialist has no brain.’

  • F0ul

    While the average voter is a buffoon, its also true that so is the average MP!

    To think that by aiming to get 50% of students to go to university will make the workforce smarter shows the stupidity of the policy makers! They obviously don’t understand that qualifications is not education – more importantly, they don’t understand the concept of grade inflation and how all it means is you now need a degree to work in McDonalds!

    Giving the public the chance to vote on laws that effect them is simply what democracy means. Yes, a few will have stupid ideas (after 13 years 29% still plan to vote Labour – which seems to prove the point!) but that is the cost of having a society of equals.

    Personally, what has really woken me up to the unfair system we are currently living in is that where if all the major parties have an equal level of support, Labour still get more seats, and the LibDems get 40% less – what sort of democracy is that?