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What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?

09:35 UK time, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague is in Tunisia, where he is calling for "greater political openness." Is he right to visit the region at this time?

Mr Hague's visit, which began on Tuesday, starts a three-day trip to five countries in northern Africa and the Middle East amid a wave of anti-government protests in the region.

Mr Hague will call "for greater political openness and economic development in the Middle East in the light of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt" and look to strengthen ties in the region, the UK Foreign Office said in a statement.

On Monday night, Mr Hague posted a message on micro-blogging website Twitter, saying: "Heading to Tunisia to meet the new interim government and show UK support for the people of Tunisia and their democratic hopes."

What is your reaction to William Hague's visit? Should the UK be strengthening ties in the region? Should the UK promote democracy abroad? Or should the UK stay out of the affairs of other countries?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 8

  • Comment number 1.

    He should keep his nose out of their problems.

    Let the Tunisians choose who they want and let them settle in before going over and bothering them, they have enough problems without some interfering British politician visiting. Wait until things have calmed down a bit and they have got themselves organised.

  • Comment number 2.

    Perhaps now would be a good time for us to accept that we are no longer a major player on the world stage and perhaps just for once keep our noses out of other peoples business.
    Tunisias problems are for Tunisians to sort out.


    Can you imagine if the boot was on the other foot and it was a high ranking Tunisian politician coming to UK to express his opinion and try to influence the political process here?
    At best we would ignore him; hopefully the Tunisians will view Hague in the same light.

  • Comment number 3.

    What I am going to write is not directly related to what you have asked, but somehow related.
    Democracy for the developing world is a troy horse which from within it a religious dictatorship (ex. Iran, and Egypt in brewing) or the golden rule of politics "Divide and Rule" (ex. Iraq) comes out, and both are in the best interest of companies like BP. And Brits are good horse riders.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with the previous commentators on here, we should leave well alone. They managed to do what they wanted and get a result or are at least on the way to a result.

    Our form of democracy does not work for them as the culture is different. They will develop as we did over time. If they want to look at other systems them look at the internet and read the HYS blogs and they will see nothing is perfect.

    What Mr Hague is doing is extending the friendly arm of the sales people in the UK, we are here for you when you want to buy something.... or something like that.

    We are a small dog, think of a poodle with a Thatcherite hairdo ( I must be the first) and forget the old British Lion. We make a lot of noise but really emerging nations do not need us, we need them.

  • Comment number 5.

    2. At 10:17am on 08 Feb 2011, devilzadvacate1 wrote:
    //
    Perhaps now would be a good time for us to accept that we are no longer a major player on the world stage and perhaps just for once keep our noses out of other peoples business.
    Tunisias problems are for Tunisians to sort out.
    //

    -How on earth is promoting democratic reform 'putting our noses in it'?

    Democracy is what we are all about. We know it to the best form of government possible. We should make very effort to promote it, whether we are still a major world player or not (and in my view, we are).

  • Comment number 6.

    It is not for politicians to try telling anyone what 'democracy' is because most of them don't like it very much, even if they can remember what it actually is.

    The early Americans had the right idea, 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people' - unfortunately their politicians are just as bad as ours in putting self or party interests before the good of the nation and its citizens, and all have an atrocious track record for listening to citizens and complying with their wishes.

    Go read Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and some of the other seminal works on what democracy really is.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a mature liberal democracy, the UK should encourage the spread of democracy as the best form of government.
    However we have to accept that the will of the people will determine their democracy. Each countries democratic structures reflects the history and culture of that country.
    We cannot encourage free elections and then deny the results because the 'wrong' party won.
    The West's involvement in the internal politics of South America, the Middle East and elsewhere is not a proud record.

  • Comment number 8.

    1. At 10:03am on 08 Feb 2011, Stokkevn wrote:
    //
    He should keep his nose out of their problems.
    //

    -The man is the 'foreign secretary' for heavens sake...where do you want him to put his nose?? LOL.




  • Comment number 9.

    "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" The Who sang that. Mr Ghannouchi - who served for many years in the ousted president's regime. Mr Hague is there to keep the UK interests at the fore front and to continue the "Support" (Bribes?) and "backing" (Military training and weapons ?) from the Uk

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Definition of democracy I learned at school. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing what is for lunch. Not exactly a fan.

  • Comment number 12.

    I prefer the non-interventionist approach where the government encourages open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy while not interfering politically, militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations.

    If Mr Hague wants to encourage greater political openness and to promote Democracy then he should start at home by getting rid of the unelected and hereditary Head of State, the unelected House of Lords, by giving us a directly elected Head of Government, making the House of Commons a truly democratic institution and by giving us an accountable judiciary and police force.

  • Comment number 13.

    We'd be better off promoting more democracy in the UK before poking our noses into other countries' affairs. For starters we should leave the EU asap & have a written constitution, but not one written by the liberal left as that would only lead to a quasi dictatorship. We need to get our own house in order first before even thinking about democracy on foreign countries.

  • Comment number 14.

