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A few weeks ago I was reading an article by the Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan’s, in the Sunday Telegraph called in the print edition “Coalition politics has turned European democracy into a beige dictatorship”. Here is a link to the original article >>> http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/21/coalition-politics-has-turned-european-democracy-beige-dictatorship/
In that article he says:-
“Several Western European countries have had German-style traditions of permanent coalition. In some of them, favoured parties were more or less permanently in office. These became known as the “cartel democracies”, because the ruling parties used legal and financial barriers to prevent newcomers from breaking through. Austria, Belgium and Italy were textbook cartel democracies for most of the post-war era.”…
You can always spot the symptoms. The public sector grows as the various coalition partners scrabble to find sinecures for their supporters. In Austria during the Christian Democrat/Social Democrat duopoly, every position, from the headmaster of a village school to the director of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, might be allocated according to party membership card. These membership cards, by the way, were actual physical things: the Italian versions, beribboned and bemedalled, were especially magnificent, signifying, as they did, a precious IOU.
Cartel politicians, being unchallenged, could award themselves handsome perks, such as legal immunities and high salaries. When I was first elected to the European Parliament, MEPs were paid at the same rate as a national parliamentarian in their home country. The Austrians, Italians and Germans earned twice as much as anyone else. The cartel parties were quite flagrant in their attempts to stop newcomers from posing a challenge. In Belgium, for example, restrictions on private donations made parties dependent on state funding – which was then withdrawn from the Flemish separatists following a parliamentary vote by their rivals.
Secure in office, the old parties were able to ignore public demands for tax cuts, immigration controls, powers back from Brussels or anything else they could fastidiously dismiss as “populist”. Because leaders from a previous generation generally decided who could stand on their party lists, politics remained stuck in a Fifties corporatist consensus.
Only in the Nineties did the system start to break down. Fed up with the complacency and sleaze of their semi-permanent rulers, voters began to grope around for battering rams to smash open the old system. In Italy, they found a Trumpian avant la lettre – Silvio Berlusconi, who made a point of issuing no party membership cards. In Austria, they turned to Jörg Haider’s anti-immigration Freedom Party. In Belgium, they elected the Flemish nationalists. Only in Germany has the old partitocracy remained intact – at least until now.
Last year, Germany’s Christian Democrats suffered their worst result since 1949. The Social Democrats suffered their worst result since 1933. How will it look if the two losers get together to form a government based on all the things that had characterised the old racket – more immigration, deeper European integration, little economic reform, and the dismissal of all opposition as unconscionable populism?”
These comments chimed strongly with my experiences of the way in which Labour and the Conservatives have embedded themselves within the State, in such a way that for years now it has seemed to matter little which party was technically in power. The classic “LibLabCon” even when the other party is in power many of the key people within what is supposed to be its rival still have plum political patronage jobs.
So I looked further and found the BBC’s Home Editor, Mark Easton, had written an article which was published on the 12th June 2017. Which asked:- “Has British democracy let its people down?”
Mark Easton’s reply is:-
“Parliamentary democracy is one of the British values that English schools are now required, by statute, to promote during lessons – not debate, not discuss, promote.
If some teachers interpret their new role as propagandists for this kingdom’s existing system of governance, that would be a shame, because right now there are questions about how well our form of democracy is serving the UK.
Far from providing the stability and legitimacy it promises, one could argue that our democratic system has served to expose and deepen social divides.
Some would say it has even contrived to leave our country vulnerable at a critical moment in its history.
Rather than seeking to close down critical challenge of our form of democracy, do we need a serious and urgent conversation about how we can improve matters?…
Our two main political parties were founded and evolved to deal with the social and economic challenges of the industrial revolution.
Conservative and Labour, Left and Right, capitalism and socialism – these ideological movements were a response to the economic and cultural challenges of power moving from the field to the factory.
But power is moving again, from the national to the multinational.
How citizens think we should respond to that shift is the new divide in our politics.
It is less about left v right and more about nationalism v globalism….
…Old-fashioned political tribalism is actually on the wane…
And the diminution of local government in England, the weakening of the trade union movement, the impotence of political protest movements, the increasing centralisation of overarching authority to one house in Downing Street – these add to the sense that the “demos” (people) are increasingly excluded from the “kratos” (power).”
Here is the link to Mark Easton’s original article>>> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40245805
I think that much of what Mark Easton had to say here is right, particularly in his analysis of what the division now is; not left and right, rather globalist/ internationalist as against nationalist/patriotic.
It was said by many of the more astute commentators, including Professor Matthew Goodwin of Kent University, that the appeal of Euroscepticism and of Brexit to English nationalists anxious to “get our country back” and to “take back control” was, when focussed solely on the EU, somewhat misconceived.
Professor Goodwin in particular was saying that for people who identified themselves as being English, that their desire to get back control was a confused response because the problem wasn’t the EU, it was the British Political Establishment which is seeking to break England up and to change English society and English communities in ways that English people don’t want.
Its support of the EU was a system of this attitude so the real struggle ought to be focussed on England and on the English taking back control. The British State and British Political Establishment not only no longer cares about them or about what they think about things, but also actively works against English interests. Its default position is internationalist or globalist.
I thought therefore I ought to look at what academics have written about “Cartel Parties” and see whether that is a concept which helps to explain the problems of power that we have currently got in England. So a quick search of the internet showed me the article you find here>>> https://ecpr.eu/Filestore/PaperProposal/77c01c49-8fe0-4c5f-a83e-c64362debb30.pdf
This article actually found that the UK was not a Cartel democracy but that is because the article was written in 2001 and not in 2018! For the last 20 years we have lived in the sort of political environment which is all too clearly explained in this paper. The key points of the article are here:-
“Cartel parties in Western Europe?
