Majoritarianism is the byword of contemporary electoral politics: appealing to the masses, kissing their babies and shaking their hands are all part of the game. The tabloid press declares that Britain is “full” and so all the politicians run hell-for-leather to try and be the first one to nail their anti-immigration colours to the mast.
I caught a bit of the debate last night and one punter in the audience asked a question to this effect “On the issue of immigration, shouldn’t politicians do what the majority wants”? My answer to that question is a resounding “NO”! If politicians did what the self-declared majority wanted, we would have capital punishment; corporal punishment for minor offences; lesbians and gays being forced to accept a ‘cure’ and a custodial sentence for anyone caught in possession of the newest trendy drug.
Imagine if the ‘majority’ had got their way in the 1960’s. Roy Jenkins landmark legislation would have been scrapped and we would be living in a land that time forgot. A land that is akin to the most regressive of Midwestern US states…a place that would, quite possibly, resemble the mad-as-a-box–of-frogs state of Arizona.
If we let the people decide what is best with regards to immigration, then we may as well bring back the birch; the stocks and public executions. The ‘majority’ often don’t know what’s best for them and are fired up by the latest scare story in the press. Politicians react to this and then we get bad legislation – the recent case of Mephedrone being a classic example.
People talk about the ‘majority’ as though it has every right to marginalise those who do not accept their diktats. That is not the way democracies are supposed to work. But then, we don’t really live in a real democracy.