    "What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?" - HYS:

    A FAR less forceful & less PC-role than it has in the past 13 years. During those years, Labours attempts at forcing PC down the throats of other Countries has done ONE thing - made us more enemies.
    As and when the people of (what Labour considers) 'oppressive-regimes' become AWARE that they are 'oppressed' - THEY will decide on their future naturally - without our interference. Note: Tunisia, Egypt etc etc etc.

  • Comment number 15.

    We should practice what we are trying to preach.
    The B & B government eroded more democracy from the British system than any other in recent times. That, plus the way we are now subserveant to non elected masters in European because they,(B & B,) did not stand up for the British people.

  • Comment number 16.

    Do we not meddle enough?

  • Comment number 17.

    "What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?"

    Well lets review that, shall we? Let's start by looking at the role the former PM Gordon Brown had to play in realsing the Lockerbie bomber. An interesting event that, strangely, hasn't made national news.

    Then let us review the Scottish Labour leaders words "If I was First Minister, I would not release the Lockerbie Bomber".

    Of course, he said this in Parliament while his master, Gordon Brown was quietly releasing the Bomber.

    I therefore have no faith in the undemoctratic Labour party and thusly no faith in British democracy at all.

  • Comment number 18.

    Democracy has so many meanings! Where to start ? Its OK if , when and where the people have control and not political parties or corporations as in the USA. My letters to my elected reps. seldom get a response. When they do its usually a form letter thanking me and asking for money. How about a tribal government ? Or a benevolent dictator; follow the rules and you are OK ! I've heard that Tito was such a ruler. A good king ? How about anarchy ? No government at all ? I'll enjoy the postings to this topic !

  • Comment number 19.

    6. At 11:08am on 08 Feb 2011, Megan wrote:

    Go read Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and some of the other seminal works on what democracy really is.

    Well known master mason along with George Washington who took inspiration from older texts.

    People got in the way though and now we have politics.

  • Comment number 20.

    The idea of little Willy Hague travelling abroad to try and promote democracy in other countries is just laughable.

    He doesn't have the right gravitas for the role. He will always be remembered as the 16 year old Tory boy, and hasn't really changed since that hilarious clip of him at an Eighties Tory Conference.

  • Comment number 21.

    After he has finished campaigning for greater democracy in Tunisia, Mr Hague will come back to UK and start campaigning against greater democracy in UK. After all if AV is introduced, more people might start voting against the Lab/Con cartel that have been running the country for the last 100 years.

  • Comment number 22.

    What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?

    START AT HOME!

    Firstly lets get our own house in order, FAIRNESS should RULE but it doesn't.

  • Comment number 23.

    7. At 11:12am on 08 Feb 2011, LeftieAgitator wrote:
    As a mature liberal democracy, the UK should encourage the spread of democracy as the best form of government.

    ..........................................................
    Just like Afganistan.

  • Comment number 24.

    5. At 11:04am on 08 Feb 2011, Simon Morgan wrote:

    2. At 10:17am on 08 Feb 2011, devilzadvacate1 wrote:
    //
    Perhaps now would be a good time for us to accept that we are no longer a major player on the world stage and perhaps just for once keep our noses out of other peoples business.
    Tunisias problems are for Tunisians to sort out.
    //

    -How on earth is promoting democratic reform 'putting our noses in it'?

    Democracy is what we are all about. We know it to the best form of government possible. We should make very effort to promote it, whether we are still a major world player or not (and in my view, we are).
    -----------------------------
    we should promote nothing! We are not a major player in Democracy, take a look at how our last election was done, two parties adding their votes together to push another government out. Is this the type of message we should spread?
    In actual fact we shouldn't spread a single message. England has always stuck its nose up at everyone else and how they do things, why do you think we are in the mess we are and countries like Germany have done far better, answer: Our arrogance!
    Tunisia can do as she pleases, it is none of our business! After all our country's attempts to influence other parts of the world (Australia, India, the US, malaysia, The falklands, Iraq and god knows how many others!) and what do we have to show for it...NOTHING!!!
    None of us, including the ego driven Hague, have the right to tell anyone else how to run their country. For god's sake, we've already got David Cameron who thinks he's the head of the E.U.(small man syndrome!)
    I have never been more ashamed of being English than I have been in the last few years, we are a disgrace to the developed world, and what makes it worse is that we're just a tiny island crammed with 60 million people in it, what a joke!

  • Comment number 25.

    Hague could do something really positive, such as asking the rioting Tunisians what they wanted from democracy.









    And then get the UK Government to do it here.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well; I think that Uk should stay out of our business; neither Tunisia neither Egypt ask help from UK Government; the governments of west protected the dictators in Arab World and it still do that so there is no confidence in it.
    I hope UK Minister come this once to encourage people and government of Tunisia and support it to continue in the way of democracy and justice.

  • Comment number 27.

    Are a million fools more clever than one genius?

    Who decides?

  • Comment number 28.

    We can lead by example. Other than that we have no right to offer anything other than advice. I think the "must interfere" attitude of the western governments is in danger of making us even more unpopular with people who are trying to get out from under corrupt governments, some of which we have helped stay in power.
    It's not all about what's good for the West or what we think is the right thing to do, Watching Obama & Dave trying to "get involved without getting involved" in the protests in Egypt has been quite uncomfortable viewing. Regime change doesn't happen overnight, we can't slap a new government on the wound like a plaster & hope everything will go back to normal.
    I wish the best for those who want their rights & freedoms, even if it does make my life more difficult.

