Polls apart: democracy in an age of inequality

Document type
Paul Skidmore
Date of publication
19 March 2007
Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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This paper argues that as British society has become more unequal since the late 1970s, so too has our democracy. Democratic government is founded on the essential premise that the preferences of all citizens, no matter what their status or station, should count equally. That premise is under threat. Politics is increasingly the preserve of the more affluent. Rich and poor are becoming, quite literally, polls apart. The paper tries to do four things. First, it marshals the growing body of evidence about the rise in political inequality. Second, it offers an account of why the democratic left should be profoundly disturbed by these developments. Third, it suggests some possible explanations for why political inequality has risen, centred on the parallel growth in social inequality. Finally, it offers some proposals for what can be done to tackle these problems, including electoral reform for proportional representation and the introduction of compulsory voting.

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