The Brief: Britain is not a real democracy

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Today the UK elects its Brexit government. But if it was a real democracy, there would have been no need for the Brexit referendum in the first place.

For years British politicians have railed against Brussels’ “unelected elites” that conspire to take decisions out of their democratically-elected hands.

It became a choice soundbite of the Brexit Leave campaign, peddled by ruddy-faced Ukip MEPs and once-serious government ministers alike.

The EU’s version of democracy is not perfect. Far from it. But not once during the Brexit debate did either side stop to reflect on the sorry state of British democracy.

Any serious democrat would have pointed out that in the UK we have a monarch, an unelected House of Lords and a House of Commons elected using a system actively designed to disenfranchise most voters.

If you are a Labour voter in most of rural England, you might as well stay home. The same applies for Conservative voters in the big cities, not to mention Scotland.

While thoroughly demoralising for most Brits, polling day is especially bleak for supporters of minority parties like the Greens and Ukip. They loyally trudge to polling stations up and down the UK, safe in the knowledge that their vote counts for nothing and they have no say in how their country is run.

Yes, the First Past The Post system has its up-sides. It has kept fringe racist parties like the BNP out of Westminster and it consistently delivers efficient, majority governments on a minority of the vote.

Today is only the UK’s 20th general election since 1945. Compare that to Italy, with its 64 governments in the last 70 years, and FPTP even begins to look sensible.

Yet the disenfranchisement it causes has poisoned the well of British politics. Left-behind voters, desperate for their voices to be heard, found their impotent rage too easily hijacked by a dishonest and manipulative Brexit campaign.

Under a system of proportional representation, the 2015 general election would have seen 80 Ukip MPs take up seats in the Palace of Westminster; enough to lance the boil of voter frustration before it turned septic but not enough to send Labour or Conservatives running scared.

And crucially, with Ukip a genuine option on the ballot paper, David Cameron would never have had to offer a referendum on EU membership to guarantee victory.

The new arrivals would have snoozed on the backbenches alongside the Tory right while a pragmatic coalition got on with running the country.

When the dust has settled tomorrow and Britain wakes up to yet another majority government elected on yet another minority vote, angry, disenfranchised and demoralised Brits must dare to dream of a future where their vote actually counts.

Take back control by sorting out your democracy.


The UK has dropped its opposition to the EU’s plans for a military command centre. Neutral Austria remains divided over the prospect of an EU army though.

20 member states have agreed to set up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and, unsurprisingly, the UK, all declined the chance to be involved.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras wants EU investment to break the country’s debt deadlock, a view Commission VP Dombrovskis echoed earlier today.

Tsipras’ recently-elected Macedonian counterpart indicated willingness to work out the various disputes between Skopje and Athens. It could lead to faster EU and NATO membership if successful.

Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned Greece’s creditors not to “play with fire” ahead of next week’s crucial Eurogroup meeting.

Be sure to check out our ongoing Special Report on the EU’s use of public-private partnerships in development. MEP Neena Gill thinks that the European Central Bank has a role to play in making green investment go mainstream.

The Commission hopes new regulations will make it easier for European airlines to file complaints against their non-EU rivals.

STIB take note: Madrid’s transport authority is cracking down on ‘manspreading’ or when men take up more space than they need on the metro by sitting with their legs wide open.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s recent “women and alcohol” gaffe has been preserved for posterity after his comments made it into high school exams in Spain.

Anonymous British graffiti artist Banksy will no longer be offering an exclusive print to Bristol voters that don’t vote Conservative today. The UK’s Electoral Commission warned the promotion would invalidate the election result.

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.


The final result of the UK general election should be clear around 7am tomorrow and the final three constituencies should declare their results around lunchtime. If yet another election is getting you down, then this Twitter thread should cheer you up.

Views are the authors’.

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