Sunday, 7 February 2010

What went wrong with Parliamentary democracy?

London Socialist Historians Group
Press release 7th February
Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266


The London Socialist Historians Group, organisers of the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in central London, is to look at the historical antecedents of the current Parliamentary expenses scandal and ask what went wrong with the system of Parliamentary democracy that millions of working people fought to get representation in.

The conference which will hear from a range of scholars expert in the field of labour and working class history is on Saturday 27th February at the IHR, Malet St London WC1. It is open to all and a small voluntary contribution is asked for to cover costs.

Conference organiser Dr Keith Flett said ‘the Parliamentary system is currently in some disrepute but it is worth recalling that working people fought to get access to it but at the same time some had alternative visions of a democratic society or felt that a Parliamentary route to socialism was always likely to be fraught with difficulty'.

The Vote: What Went Wrong?
Saturday 27th February
Wolfson Room,
First Floor,
Institute of Historical Research,
Senate House,
Malet St
London WC1

The recent scandal over MPs’ expenses has raised major questions about parliamentary democracy and its relationship to the labour movement and the left.

Historically the left has fought for democracy and the vote, from the Chartists to the Suffragettes to those who campaigned against the disenfranchisement of black voters in the US and Catholics in the North of Ireland in the 1960s.

There has been, for at least a half-century in the UK, a link between social democracy and corruption, but the same has applied elsewhere, for example in Italy. Has the attempt to democratise parliamentary institutions led simply to a replication of the Old Corrupt practices of the past?

Finally, the conference will examine alternative strategies for democracy on the left, not least the soviets and workers’ councils that have appeared at moments in the last 140 years or so, from the Paris Commune onwards.

The conference will take place in the Wolfson Room on the first floor. Presentations will last for 30 minutes followed by discussion and response. The timetable is as follows:

9.30am Opening remarks and LSHG matters

Logie Barrow, 'Enfranchisement and Stupefaction: vaccination and the vote'
Keith Flett, 'The origins of the electoral impulse in the British working class'

11.30-11.45 Break

Owen Ashton, 'W E Adams, Chartism and Republicanism'
Ian Bullock, 'Gulfs, fissures and cracks. Democracy and the British Left in the early 20th Century'

13.45-14.15 Lunch

Neil Davidson, 'Social Neoliberalism, “Regimes of Consolidation” and the Assault on Representative Democracy, 1989-2008'
Mike Haynes, 'Capitalism, crime and corruption – from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ corruption?'

15.50-16.20 Closing Plenary

Send cash or cheque [made payable to Keith Flett] for £10 [£5 concessions] to
LSHG, 38 Mitchley Rd, London N17 9HG Email: Phone: 07803 167266

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