The UK and Real Democracy

In the UK social services are being cut because of lack of money. In one of the world’s wealthiest countries there are ‘one million Britons using food banks’.

The Conservatives say they will cut 12 billion pounds from the welfare system if they get elected on May 7th. We learn from an Oxford university research paper that this will push the number of people using food banks up to over two million. At the same time the UK government is spending one hundred billion pounds on renewing our arsenal of nuclear weapons which military leaders consider useless as weapons and which religious leaders consider obscene and immoral.

The government is also spending billions of our money subsidising otherwise totally uneconomic nuclear power stations which, as we know from Chernobyl and Fukushima, are the most dangerous artefacts every invented. The planet’s atmosphere is being polluted by emission from nuclear weapons bomb factories as well as from nuclear power stations.

As Ecowatch tells us:

… the basic reality is simple: for seven decades, government bomb factories and privately-owned reactors have spewed massive quantities of unmonitored radiation into the biosphere. The impacts of these emissions on human and ecological health are unknown primarily because the nuclear industry has resolutely refused to study them.

Neither nuclear weapons, nuclear power nor widespread poverty is the will of the British people. Let’s look a bit more closely at these and then consider a simple but radical remedy; one possible now but never before available. A remedy that could bring about real democracy

Nuclear Weapons

The two leading parties, the Conservative and Labour Parties, are promising to ‘keep our country safe’ by deploying an arsenal of nuclear weapons. They are going to keep us safe by deploying the most dangerous Armageddon weapons the world has ever known; weapons capable of wiping out all life on the planet. There are currently 17,000 nuclear weapons in existence. At least 1000 of them are kept on hair-trigger alert ready to be launched in an instant by accident, misunderstanding or malicious intent.  Michael Fallon MP, the Secretary of State for Defence, was accused of insulting Mr Miliband as Labour Party leader, by accusing him of wanting to “stab the United Kingdom in the back”.  His contention was that the Labour Party would have to give up its commitment to UK’s MAD policy (Mutual Assured Destruction) if there was a hung parliament at the May 7th election since they would form an alliance with the Scottish National Party. (Miliband is adamant that he will not get rid of our ‘deterrent’). This sad squabbling between party leaders indicates an irrational, emotional attachment to these instruments of genocide which is very worrying.

Irrational it obviously is. But that does not disturb the UK power elite. Mr Fallon declared recently ‘We share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament’. This is either cringe-making hypocrisy or an illustration of some politicians’ ability to hold two diametrically opposite goals and convictions in their minds at the same time. ‘We are going to get rid of nuclear weapons’ (having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). We are NOT going to get rid of our nuclear weapons’ (we don’t know what will happen in the next 50 years – See UK’s 2006 White paper on the UK’s ‘deterrent’ and today’s Party election manifestos). The in-your-face dismissal of the UK’s legal obligations in this matter has just been confirmed by the UK’s Representative at the on-going NPT Conference at the UN. Baroness Anelay laid out the UK’s position in her statement to the conference yesterday, announcing that the UK will retain a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent for as long as the global security situation makes that necessary’. And in case there is any lingering suspicion that the UK government will honour its commitment under the NPT treaty, as part of their manifesto before the forthcoming election the Conservatives state their adherence to ‘the Trident continuous at sea nuclear deterrent to provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety and build the new fleet of four Successor Ballistic Missile Submarines – securing thousands of highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK.’ The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats make similar undertakings.

If you want to control them, make them afraid. The bogey man, we are encouraged to believe, is Russia. If the UK did not have nuclear weapons, would Russia be dropping nuclear bombs on London and Liverpool? Of course not. To what end?

The people of Britain like people everywhere want to be free of the threat of sudden death from a nuclear catastrophe. Other threats could bring disaster but not suddenly and at any minute. The only way to remove that threat is to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The majority of citizens in the UK do not want nuclear weapons.

