Saturday, 25 June 2016

Collective Responsibility of the Politburo

Keep Them In the Dark

Sometimes the most anti-democratic folk around the bazaars are politicians.  We see this cropping up in lots of different ways.  One example is the abuse of Freedom of Information regimes, which most Western democracies have these days.  Under FOI regimes, ordinary citizens (voters) have a right to request information from governments, which in many cases must be released to the requester.

In daily practice this means media and researchers and interest groups peppering government bodies and administration with FOI requests, which are supposed to be complied with in a certain time frame.  Almost inevitably the process gets clogged, delayed, and obfuscated.  This, of course, is not helped by opposing political parties making innumerable FOI requests just to be a nuisance.  But basically politicians love democracy only when they have to appeal for public support at the polling booth.  Suddenly democracy is wonderful.  But for every other day of the year . . . not so much.

Here is another egregious example of a political body which has completely lost touch with what it means to serve the people.

Changes to Nelson City Council's Code of Conduct has the potential to gag councillors and turn them into spin doctors for the council, according to a researcher.  Massey University researcher Catherine Strong says a paper she published in 2014 found 10 councils from around the country had inserted phrases to state elected members could not criticise council, its policy, or actions.

Strong says Nelson has also re-worded its code in November, 2014.  The changes were similar to those made by councils she had studied for her paper, which she found had the potential to "fetter" free speech. [Stuff]
We can understand why non-political organisations such as businesses may include non-disclosure of company business to the public in their employment contracts.  Businesses are ultimately responsible to their owners, the shareholders, and not to the public in general.  But to forbid elected council members from criticising the council and its decisions to the voters (who, in a democracy ultimately "own" the council) is an anti-democratic overreach.

It remains true that when it comes to political bodies and governments--whether national or local--sunshine is a most powerful disinfectant.  When a political organisation seeks to draw down the shutters and keep the voters in darkness, feeding them only its self-cultivated manure, politicians have forgotten to whom they are accountable.

When that happens, it is high time for citizens and voters metaphorically to carry out the command of Darth Sidious, uttered in a galaxy far, far away, yet so apt to our own it would seem: "Wipe them out!  All of them."

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