  • Comment number 29.

    8. At 11:13am on 08 Feb 2011, Simon Morgan wrote:

    "-The man is the 'foreign secretary' for heavens sake...where do you want him to put his nose?? LOL."

    Precisely so.

    9. At 11:13am on 08 Feb 2011, NoToNWO wrote:

    "Mr Hague is there to keep the UK interests at the fore front....

    I hate to burst your bubble, but as UK Foreign Secretary, that would be part of his Job Description.

    ".....and to continue the "Support" (Bribes?) and "backing" (Military training and weapons ?) from the Uk"

    And that would be mere opinion on your part.

  • Comment number 30.

    13. At 11:22am on 08 Feb 2011, GeoffLiberty wrote:
    We'd be better off promoting more democracy in the UK before poking our noses into other countries' affairs. For starters we should leave the EU asap & have a written constitution, but not one written by the liberal left as that would only lead to a quasi dictatorship. We need to get our own house in order first before even thinking about democracy on foreign countries.



    and a constistution written by the authoritarian right would not lead to a "quasi dictatorship" then?

  • Comment number 31.

    First define democracy.

    As I see it the only difference between a dictatorship and our democracy is we get to choose the dictator. Once you put your cross in the box that’s it that’s your democracy exercised.

    After the student riots I listened to a number of interviews on Radio 4 with some pompous Minister stating that protests were wrong and that people should use Due Process but never really defined due process.

    Well I can only assume that she (the Minister) meant use your vote to change things, use democracy, but how does that work when after only a short period in office the very people you voted for because they made election promises such as ‘No Increases to Student Fees’ then reneged on their promises. Is that democracy?

    On that basis our parties can promise anything to win your vote and then do what they like.

    I think we should sort our own house out before we continue to meddle in other countries affairs.

  • Comment number 32.

    12. At 11:18am on 08 Feb 2011, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:
    I prefer the non-interventionist approach where the government encourages open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy while not interfering politically, militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations.
    ------------

    ^^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  • Comment number 33.

    Hardly in a position to preach about democracy to anyone, is he? Part of a "government" that more than 60% of us didn't vote for. And the day we no longer have to put up with unelected "peers" like Ms Warsi telling us what to say, do and think, is the day we might be able to start pointing the finger at others.

  • Comment number 34.

    Before we try telling others to be democratic, let's try it for ourselves. Because there is not much democracy about Britain.

  • Comment number 35.

    #13. GeoffLiberty wrote:
    "We'd be better off promoting more democracy in the UK before poking our noses into other countries' affairs. For starters we should leave the EU asap & have a written constitution, but not one written by the liberal left as that would only lead to a quasi dictatorship. We need to get our own house in order first before even thinking about democracy on foreign countries."
    I agree we should promote more democracy at home. However, the EU gives us the closest thing to a written constitution, something our "democratic" old ways resisted for centuries. Would you prefer a constitution written by fascists, leading to an actual dictatorship?

  • Comment number 36.

    Few people will enjoy reading this...

    Democracy? Hasn't that got something to do with the ideas of the ancient Greeks? Jeez - that was a long time ago! Oh it's a fine idea for a nation... if it wasn't that it concentrates power in the hands of the few who invariably get corrupted. (I think they're back to the haves and have-nots type of squabbling in Greece nowadays).

    And is there ANY democracy on the world stage? We have a UN but we know that they're impotent when faced with the self-seeking agendas of superpowers who, in turn, often have to bend to big business and global brands.

    The West got rich once upon a time by invading and robbing the riches of other nations through subjugation and even enslavement... then it became all pious and politically correct once it realised that it also wanted to be able to live with itself. There was no problem with this shift as at that point, control had become economic.

    As it has been said that all possession is theft, it's a bit 'rich' that the media dresses up Hague troting off from affluent Britain to the poorer countries of N Africa, as 'promoting democracy'. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see he's simply promoting the UK's national interests. (Why was this mission not undertaken BEFORE Ben Ali was ousted?)

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Words are cheap.... unless like the Americans, Hague bribes them with masses of aid taken from our pockets.

  • Comment number 39.

    What is your reaction to William Hague's visit? Should the UK be strengthening ties in the region? Should the UK promote democracy abroad? Or should the UK stay out of the affairs of other countries?
    What on earth is he doing? Like the Tunisians would want to swap one dictatorship for another two party dictatorship from an almost bankrupt country. I can see the Tunisians thinking, "hang on, aren't the Brits responsible in some small way for the mess that is now Iraq?" He is probably over there doing research into who is pulling the strings. If there is no blossoming plutocracy he won't even know where to start. I wonder if prince Andrew is in tow for business promotion purposes and photo op's. Funny really, Britain doing business with every tin pot dictator on the planet but as soon as the people revolt there we are offering advice on democracy. Shameful tut tut.

  • Comment number 40.

