Growing up, I had a very simplistic view of the word 'democracy'. In history lessons, I'd learned about the past and how nations had been ruled by kings, queens or dictators. I was proud to live in a country where decisions weren't taken for us by one person, but where we the people could choose our own future. What an amazing, childish dream!
I don't think I ever really believed in the myth surrounding Santa Claus, so I never had that experience of being told by a classmate 'you do realise it's all just made up, don't you?' a few days before he would magically descend through the chimney. But I enjoyed the make-believe, pretending that the mince pie would be eaten by some jolly, overweight, larger than life, bearded man. Instead I knew deep down that it was eaten by my father.
Much like our childhood fantasies of Father Christmas, I think we tend to believe the myth rather than the fact about democracy. That charming childhood imagination of a nation with government of the people, by the people, for the people would soon be shattered. Perhaps, after sufficient soul-searching, I might conclude that's the main reason I got involved in politics. I couldn't accept the yawning disconnect between public opinion and the state of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Their Pinocchio-like conduct didn't help matters much either.
Is UKIP any different? Do we represent the public any better than the other parties? I don't agree with UKIP 100% of the time - I'm sure not even a certain Nigel Farage manages to reach 100% - but I'm closer to UKIP's policies than to those of the other parties. I'm not close at all to the media caricature of those same policies.
Does that even matter though? If I were to begin thinking that my opinion is more important than anyone else's because I'm elected, then I'd be falling into the trap that has ensnared establishment politics.
The Assisted Dying Bill was the latest in a whole series of issues on which the British people have effectively no voice whatsoever. If the next government is Conservative or Labour (or Liberal Democrat or Monster Raving Loony Party for that matter), can we honestly say that we know how our vote will affect that thorny issue? It is after all, a matter of conscience subjected to a free vote in Parliament.
People care about euthanasia, whether they're for it or against it. But our democratic system leaves that decision in the hands of an elite political establishment, which is (in that respect at least) almost completely unaccountable.
Like the other parties, UKIP doesn't have a formal position on the Assisted Dying Bill. But unlike the other parties, we believe in a fundamental constitutional change. We believe that the public should have the right to force (through public petition of those on the electoral roll) a referendum on these moral issues.
Oh, there's certainly opposition from the establishment classes when anyone dares to suggest that democracy should be brought into the 21st century. "But if you left it to the people", they rage, "opinion polls show that they'd bring back the death penalty!". Actually, I don't think they would. Many of those who might call for its return down at the pub, or tell a polling company they want it returned, would think twice before putting a cross by a vote which would result in executions. But let's suppose for a second that the people did vote to bring back the death penalty. That's democracy.
And to suggest that the people can't be trusted to choose important issues is the height of arrogance from the Big Bad Wolf of the political class. Actually, the best way to counter political apathy is to give power back to the people. The number one explanation I hear from non-voters is 'my vote won't change anything'. Trusting the people to take decisions would reverse declining turnout at elections almost overnight. We don't need government of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians.
And yes, safeguards would have to be built into law to protect against referenda being used to victimise minorities. Or against the same defeated proposition being brought up again and again by a pressure group hoping to browbeat the public into submission.
It also adds another layer of accountability. If you didn't like what a Labour or Conservative government were doing, you could wait up to five years to express your views at the ballot box. And when election time did come round, you might well be voting on different issues anyway. But if you didn't like what a UKIP government was doing, you could overturn specific policies efficiently. A UKIP government would be accountable to the people in a way in which Labour and Conservative governments have never been. It's time for the Sleeping Beauty of democracy to awaken.
I started this article talking about Santa Claus, and am ending it by raising the possibility of a UKIP government at some time in the future. No-one would have believed a few years ago that UKIP could win the recent European elections. A few weeks ago, the media still doubted that UKIP could even win one seat at a General Election. Then, when constituency polls show UKIP winning 2 of the 14 seats polled, the media claim we will only win 2 out of the 650. How far can UKIP rise, and how quickly? That one is a matter for Cassandra, not Santa.Suggest a correction