openDemocracyUK

Where do the Parties stand on democracy, rights and freedoms?

Peter Facey
23 April 2010

Unlike in previous elections – where democratic reform has been the preserve of a few parties - in this election all the parties now claim to offer reform. But which parties are offering real reform? Which ones would protect your rights, your freedoms and your personal privacy?

Unlock Democracy has produced a report and interactive website which looks at how committed the British political parties are to democratic reform.

A Vote for Democracy? looks at the parties' policies in five key areas:

On this site you can compare how each party has scored either by looking at a single party in detail or exploring how all the parties do in each area. Crucially, we don't just give you the score but show you how it has been calculated to enable you to draw your own conclusions.

Allocating each party a score out of 100, the total scores are:

  • Liberal Democrats: 81
  • Green Party: 80.5
  • SNP: 57
  • Conservative Party: 48.5
  • Labour Party: 48
  • Plaid Cymru: 39.5
  • Respect: 38.5
  • UK Independence Party: 33.5
  • BNP: 7.5

That the Liberal Democrats and Greens are vying for first place is perhaps not surprising, both parties have had a long term commitment to political reform, human rights and civil liberties. While both Labour and the Conservatives score poorly, both parties have significantly improved their policies since the last election. Though Labour do moderately well on some aspects of political reform they are let down by their shockingly poor policies on civil liberties and personal privacy. Gordon Brown ought to be ashamed of the fact that he has narrowly allowed the Conservatives to leapfrog over his party in this way.

In contrast the Conservatives offer a mirror image of Labour.  They are strong on direct democracy, preventing voter fraud and on issues such as ID Cards, but are now isolated on the issues such as electoral reform and flaky on Lords reform.

A word about the BNP, although we did not expect Nick Griffin's party to score highly, even we were surprised by how dismal their policy programme is. This report vividly highlights that the BNP apple has not fallen far away from the fascist tree. A vote for this party is a vote for the abolition of democracy.

This report points towards what reforms we are likely to see if the polls are right and we get a balanced parliament: Labour and the Liberal Democrats are likely to find common cause in drawing up a written constitution, the need for a referendum on electoral reform and replacing the House of Lords with a democratic second chamber. Nick Clegg and David Cameron meanwhile should be able to work together to dismantle the database state and some aspects of civil liberties.

Balanced parliaments are the norm in most democracies and take decisions out of the hands of government whips. Instead of backroom deals being stitched up between governments and their backbenchers, parliament itself will become the great decider. They should be welcomed, not feared.

Whatever happens on May 6th those of us who care about democratic reform, human rights and individual freedom will have a lot to fight for and if we make the most of the opportunities we can produce the democratic revolution our country desperately needs.

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