    The UK is hardly in a good position to preach to others. British democracy consists of making promises to the public before an election then breaking those promises immediately you come to power. We have an antiquated parliamentary system full of career politicians who believe in one thing - keeping their jobs. It is quite rare to see a politician with genuine convictions, though there are many who shold be convicted.

  • Comment number 41.

    11. At 11:17am on 08 Feb 2011, Confuciousfred wrote:
    Definition of democracy I learned at school. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing what is for lunch. Not exactly a fan.



    Yes, we all know that the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship where the leader has only the best of intentions and the needs oh his/her people at heart. The slight problem there is that these "best of intentions" tend to get corrupted and results in them maintaining power for its own sake but under the cover that there is "no-one" else who is ready to take over from the "great leader".

    So, like it or not, democracy is the worst possible form of government. Apart, that is, from all the alternatives.

    Certainly the west should be encouraging other authoritarian states to follow democratic principles as economic development tend to go hand in hand with personal liberties. However, democracy is not just about holding elections. Not even just "free and fair" elections. It is about the supremacy of the rule of law, respect for individual freedoms and liberties, the right to criticise (so opposition is not viewed as treason), it is about robust constitutional processes such as the separation of powers of executive, legislature and judiciary. Whilst each should find its own way of implementing democracy there are some core principles that all have to have.

  • Comment number 42.

    24. At 11:43am on 08 Feb 2011, Ben wrote:

    5. At 11:04am on 08 Feb 2011, Simon Morgan wrote:

    2. At 10:17am on 08 Feb 2011, devilzadvacate1 wrote:
    //
    Perhaps now would be a good time for us to accept that we are no longer a major player on the world stage and perhaps just for once keep our noses out of other peoples business.
    Tunisias problems are for Tunisians to sort out.
    //

    -How on earth is promoting democratic reform 'putting our noses in it'?

    Democracy is what we are all about. We know it to the best form of government possible. We should make very effort to promote it, whether we are still a major world player or not (and in my view, we are).
    -----------------------------
    we should promote nothing! We are not a major player in Democracy, take a look at how our last election was done, two parties adding their votes together to push another government out. Is this the type of message we should spread?
    In actual fact we shouldn't spread a single message. England has always stuck its nose up at everyone else and how they do things, why do you think we are in the mess we are and countries like Germany have done far better, answer: Our arrogance!
    Tunisia can do as she pleases, it is none of our business! After all our country's attempts to influence other parts of the world (Australia, India, the US, malaysia, The falklands, Iraq and god knows how many others!) and what do we have to show for it...NOTHING!!!
    None of us, including the ego driven Hague, have the right to tell anyone else how to run their country. For god's sake, we've already got David Cameron who thinks he's the head of the E.U.(small man syndrome!)
    I have never been more ashamed of being English than I have been in the last few years, we are a disgrace to the developed world, and what makes it worse is that we're just a tiny island crammed with 60 million people in it, what a joke!


    -----

    i think your post is a joke

    the public voted no clear winner was there so 2 party's merged?
    that IS what most people voted for after all

    or are you saying that we should just have no government? and see how many month we last?


    david cameron head of the eu?

    yes thats why hes standing up to them more than any labour leader did?
    thats why he refused to pay the full increase to the eu?
    thats why he is taking the EU on over giving prisoners the vote because the PUBLIC dont want it?

    your ashamed to be english?
    more like the country is ashamed to call english

  • Comment number 43.

    It`s Hagues job to interact with foreign governments not to influence their domestic policy, electoral processes or choice of government. That is the decision the people take not some foreign dignitary.

  • Comment number 44.

    14. At 11:27am on 08 Feb 2011, Tez wrote:
    "What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?" - HYS:

    A FAR less forceful & less PC-role than it has in the past 13 years. During those years, Labours attempts at forcing PC down the throats of other Countries has done ONE thing - made us more enemies.
    As and when the people of (what Labour considers) 'oppressive-regimes' become AWARE that they are 'oppressed' - THEY will decide on their future naturally - without our interference. Note: Tunisia, Egypt etc etc etc.


    So you think Thatcher and Reagan/Bush Snr were mistaken to bring democracy to Eastern Europe then? It isn't just the past 13 years when the policy of British governments to help subjugated peoples was UK governmnet policy, you know!?

  • Comment number 45.

    8. At 11:13am on 08 Feb 2011, Simon Morgan wrote:
    1. At 10:03am on 08 Feb 2011, Stokkevn wrote:
    //
    He should keep his nose out of their problems.
    //

    -The man is the 'foreign secretary' for heavens sake...where do you want him to put his nose?? LOL.

    ----------------------------------------------------


    Not too sure what LOL ( lonely old lodger? ) is but the foreign secretary is there to promote British interests overseas and not force our sort of democracy on a government that has been in power for five minutes and still trying to resolve internal problems of their own.

    If you were capable of reading more than the first line I did also say "Wait until things have calmed down a bit and they have got themselves organised."

  • Comment number 46.

