22 Jun 2009

Daily Echo - Good things can come out of bad experiences

Good things can come out of bad experiences
AS expected, there was a depressingly low turnout for the recent local and Euro elections. It would seem that a lot of people have rather lost faith in democracy and politicians.
Things were not looking too good even before the MPs' expenses scandal unfolded. I have noticed that many younger people seem a jot less inclined to take an interest in politics. Older people are more likely to vote, but many of them are turned off when they see important planning decisions removed from locally elected councillors.
On a really important health matter, the decision on whether to add fluoride to tap water has not been taken by councillors, or even MPs. It was taken by 12 unelected Government appointed officials, only one of which lives in this area.
As you might expect, people are reacting in different ways. Some are getting apathetic and not even bothering to vote. Others are angry and expressing this by voting for fringe parties. I personally think the best way is to get active and try and change the system.
I was really pleased to join about 30 members of the campaign group Hampshire Against Fluoride recently. We all went up to London, handed in over 15,000 signatures to Downing Street, a protest letter to the Department of Health and were able to meet with and lobby MPs in Westminster.
Although not all MPs agreed with our position on fluoride, they could all understand that there is no popular mandate to impose these changes to our drinking water. I'm very pleased that they have all agreed to try and put a halt to it. It will be very difficult now for the Strategic Health Authority to ignore the will of all local MPs.
The key thing here is that we have to restore democracy where it has been lost. If the power to change things rests with the people you can vote for, there is more point in putting a cross on a ballot paper.
It's interesting that a pressured Prime Minister is at long last talking about the sort of reforms we Liberal Democrats have been pushing for a long time. Good things can come out of bad experiences. Democracy is not yet dead.

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