‘Liberal democracy’ has come to mean rather more than just some means of ensuring majority rule.
It includes the separation of powers between the different branches of government: executive, legislature and judiciary -guaranteeing the independence of the justice system so that no politician can order anyone’s arrest or imprisonment. It has also come to include the independence of many other institutions including, of course, the press and broadcast media. These refinements guarantee our rights and liberties. Democracies can be quite as prone to tyranny as any other form of government. It is worth remembering that Hitler first achieved power after winning an election.
These proper restraints on democratic power are nevertheless, a source of constant frustration. A number of citizens not only fail to understand their importance, they appear not to be aware of their existence. Much of my correspondence is taken up with demands that this or that be done, where there is no lever that government can pull address the complaint. Typical of this sort of correspondence is alleged bias in BBC coverage.
I quite understand the frustration: you go to the trouble electing a government and expect it to be able to take action to address the issues that you consider to be important, only to discover that it can’t.
This frustration is shared by elected representatives, although I trust they have a better understanding of importance of the proper constraints on their powers. The temptations to set aside those restraints, always for the best possible motives, are constant.
The Chairman of the Magistrates Association has called for the rules which prevent convicted criminals from becoming magistrates to be set aside, in order to promote more diversity on the bench.
Its’s enough to make your blood boil, certainly those who emailed me about it were already at boiling point.
Is it the purpose of the courts to deliver justice, or to promote diversity by adding a sprinkling of criminals to magistracy?
Happily, notwithstanding the independence of the judiciary, those rules that currently prevent criminals from joining the bench, cannot be changed without government action, – action which will be informed by the common sense that comes from periodically having to seek democratic support from hard headed voters.