Eddie from Bracknell, voice of democracy

"It's Eddie on the line from Bracknell here, I don't normally phone in to these programmes, but I'd just like to say that I've been listening to your guest and I think he is absolutely wrong, I don't think proportional representation or the single transferable vote would be a threat to democracy, and shall I tell you why? I'll tell you why. Because we haven't got democracy here, that's why. All we have is a chance, once every five years, to choose between two similar packs of plausible rogues, no, hear me out, what I am saying is true, in fact, I wouldn't even say they were very plausible, you take Dr Brian Mawhinney for example, I don't know why he calls himself a doctor, if I saw him leaning over me at the scene of a road accident I would say I was feeling fine rather than risk being treated by him, but that's by the by, it's just that I was listening to him the other day on the Today programme saying what wonderful things the Government has done such as safeguarding the railways, and I thought to myself, How can he say that? How can the man without blushing say that the Tories have done marvels for the railways when for years all they have ever done is starve them of cash or sell them off cheap and either way undermine them? Doctoring the truth, that's the only kind of doctoring Mr Brian Mawhinney has ever got up to, mark you, they seem to go in for fake doctors a lot in Northern Ireland, what's that other plausible rogue? Dr so-called Ian Paisley, that's the fellow, I tell you if I saw him leaning over me at the scene of a road accident I'd get such a fright I'd agree to be treated by Old Ma Whinney, but I suppose being a doctor helps you to get a parking space in Belfast, where was I? Democracy, yes, to come to the point, I think people in this country are starved of democracy, of having any say in the way they are governed, and that's why they want a bit of constitutional reform, the Labour Party and Lib Dems are absolutely right here, we all feel (except the Tories) that the way things are run at the moment is not right and things have got to be changed, so when John Major gets on his high horse and says it will all end in tears and lead to the break-up of Great Britain, he's talking through his hat, we're just asking him to consider improving a desperate situation, though it's funny to see him facing both ways, I mean, when it comes to the UK he is adamant that we must keep the union going at all costs but when it comes to the EU he seems hell-bent on obstructing it and hampering its workings, come on make your mind up John Major! Are you helping or hindering? Are you the personality of the year? Are you, my foot! No, all I wanted to say was that the people of this country are so starved of democracy, real democracy, that they pay good money to pretend to have democracy! What am I talking about? I'll tell you what I'm talking about. I'm talking about phone-in democracy, that's what I'm talking about, you only have to switch on TV teletext to see notices saying: "Do you think Michael Atherton is doing a good job as England captain? Ring in with your YES or NO vote now!" or "Who do you think is man of the match! Register your vote now!" See what I'm getting at? We're so starved of real democracy that people are prepared to lash out money on phone calls to register a vote that doesn't mean anything, just to get a feeling of participation. That's why programmes like Any Questions have turned into boring party political programmes, which they never used to be, and why Dimbleby says now and again, "Well, this isn't strictly a democratically significant exercise, but it would be interesting to see how many people in this hall think that the queen should be abolished, so just raise your hands if you think she should be." Of course it's statistically meaningless, but emotionally Dimbleby has got it right because it does give people a momentary feeling of participation which they never get normally, so what I am getting at is that we have turned into a phoney, phone-in democracy, where a phone vote is the nearest most people ever get to a vote, no, hang on, I'm almost finished now, I just want to say that I am as bad as anyone because I have hogged this whole conversation through just ringing in, but I am convinced that if I didn't have this outlet for my opinions I might run amok with a machete or blow my savings on the National Lottery, so maybe phone-ins do have their own validity until such time as real democracy comes along, that's what I think anyway ..."

Well, do you think Eddie is right? Phone NOW to register your vote for either YES or NO.

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