Welcome to the Democracy In... podcast! In this, our first episode, I'm talking to Nicola Sharratt and John Leighton about what democracy looks like in the United Kingdom.
Note that this is the first of two episodes about the UK!
John is a financial advisor for a tech company and is based in Cambridge, a city based in the South East of England. A self-described politics nerd, John is our on-the-ground guide to the current moment. Particularly the "wft is up with Boris?" question... .
Nicola is an anthropology professor with joint British and US citizenship. She grew up in Canterbury, a city in the South of England. But now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. Interesting, Nicola is currently living and voting in the epicenter of fights over election integrity and the fallout from the January 6 coup-attempt. She brings that perspective to this conversation - particularly in episode 2, where we compare what counts as a political 'scandal' in the UK versus the US.
Like me, Nicola hasn't lived in the UK for about 18 years but retains strong connections and continued to vote in both countries as long as she could. (Note: British Citizens living abroad can only vote in UK elections for 15 years after they leave. Although in researching this post I just discovered this might be about to change...? Exciting!)
In this first episode we get into the nuts and bolts of how you vote, how you are registered, before turning to the thorny issue of: Can we really call ourselves a democracy when we have a hereditary monarchy and an unelected House of Lords?
If you want more information about how the House of Parliament works, and its history, check out the official pages. We get a bit confused about Lords are appointed these days, so here are some more accurate sources of information and debate!
The Pros and Cons of the House of Lords, from The Week, 17 May 2022.
Joining and leaving the House of Lords, from The Institute for Government website
In this episode we also discuss the current government's 'Rwanda policy' on immigration.
For some background check out this Guardian article from April 2022, when it was first announced; subsequent admissions that it will likely lead to violence against LGBTQ+ refugees; outcries from the UK's most prominent religious leader, UN refugee officials, and from the Prince of Wales; and finally strong objections (to the point of mutiny!) from the civil servants expected to carry out this policy.
Other's have pointed out, as John does in our conversation, that this is a deliberately cynical attempt to stir up anger in a 'culture war'.