    Thats a laugh!The UK preaching democracy?Its this government who is ending access to legal aid,the CIB and wanting to opt out of the European Human Rights Act-not to mention denying the population a vote of important issues such as the EU.All of which is done in the name of democracy however doesnt have the overall support of the people.What sort of democracy is that?
    The very worst part of the so called UK democracy is that we as a country dont even have a constitution.Keep quiet Mr.Hague before your mouth runs away with you.

  • Comment number 47.

    Not very scientific I know, but I have just asked the guys I am working with (mostly Gulf Arabs) what they thought about Mr. Hague’s visit.

    None – not one out of 23 had heard of Mr. Hague.

    When I explained who he was, where he had gone and what message we was delivering, at best, all of them thought it was a waste of time whilst most thought it was insulting to the Tunisian people and nothing to do with Britain.

    So much for Britain’s place in the world.

  • Comment number 48.

    He’s cot some cheek. He condemned the EDL demonstration in Luton.
    Where does free speech and majority democracy come into that.

  • Comment number 49.

    Political transparency is an intereting concept. W Hague should introduce it in the UK,leading by example is always best... I sometimes get the impression that the West's concept for democracy in foreign parts is "Of course you can have any democracy you want as long as we like who you vote for".........

  • Comment number 50.

    None. And while we're at it, to hell with democracy, it's freedom we should be promoting.

  • Comment number 51.

    Promote democracy abroad? Presumably from a politicians' viewpoint this means giving advice on how to do exactly what you want behind the electorate's back without committing the details to any form of communication that Wikileaks might pick up. How to tell the people of a country that they are all in it together but still manage to get the poor to pay for mistakes of the greedy elite. How to set up a tax system where cash strapped ordinary citizens are penalised if they don't pay every last drop demanded of them but allow the same greedy elite to avoid every possible penny. Sounds as though his promotion of democracy might just as well be stay as you are - there isn't really a lot of difference.

  • Comment number 52.

    It's none of our damn business.
    Americas obsession with exporting democracy has resulted in numourous wars all over the world, we have aided and abetted in their adventures when we should have learned our lesson from the crusades.

    You cannot impose religion or democracy.

    Perhaps the thing we should do is allow democracy in our own country, like a vote on the EU treaty for instance, as promised by Blair and Brown and our current PM.

    Hipocrasy????

  • Comment number 53.

    If the foreign secretary is in Tunisia to promote British trade all well and good. If he's there to meddle in the countries internal politics then this is a dangerous game.

  • Comment number 54.

    Britian does not, and never has believed in democrasy. If it did why do we support Saudi Arbaia? Why did we support the Sha of Iran and then impose sanctions upon them as soon as they become a democrasy?

    If we support democrasy why do we not recognise Hamas in the gaza strip? Nobody could deny they represent the will of the people as they had a 90% turnout in their elections and it was monitored externally.

    Given we have a 25% turnout in our elections and vote rigging is known to go on you could argue the gaza strip is more democratic than we are.

    So no we don't care about or support democrasy. All we are interested in is 'stability'.

    And of course when we or the americans say:

    stability

    what we really mean is:-

    Doing as they are told.

    If a country does as its told ie: Saudi Arabia or the Sha of Iran, then they can be as brutal dictators as they like.

    But if a country has the audacity to not do as it is told ie: Iran (theocratic democrasy) or Cuba (dictatorship) then they are punished.

    Look at Iran? Countless sanctions despite them not actually do any more than acting upon the will of its shia population.

    And in the cae of tunisia? Hague is hedging his bets. He sees a movement in leadership behond Britians control so he's getting in their to ensure whoever takes over does as they are told.

    If they agree? Then they will be rich. If they refuse? Then they can expect sanctions and demonisation in the media. And thats if they are lucky.

    In the case of many countries ie: ecuador they can expect their new leader to be assasinated by the CIa. They can expect paid attempted coups also.

    Look at hugo chavez in venezuala? The CIA have tried to assasinate him several times.

    So the message is clear:-

    Do as you are told and we will make you rich personally whilst your people lose everything because of loans your country will take out with us you can never repay. Refuse to do as you are told and expect assasination, murder and war.

  • Comment number 55.

    Very accurate, the post that described democracy as "Two wolves and a lamb discussing what's for lunch." My father used to say that democracy was "rule by the lowest common denominator - what the market will bear". It's also variously been described as "the best shell for capitalism" - particularly pungent given neo-liberism's recent economic disasters - and as "The working class being allowed to vote every five years to decide which part of the ruling class will oppress them for the next five". But enough of amusing ourselves. We need only recall that in Ancient Greece, which properly is where the word "democracy" originated, it was government of the people, by the people, for the people - as long as you were a white, male, property-owner - definitely not the system of choice for the non-white, the propertyless, women, or the slaves on whom the whole now-overhyped social system rested. A bit like now, in fact.

  • Comment number 56.

    Britain is a phoney democracy, why should any foreign secretary from a phoney democracy give a lecture about a true democracy to anyone. If our governments past and present listened to it's people and acted on what the people wanted, feared, requested etc; then we could be classed as a democracy. Some things are too important to allow a bunch of second rate politicians to make a decision on, examples, a referendum on the EU, immigration. A referendum on both these subjects are required and once a decision is made, that has to hold true for a generation, not as in some countries where they keep having referendums until they get the answer they want.

