Parliamentarians from the UK and India Discuss Nuances of Parliamentary Democracy in Kochi

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Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) presented a discussion titled Future of Parliamentary Democracy on February 15, 2018, at Kochi. A panel consisting of selected Members of Parliament from the United Kingdom and India came together to discuss issues surrounding democracy and the future of the parliamentary democracy model.

The panel consisted of N K Premachandran MP, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kollam; Craig Whittaker MP, Conservative Party, Calder Valley Constituency; Angela Rayner MP, Labour Party, Ashton-under-Lyne Constituency; Daniel Zeichner MP, Labour Party, Cambridge Constituency; and Steve Reed MP, Labour Party/Co-op, Croydon North Constituency.

The discussion, moderated by Chairperson of CPPR D Dhanuraj, highlighted the challenges to parliamentary democracy. Mr D Dhanuraj, who welcomed the guests, said that the biggest challenge to democracy came from the voters. Plato’s great worry about democracy that ‘citizens would live from day to day, indulging in the pleasure of the moment’ has proved prescient, he added.

In the opening remarks, N K Premachandran shared from his own parliamentary experiences and said, “Parliamentary democracy is the best model, as there is accountability to people, but we must introspect on whether accountability of the government through this system is being delivered.” He also emphasised on the need for electoral reforms and enhancing public participation in law and policy making to have a fruitful parliamentary democracy.

Craig Whittaker applauded Kerala’s significant contribution to Britain, especially in the healthcare sector. “India and UK can be proud of their shared tradition of democracy but we are facing similar issues with different stages of development. Despite being a developed country, we are struggling with gender and health issues, inequality and environmental concerns.”

Daniel Zeichner, comparing the Chinese government model to parliamentary democracy said, “In the Chinese model, the work gets done quickly but people have no say in it. British systems might be slow but it is more flexible and can deal with the challenges of the future.”

On the role of women in democracy, Angela Rayner highlighted the challenges women parliamentarians experience and said, “Formal education, wealth and fame are not essential to contest and win elections. Commitment to people is far more important.”

Agreeing with Ms Rayner on the same note, Steve Reed said that every man should be a feminist and support gender equality in all spheres.

On Brexit, the British MPs unanimous agreed that it was an emotional decision. Craig Whittaker added that the key reason for leaving the European Union (EU) was lack of trust in political decisions and politicians.

Bharat Joshi, British Deputy High Commissioner (BDHC), Chennai, delivered the concluding remarks. He appreciated CPPR for hosting the discussion and highlighted how these discussions could help evolve 21st century solutions to 21st century problems.

Media mentions of the interactive session

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