The Chartists: Charting a Future Democracy

The Chartists’ campaign for political inclusion and social justice ended in failure. But, David Nash argues, their ideas still have much to offer Britain’s discredited Parliamentary system.

Many contemporary commentators are pessimistic about the nature of British Parliamentary democracy and despair of its future. The voting turnout in local, national and European elections has been in steady decline for decades. Engaged interest in politics has entered the doldrums, evidenced by dwindling levels of both party membership and active involvement in the political system. Most damaging of all is the catastrophic collapse of confidence in the operation and conduct of Parliament itself. The controversial and divisive issue of expenses for Members of Parliament has seen trust in the motivation and morals of those who govern plummet. The insistent revelations about how MPs have systematically dodged and circumnavigated a number of rules and precedents conjures up an image of individuals out of tune with the electorate and, perhaps more importantly, inattentive to their duties. The democratic and electoral system seems lethargic, encourages morally dubious practices and is unfit for purpose.

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