Changes in organizational structures, political functions and competitive behaviour among the major parties in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
By Klaus Detterbeck
University of Göttingen
Among the various attempts to pinpoint the changes in West European political parties which have been going on over the last decades, the cartel party model (Katz & Mair 1995) has been one of the most provocative of… In their article Katz & Mair (1995) are constructing an evolution of party types from the late 19th century onwards to show how parties have changed from being party of society (mass parties) to being part of the state apparatus. The provocation, the cartel party model entails, lies in its claim that the established parties in Western Europe have adapted themselves to declining levels of participation and involvement in party activities by not only turning to resources provided by the state but by doing so in a collusive manner. The inter-penetration of party and state, so the argument goes, has been achieved through co-operation between the major parties – most obviously by unanimously introducing and expanding public subsidies to themselves. The former opponents now run a party cartel which excludes new and smaller parties. These changes on the level of party competition are associated with decisive changes in the internal balance of power among the individual cartel parties, their relationship to society and the quality of the democratic process in Western democracies per se. Thus, Katz & Mair (1995) are depicting a fundamental change of party democracy in Western Europe since the 1970s. Precisely because the consequences of the alleged cartellization would be so dramatic – a self-referential political class unremovable from power dominating politics and determining their own infrastructure- it is necessary to empirically review the central hypotheses of the cartel party model.
Three dimensions of party change
Analytically there are three dimensions on which Katz & Mair (1995) are describing party change since the 1960s and on which they are conceptualizing the cartel type. I will look at them in turn:
· Political role: representative vs. governmental functions
· Party competition: cartellization and exclusion
· Organizational structures: parlamentarization and stratarchy
The political role of parties concerns their position between the sphere of society and the sphere of the state. The cartel party model postulates that West European parties have increasingly lost their capacity and their eagerness to fulfil their representative functions for society (interest articulation and -aggregation, goal formulation, political mobilisation), whereas they became more strongly involved in executing governmental functions (elite recruitment, government formation, policy making). The professional party leaders thus became more concerned with the demands of the parliamentary arena than with interpreting party manifestos or discussing politics on party congresses. The near exclusive dominance of parliaments and governments enabled parties to rely on a new source for financing and staffing their organizations which made them relatively independent from party members or donors. Cartel party are therefore characterized by a weak involvement of party members and historically related interest groups (classe gardée) in party activities on the one hand, and by an emphasis on governmental functions and state resources on the other hand.
Turning to the level of party competition, the mutually shared need for securing the flow of state resources has changed the relationships of the political opponents towards each other. In a process of social learning – facilitated through the daily interaction of professional politicians from different parties in parliament – the party actors realized that there are common interests among the „political class“ which laid the basis for collective action (von Beyme 1996; Borchert 2001). The process of cartel formation has two facets: cartellization aims at reducing the consequences of electoral competition, basically through granting the losers, the established opposition a certain share of state subventions or patronage appointments. Exclusion aims at securing the position of the established parties against newly mobilized challengers. This can be achieved through setting up certain barriers for newcomers in the electoral competition (e.g. thresholds), excluding them from access to public subventions or media campaigns, or excluding them from access to executive office by declaring them unacceptable coalition partners („pariahs“). However, a cartel doesn’t have to be closed completely. The co-optation of new parties which are willing to play according to the established rules of the game may strengthen the viability of a party cartel. Katz & Mair (1995) argue that the formation of a party cartel poses a fundamental problem for the West European party democracies as it denies the voters the possibility of choosing a political alternative – “none of the major parties is ever definitively out“ (ebd.: 22) -, and gives munitions to the rhetorics of neo-populist parties on the political right. In the long run, cartellization will widen the gulf between voters and politicians and make it increasingly difficult to legitimize political decisions.
The organisational dimension is concerned with the balance of power inside the parties. The “mechanics” of internal decision-making are determined by the structural and material resources of the various “faces” within the organisation. Cartel party are characterised by a further strengthening of the “party in public office” which can be explained by their direct access to political decisions in parliaments and governments, their access to the mass media as well as by their better access to state resources (e.g. parliamentary staff). The dominance of party executive organs through parliamentarians, the marginalisation of party activists (e.g. through member ballots) or the professionalization of election campaigns are organizational indicators of the cartel type. The second organizational feature of cartel parties consists in the vertical autonomy of different party levels. Whereas the national (parliamentarian) party elite tries to free itself from the demands of regional and local party leaders as far as political and strategic questions on the national level are concerned, the lower strata insist upon their autonomy in their own domains, e.g. the selection of candidates or local politics: Each side is therefore encouraged to allow the other a free hand. The result is stratarchy“ (ebd.: 21).
Although the causal relationships between these three dimensions are not clearly spelled out by Katz & Mair (1995), it seems to be the logic of the argument that the increase of vulnerability (less party members, more volatile voters) caused party change. Vulnerability brought about a declining capacity of parties to fulfil their representative functions (e.g. interest articulation) which led them
a.) to concentrate on their governmental functions (e.g. selecting leaders, seeking parliamentary majorities, passing laws) and,
b.) to collude with their established opponents in order to secure the required resources for organisational maintenance.
The freedom of manoeuvre which party leaders needed to do both led to internal party reforms which strengthened the “party in public office”. As a result of these changes, the linkages between the professionalized party organisations and the citizenry further eroded, which in turn intensified the trend towards the sphere of the state and towards inter-party collusion (see Young 1998)…
The core element of the cartel party type can be seen in the self-interested co-operation between the major parties which aims at securing organizational resources (public subsidies, patronage) and career stability (income, reelection, alternative political jobs) for the individual politician.