Dead Men Left

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Democratic deficit"

Justin, on democracy and BBC Breakfast:

I was watching, on BBC Breakfast yesterday, Louise Ellman, the MP for Liverpool Riverside, justifying her support for the ninety-day detention period that was mercifully rejected by the House of Commons later in the day. She argued, much as the government argued, that the police had asked for the powers: and that as they were better placed than her to make that judgement, and were in possession of the information that led them to make it, she had, therefore, no business standing in their way. I paraphrase her argument: I do not think I misrepresent it...

The question here is not, specifically, whether the legislation was right or wrong, or whether the police can be trusted. The question is what elected representatives are there to do. As individuals, as part of the body to which they are representatives. The answer is that they are there to scrutinise. On our behalf, they are there to ask questions...

So for Louise Ellman to exempt herself from that responsbility is not, as she might have it, to defer to the greater and more urgent knowledge of the police. It is actually, to refuse to do what she is there to do. She must - must, if we live in a proper, functioning democracy - say to the police that if they want extra powers then they must show reason why. Their word, unsupported, is not, cannot and must not be enough.