  • Comment number 57.

    It would seem (as is apparent on most HYSes) that what many HYSers mean by "democracy" is getting what they want all the time.

  • Comment number 58.

    Yes, whatever that means. If a country votes freely for an Islamic state or one closer to our own system, then who are we to decide they can or can't have it?

    Our meddling has done nothing but prolonged suffering and caused wars and terrorism throughout the middle east and elsewhere.

    The people of that particular country must be free to choose!

  • Comment number 59.

    He should keep his nose out of the affairs of other nations and so should we. While we are on the subject of "democracy" why cant the Beeb ask the same question of our own politicians. The only time we seem to get democracy is once every five years or at the behest of the incompetents who occupy no 10.

  • Comment number 60.

    50. At 12:13pm on 08 Feb 2011, Dr John Galt wrote:
    None. And while we're at it, to hell with democracy, it's freedom we should be promoting.
    ________________________________________________________________

    How do you promote freedom? Oxymoron? Surely you can only realise freedom?

    ...though, yes, you don't realise much through 'democracy'...at least nothing we haven't already seen go badly wrong, somewhere, sometime.


  • Comment number 61.

    The people of Tunisia dont want western democracy ,they want a Muslim state and shria law .

  • Comment number 62.

    48. At 12:11pm on 08 Feb 2011, Hugh Haddow wrote:
    He’s cot some cheek. He condemned the EDL demonstration in Luton.
    Where does free speech and majority democracy come into that.


    Err, Hague is entitled to exercise his right to free speech too, you know?

  • Comment number 63.

    56. At 12:24pm on 08 Feb 2011, Toothpick Harry wrote:
    Britain is a phoney democracy, why should any foreign secretary from a phoney democracy give a lecture about a true democracy to anyone. If our governments past and present listened to it's people and acted on what the people wanted, feared, requested etc; then we could be classed as a democracy. Some things are too important to allow a bunch of second rate politicians to make a decision on, examples, a referendum on the EU, immigration. A referendum on both these subjects are required and once a decision is made, that has to hold true for a generation, not as in some countries where they keep having referendums until they get the answer they want.


    I have news for you: we had a referendum on the EU in 1975.

  • Comment number 64.

    What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?

    What does the UK know about promoting democracy?!! Its totally controlled by banks! Banks dont do democracy, they do theiving and gambling of everyone else's money. How is that democratic?#

    If I was the Tunisian government I'd laugh William Hague out of town as one that has the least possible idea what democracy is about.

  • Comment number 65.

    Courting Tunisia, a moderate Muslim country gets no brownie points from me however preaching democracy to Iran would get my vote so when are you going there Mr.Hague? They might not listen but you could claim that at least you tried which deserves brownie points.

  • Comment number 66.

    He should get back here. Stop sticking his nose into other people's business and start earning his salary by doing something for the British!

  • Comment number 67.

    What role should the UK play in promoting democracy?


    LOL.

    UK needs to get its own house in order first.

    UK democracy is in a stalemate of fraudulent pretentious and ineptitude.

    Is democracy something that allows a minority to dictate to the majority, if so, YOU CAN KEEP IT.

    The ONLY way to FULL democracy can be via PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

    HOW can it EVER be justified that 60% of voters can just have their votes TRASHED and made WORTHLESS is a first past the post system.

    I think one of the MAIN obstacles to REAL DEMOCRACY in UK is Parliament itself.

    The buildings are INCAPABLE of providing a MORALLY fair & just proportional government that TRUELY and FACTUALLY is REPRESENTATIVE of the CITIZENS of the UK.

    TRADITION is also NO REASON to NOT IMPLEMENT change.

    COST of MORE MPs is also NO MORAL REASON to NOT implement JUST & FAIR MORAL CHANGE.

    FEAR/SCAREMONGERING is NO MORAL REASON to NOT implement JUST & FAIR MORAL CHANGE.

    UK democracy is just a pathetic Etonian, Victorian, diabolical INSULT to TRUE DEMOCRACY.

    If this government or its predecessor government were FACTUALLY TRUE to CHOICE & FREEDOM and EMPOWERMENT of the people, then they would PROVIDE IT AT ITS HEART and NOT just at its OUTER tips/reaches which are ALL TO WELL COMPROMISED BY the CENTRAL HEART of government.

    Hague calling for "greater political openness" for other countrys is just so pretentious and outrageous when TIME AFTER TIME AFTER TIME AFTER TIME so much freedom and LAWFUL access to information in UK is JUST SIMPLY DENIED.

    I say to Hague, & his political GANG, you REPRESENT a system that is ENDEMICALLY BIASED, a system that exists by DENYING a MAJORITY of UK voters ANY SAY WHATSOEVER in the running of OUR COUNTRY, and you also drip feed us the possibility of yet ANOTHER system AV, which is in MANY instances EVEN WORSE THAN THE PRESENT SYSTEM AS YOU FORCE CITIZENS INTO VOTING FOR THOSE THEY TOTTALLY OPPOSE, via using a SECOND CHOICE VOTE.

