6.8.5 Getting the Best from Politicians
The purpose of government is to serve the people, so the public needs ways of getting the best from politicians who have power over them
Both authoritarian and democratically elected governments should do their best for the people, but there are big differences in how much pressure the population can exert:
● As previously noted (6.3.1), people have no means of peacefully replacing an authoritarian government that is proving unsatisfactory. For its own security, though, it would benefit by submitting itself to some form of popular oversight. That would increase its legitimacy.
● Unsatisfactory governments can be replaced in a democracy (6.3.2), so they need to be seen to be performing well to avoid losing power. They are expected to meet commitments made in a manifesto or party platform (18.104.22.168).
Different aspects of getting the best from politicians are described in the following sub-sections:
● Transparency is important (22.214.171.124). Politicians would be more likely to perform ‘well’ if they knew that their actions were transparent. They need to explain their policies to the population and report progress. And people need access to information.
● Politicians need to be held to account for improper behaviour (126.96.36.199). A robust complaints procedure and visible evidence of disciplinary measures are needed.
● Satisfaction with governance is hard to measure, although a wealth of statistics are produced (188.8.131.52). People rely on expert commentary and the opinions of others.
● It is often difficult to assign responsibility or blame to individual politicians or political parties, because some factors are beyond their control (184.108.40.206). Comparisons with other countries can be helpful, though. For example, every country in the world faced a crisis with the coronavirus pandemic – but the TUC (among others) reported that UK is only country in G7 where household budgets have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/685b.htm.