Nuclear power

We know from past experience that if something embarrasses the government they are able to keep quiet about it with the aid of the UK’s establishment media. Fukushima, the worst ever industrial disaster, although ongoing, is seldom even referred to by the BBC or the national newspapers. Certainly no mention in the media that 3 simultaneous disastrous nuclear core meltdowns have been out of control for more than 4 years and continue to be so. No mention that radioactive materials continue to pollute the world’s atmosphere and that 100 tons of radioactive water has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean every day. No mention of the hard-won knowledge (from Chernobyl and Fukushima) that nuclear power stations are the most dangerous artefacts mankind has ever dreamed up.

Although the UK public remain mostly uninformed about the Fukushima mega-disaster it could affect everyone on the planet. One study informs us that ‘volatile radionuclides such as 131I were transported away from the source posing significant concern on the safety of the population and the environment worldwide… the atmospheric dispersion of 131I [was] covering the entire northern hemisphere by early April.

Dr Helen Caldecott, founder of Scientists for Social Responsibility, writes:

It seems that nearly a million people have already died as a result of Chernobyl, despite what the WHO says and the IAEA.  This is one of the most monstrous cover-ups in the history of medicine.

Helen Caldicott tells us that radioactive water is pouring into Pacific “probably for the rest of time… forever more” — “There’s simply nothing anyone can do about it” — “Nuclear industry is covering it up because they know if truth comes out it will be end of nuclear power”.

The renowned expert in industrial accidents, Charles Perrow in his book Normal Accidents tells us that the consequences of failure of a nuclear power station are so grave that they should never be built. He explains how it is impossible to make them 100% safe. This view has just been supported by Christer Pursiainen, professor of Societal Safety and Environment at the Department of Engineering and Safety of the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø who tells us thatThe risk of a serious nuclear accident remains always above zero anywhere as a possibility of unexpected phenomena taking place exists.”


Children go hungry so that others can be indecently wealthy. No one should go hungry in one of the world’s richest states. This is only possible when individuals and organisations grab way more than their fair share.

In modern Britain the rich continue to get richer and the poor to get poorer. The disparity has reached bizarre proportions.  We learn from a very recent Oxfam report that:

…the country’s five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.’ And ‘..a handful of the super-rich, headed by the Duke of Westminster, have more money and financial assets than 12.6 million Britons put together.

The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth £28.2bn.

The most affluent family in Britain, headed by Major General Gerald Grosvenor, owns 77 hectares (190 acres) of prime real estate in Belgravia, London, and has been a beneficiary of the foreign money flooding in to the capital’s soaring property market in recent years. Oxfam said Grosvenor and his family had more wealth (£7.9bn) than the poorest 10% of the UK population, and according to Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Ben Phillips:

Britain is becoming a deeply divided nation, with a wealthy elite who are seeing their incomes spiral up, while millions of families are struggling to make ends meet.

Many families in the UK are struggling. In spite of all this the Tories are planning, if elected on May 7th,  to make even more stringent cuts to social services.

A Real Democracy

In the public discourse about democracy, even among experts, it is generally implied that the core of democracy is ’one person, one vote’. But this is not so. The essence of democracy is government by the people for the people. And now, for the first time ever, it is possible to have a real democracy in which the citizens choose and decide what is to be done by government. Most people now have access to an Iphone and/or a computer. For those who do not facilities can be provided in public libraries and town halls. Now, whenever an important decision has to be taken by government the facilities exist to ask the citizens. It could be made incumbent on government to follow the wishes of the people unless it can provide overriding reasons for not doing so.

Of course, for citizens to make sound decisions they must be well informed. This should no longer be left to the media which has its own agenda, either to make a profit or to serve the wishes of powerful elites. It could be made the obligation of government to require its Civil Service to prepare and present a balanced view of background, context, pros and cons of any major issue when a decision was pending. To ensure that party political issues or bias from powerful lobbies does not influence this information there would be an oversight committee composed largely of normal citizens advised by academics and other experts.

We trust the general public to reach correct decisions in our jury system. There is no reason why they should not be equally effective in political decision-making provided they were protected from distorting influences.

Jim McCluskey is the author of The Nuclear Threat. Read other articles by Jim.