    If you were a Nazi, would you REALLY want your 2nd vote to go to Communists, or vice versa.

    If you are a Tory, would you REALLY want your 2nd/3rd choice vote to ENABLE and HELP RESULT in the election of Labour or Lib Dems.

    Hague should RETURN to UK, what he has to say on democracy is FACTUALLY PURE HYPOCRACY, EASILY substantiated and proveable in a moral and decent court of law.

  • Comment number 68.

    63. At 12:28pm on 08 Feb 2011, Total Mass Retain wrote:
    56. At 12:24pm on 08 Feb 2011, Toothpick Harry wrote:
    Britain is a phoney democracy, why should any foreign secretary from a phoney democracy give a lecture about a true democracy to anyone. If our governments past and present listened to it's people and acted on what the people wanted, feared, requested etc; then we could be classed as a democracy. Some things are too important to allow a bunch of second rate politicians to make a decision on, examples, a referendum on the EU, immigration. A referendum on both these subjects are required and once a decision is made, that has to hold true for a generation, not as in some countries where they keep having referendums until they get the answer they want.

    I have news for you: we had a referendum on the EU in 1975
    -------------------------------

    WRONG!

    We had a refenedum on the EEC - a trading relationship, not a new government that subsumes ours.

  • Comment number 69.

    Democracy doesn't work in countries like Tunisia because of the patriarchal mentality there. All islamic countries are strictly hierarchical and all are corrupt from top to bottom. If you want anything done, you pay, and if people want you to do your job as a public servant, they pay you. This is accepted as the norm, and people sincerely believe that it is the same the world over. Democracy is by definition fair, and so is impossible in islamic countries. I know this post won't be published but I wonder if you could look me in the eye and say I'm wrong.

  • Comment number 70.

    I am not sure "our kind" of democracy has anything to offer others. Except the likes of Starbucks.

    I think Mr. Hague probably voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq despite massive public objection and demonstration from the British voters.

    I think the current Government ought to wait and see what happens at home over the next couple of years before it hypocritically champions its own style of lost leadership to other nations.

    But as the public here have found out, time and time again, a Politician has no shame.

  • Comment number 71.

    52. At 12:21pm on 08 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:
    It's none of our damn business.
    Americas obsession with exporting democracy has resulted in numourous wars all over the world, we have aided and abetted in their adventures when we should have learned our lesson from the crusades.

    You cannot impose religion or democracy.

    Perhaps the thing we should do is allow democracy in our own country, like a vote on the EU treaty for instance, as promised by Blair and Brown and our current PM.

    Hipocrasy????


    Should we have referenda on every international treaty and re-ratify them every generation?

    Or will the electorate really make an objective decision on a dense, 300 page document written in legalese? Do you really think they are qualified to do so? What if some want to reject it because of one or two clauses but the rest are happy with those clauses but not with one or two other ones that the first group are happy with? The purpose of our representative democracy is to work through the detail and make decisions on that. I'm not saying Westminster always does a good job of that but it is what we pay them to do.

  • Comment number 72.

    Nothing at all wrong with visiting Tunisia and promoting democracy, but lets be clear, democracy means accepting the result of free elctions, which could give a government with which the UK (and more especially the USA) doesn't like. For instance one controlled by organisation like the Muslim Brotherhood.

    If thats a problem, then don't promote democracy!

  • Comment number 73.

    Well there's promoting democracy and then there's preaching to the lions in the lions den.

    The "People" may well be receptive but one wrong word or mis-phrased speach and the lions (the governments) may just bite his metaphorical head off and tell him to mind his own busines.

  • Comment number 74.

    Why not yes he should - with the Tories having ruined engineering and manufacturing the last time they were in power, the only thing we can now sell is lectures, so why not sell democracy, lets have clone of David C, Nick C and George O in every country- we will be Great Again and earn some hard currency in the bargin and not rely totally on the blood sucking bankers

  • Comment number 75.

    He ought to be staying at home and learned precisely what he is meant to do here rather than pontificating to other countries.

    The collision government are the last people that would be taken seriously on how to run democracy.

  • Comment number 76.

    Given our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan I dont think we are in a position to lecture anyone about the democratic process or how they should run their own country.

  • Comment number 77.

    63. At 12.28pm in 08 Feb 2011 Total Mass Retain wrote:

    "I have news for you: we had a referendum on the EU in 1975."

    So because there was referendum in 1975 that's all right is it? Anybody under the age of 54yrs old just has to put up with what people voted for then? Democracy in action - I think not.

  • Comment number 78.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 79.

    This debate is still young but I have just read through the other contributors comments.
    I would recommend that our own governments HOME Secretary and Prime Minister read through them before it sends his ministers off to preach to other nations about "getting it right".

  • Comment number 80.

    63. At 12:28pm on 08 Feb 2011, Total Mass Retain wrote:

    56. At 12:24pm on 08 Feb 2011, Toothpick Harry wrote:
    ...where they keep having referendums until they get the answer they want.

    I have news for you: we had a referendum on the EU in 1975.

