Even the EU's liberals are arguing against democracy
That is Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian Prime Minister and now leader of ALDE - the alliance of liberals and centrists in the European Parliament, the largest supra-national assembly of parliamentary liberals anywhere on earth - arguing for the abolition of the current German government. In his view, the needs of the people - and, more importantly, the euro - could be adequately serviced not by elected politicians, who have a tendency to bow to public demand, but by a panel of experts - technocrats is the fashionable term - selected by unelected officials. There, in the flesh, is a senior liberal politician in Europe railing against the existence of democracy as we know it.
It may look like a one-man rant, but it's really not. Mr. Verhofstadt's ideas of crushing democracy in an attempt to save the euro project are reflected by policy decisions of all manner of European institutions, both national and supra-national. We've already seen how easily the elected governments of Greece and Italy can be replaced with wholly unelected cabiners of commissioners and economists, without seventy million inhabitants getting a say in the matter. We've already seen the European Commission and the European Court of Justice - tell me, when was the last time you saw the name of anyone in either institution on a ballot sheet? - meddle with national budgets before the elected parliaments ever get the chance to see them. And now there is talk of the Commission being able to set the budgets of member states itself, and impose economic and fiscal reform from afar.
If you were Greek, Irish, or Portuguese, you'd now be reading about how your taxes could be set thousands of miles away in Brussels by people you've never ever heard of, much less voted for, who you have absolutely no power over nor ability to remove from office. How much you get in your pension pot could be determined by unconcerned functionaries who owe nothing to any electorate, and whether a local road-building project goes ahead hinges on the flick of a pen several clouds higher than any democratic process. But you're probably from the UK or America, in which case, I hope you're astounded.
We often hear quotes about democracy or how precious it is. Well, for once, those quotes aren't bumper stickers. We genuinely do stand to lose much of our democracy if we don't get our act together now. The Greeks and the Italians have already lost it, and look what's happening to them. If you're a Tory, would you want someone like Gordon Brown to stay in power in perpetuity? Or George Osborne, if you vote Labour? The only thing that makes either tenure worth enduring is the prospect of voting them out at the end of it. What if you couldn't, and what if the pain they inflicted was ten times harsher? That's exactly what will happen, if we don't pull our fingers out, and declare that the erosion of democracy can go no further.