Thursday, September 28, 2006

The End of Democracy

Now that is one heck of a title, but there is some interesting evidence mounting that democracy as we know it is coming to an end. That view of democracy that we have grown used to is one of representatives being chosen by the people and that this will be a process of merit, through the process of first convincing people to support you and then the electorate at large.

The creation of political parties was not a threat to that process, in fact it added to the process. The party brand communicated something about your philosophical stance, and the process of party pre-selection created a process of contest where potential politicians honed their skills.

However, in the modern era the collapse of party memberships and the creation of more electoral and ministerial staff has created the era of the "stack". This was a device most familiar to the ALP. Recently two leading (factional) warriors of the ALP have outed the behaviour in Fabian Society speeches. The first contribution by Rodney Cavalier asked Could Chifley win Labor preselection today? The second by Robert Ray asked Are factions killing the ALP?. They both conclude that it is not factionalism per se but the apparatchiks who are.

Back when Labor was still ruling supreme in Canberra and Alexander Downer was attempting to be Liberal leader, Gerard Henderson wrote a history of the Liberal party called "Menzies' Child". In it he opined that the Liberal party needed to learn the skills of developing the professional politicians that the ALP had learnt.

However, I don't think he expected the outcome that we saw described in the ABC Four Corners program The Right Stuff. That this was not merely inflammatory or one off has become clear with the more detailed description in John Hyde Page's excellent read The Education of a Young Liberal.

It is an extraordinary turn of affairs that the people of NSW and Australia at elections in 2007 will not be offered a team of candidates whose skill is policy analysis or their ability to argue a proposition, but their ability to survive in the battle of the application of patronage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are interested to find out what "Cultivating Grass" is... however we will come to a game of bridge anyday.