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A Soiled Password: Democracy, the Word and Democracy, the Thing



    1. Telegraph/Guardian journalist turned historian, whose works include biographies of Robert Walpole, Pitt the Elder and Denis Healey, as well as a history of the 1832 Reform Act. He also edited for publication the diaries of Charles Greville.
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This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Correction to ‘A Soiled Password: Democracy, the Word and Democracy, the Thing’ Volume 83, Issue 3, 609, Article first published online: July 2012


The word‘democracy’ to be distinguished from the thing‘democracy.’ Removal by the Italian parliament of a corrupt and scandalous Premier for a respected, honest technician and a form of civil service government does not infringe the second category. Referendums give strength to a handful of already overmighty rich men controlling media outlets. Witness Fox Radio and TV and the poison of Glen Beck, also the virulent nationalism of the Murdoch and Desmond papers. Note the fifty plus year lag in enfranchising women in Switzerland, a self-evident democratic advance held back by ‘the voice of the people’ in successive referendums. Government should be free from populism and be run by educated, intelligent people both in parliament and the Civil Service. ‘Yes Minister,’ however amusing, has done us a disservice. I would trust a senior civil servant above a press lord any day of the week. Witness the good sense of the Upper House in its current informed and experienced composition. The Lords blocked Tony Blair's plans to by-pass Habeas Gorpus, refusing authoritarian government to an elected Premier with no sense of the rule of law or constitutional principle.