Mutiny tomorrow presents Democracy on Trial – an idea so timely it has been stolen• by former Tory Cabinet member Michael Portillo for a series on Radio Four.

The Portillo moment was the most popular from the 1997 election and still has a unique frisson among those who delighted in the defeat of the Thatcher / Major axis which destroyed the miners’ union, attacked gays and single mothers and ushered in unfettered neo-liberalism.

The fall of Lehman Brothers and the hung Parliament has had a profound impact on political discourse and Portillo is forced to discuss whether capitalism itself is incompatable with democracy.

Portillo says: “I’d never imagine I would find myself saying this, but the gap between rich and poor which is evidently growing wider very fast within mature democracies does seem to me to imperil the system.
“How many citizens will view the chance to vote every few years as sufficient compensation for watching the super rich move ever further ahead.”

The programme then quotes John Dunn, professor of politics at Cambridge University, as saying: “There is something very deeply inimical in the political idea of democracy to the national dynamics of capitalist development.

“Inimical because capitalism causes intesnifying inequality. That’s actually part of its logic it isn’t a sort of superficial or contingent apect of it. It’s part if what it fundamentally is.

“What is central to the idea of democracy is the idea of political equality but it’s quite unclear how to combine political equal in substance with very dramatic social and economic inequality. There is an element of tacit fraud – or not so tacit fraud – about the invocation of political equality.”

This inimical relationship is at the heart of discussions at Mutiny’s Democracy on Trial which opens at 6pm tomorrow with speed debating at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green, east London.

The first session opens with video interviews with Caroline Lucas – Britain’s first Green MP – and Labour’s Tony Benn. Among other questions, they are asked: “How would you make your party more democratic?”

Ballot Paper
Time Team archeologist Faulkner Neil will then discuss the origins of the theory and practice of democracy in human history – followed by live comedy music aimed at Cameron, Brown and Clegg.

The second session focuses on democracy at home and abroad with contributions from Giles Ji Ungpakorn, an expert on the Red Shirt strugle for democracy in Thailand and Westminster lecturer Virem Swami who will discuss Malaysia.

Giorgos Galanix from Greece will then discuss the latest developments and protests at the birthplace of Western democracy following the financial crisis and arrival of the IMF.

The closing session discusses how we would like to see democracy – globally, nationally and within our own movements, unions and organisations. Kate Connelly from Counterfire – the news website with an elected editorial board – asks can we vote at work and in our movements?

Noel Douglas will report from the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Emma Dowling from Queen Mary discusses altergloalization and horizontality. Then Angry Sam will perform some poems.

The evening will draw to a close with DJs Bon Bon Jovi Jovi who will perform with samples taken from the audience – and perhaps even the quotes from Michael Portillo and John Dunn transcribed above.

Attendees will then be given the chance to vote – using our ballot paper programme – for the next Mutiny event. They have a choice between – Violence on Trial: The State, Domestic and Protest Violence and The Media on Trial: Good Media, Bad Media, New Media?

•Obviously we have no evidence that Portillo got the Democracy on Trial title from us. If we did, we’d be suing him for copyright! LH

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