Reading an examination of democracy in the course of an election campaign is an instructive experience. The clumsy electoral mechanism operative in the United Kingdom allows the largest minority of those qualified to vote – which includes the citizens of many foreign states, including Eire – to put an oligarchy into power for four or five years. The system does this without providing a means of controlling the oligarchy’s behaviour in the interval between elections, if its crazy electoral arithmetic gives one party an absolute majority in the House of Commons. This matters because the Commons has, if it wishes to use it, an almost absolute discretion of power; only the delaying activities of judicial review and the House of Lords, and the recent advent of the Human Rights Act, have placed tentative constraints on it, all of which can easily be shrugged off by means of further Commons legislation or repeal.
The once vaunted liberties of the British subject (now fast being eroded by a succession of Home Secretaries intent on ‘protecting our freedom’ by destroying our liberties) are thus wholly at the sufferance of the party of the largest minority – everything from the freedom of the press to the