    Did we? I must have missed that. The referendum I voted in during 1975 was for the EEC (the European Economic Community) or “Common Market” as it was then called – not the political body we are subservient to now. I voted in favour of a free trade area. I voted for closer ties with Europe. OK, so I’m naive – I didn’t see that political union was the goal. In those days I trusted politicians like Mr Edward Heath. I was young. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

    So errr – when did we get to vote on the EU?

  • Comment number 81.

    How can we tell or ask any country anything as our own country is one of the sickest in the world along with USA.

  • Comment number 82.

    Since
    - Britain has been a member of the EU since 1973
    - The British coalition Government has pledged to be 'active and activist' in Europe, whilst protecting British interests and
    - The European Parliament delegationvisited Tunisia (February 3rd) to reiterate the commitment of the European Parliament to support the Tunisian people, democratic transition and reforms for the independence of the Judiciary and economic recovery of the country,
    why would William Hague feel the need to visit Tunisia - "seperately" from the EU?
    José Ignacio Salafranca and Pier Antonio Panzeri, co-Heads of the February 3rd delegation, spoke about the need to revise the "European Union Neighbourhood Policy" to adjust it to the new situation in Tunisia.
    They also discussed the need to create appropriate conditions for holding multiparty, free and transparent elections. Therefore they welcomed the invitation extended by the Tunisian Government to host an Election Observation Mission.
    It was emphasized that
    - independence of the Judiciary,
    - respect for fundamental freedoms and
    - freedom of press are essential for building a truly democratic society.
    The European MPs met with Political Officials, representatives of Parties and Civil Society as well as the Chairmen of the Political Reform Committee, the Fact-Finding Committee on Corruption & Embezzlement and the Fact-Finding Committee on Abuses committed in the recent period.
    The European Parliament delegation was visiting Tunisia to show support & solidarity with the Tunisian people in this phase of their democratic transition.
    So, tell me whjat is that Mr. Hague intends to accomplish that has not already been accomplished by the EU?

  • Comment number 83.

    Without going too much into the style of democracy Hague and his ilk are likely to promote, it has to be said that an Islamic theocracy is incompatable with any form of democracy. Once installed - by a democratic vote perhaps - democracy would then cease.

    This becomes a matter of interest to Britain and the civilised world who cannot stand idly to one side if our allies and other civilised countries we have treaties with are attacked.

    I am assuming there will be the usual rant that this is a racist perspective from Islam appeasers on this site. To them, I must point out that people who freely choose to reject democracy in their own countries in favour of theocracy - whatever flavour - should have no right to settle in this country with an intention of destroying or rejecting our democratic institutions.
    Time to stand firm Mr Hague. Defend democracy, and tell the people you visit that you represent a democratic country.

  • Comment number 84.

    The last thing I imagine that the Tunisians or any of the people in Africa and the Middle East want now is interference by a member of a government of a failed world power. Why is he going? to try and influence the choice of leaders in the region? If so on who's authority, and who gave him the orders? Was it Cameron? or was it instructions from the US via Cameron? Whatever it was, we have no right to either interfere with or attempt to influence the politics of another sovereign state. This government is screaming about cutting costs and saving money, so get William Hague back to the UK using the cheapest flight and cut the budget of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office by at least half, they obviously have too much of our money if they can afford to send Hague on a jolly to Africa in these austere times.

  • Comment number 85.

    Democracy ? I personally dont think Rony Blair had a democratic mandate to invade another country.

    I would like another vote on Europe, given that we now know what a joke it has become.


  • Comment number 86.

    Excuse me while I laugh!!! What do we know about democracy? We are run by a government that was elected by a first past the post system that means many of the electorate are disenfranchised (if there is no clear winner, why aren't all parties invited to participate?). Once in power, the party does what it likes, going back on electoral promises and pushing through other policies that no one voted for or supported.

    We can do nothing as our country becomes more and more divided into haves and have-nots for the next 5 years, while the problems that the electorate see as important (such as immigration) are ignored. Other pet projects are pushed through parliament (eg. anti-smoking legislation - it doesn't matter what you think of it, it was not in the manifesto).

    Maybe we should wait until we become a democracy before we started preaching about it to other countries.

  • Comment number 87.

    What about that Coburg-Gotha monarch in the U.K.?

    What does she (or her heir apparent) have to do with democracy?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Comment number 88.

    Democracy like any political system is an ideal, no matter what version of it you have, it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time.


    I have no problem with the the west in general keeping its nose out of others countries, especially Muslim countries business, but I wish they would recriprocate and keep out of the wests business by not allowing Islamic terrorist training camps to flourish in their countries for the express puropse of funding, organising, and giving millitary training to terrorists so they can carry out terror attacks in the west thereby provoking the west into millitary invasions of the countries responsible.



    By the way, while were are not pushing our democracy on them, we should be consistent and not push our version of "human rights" on them either.

  • Comment number 89.

    "Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague is in Tunisia. . . Is he right to visit the region at this time?"

    Of course it is: they're having a bit of a tough time and could use a laugh. . .

  • Comment number 90.

    "Should we promote democracy?"

    Yes, of course. We might start with a place known to most of as as Great Britain, which for many decades has suffered under governments of both colours which came to power with less than a majority of the votes cast.

    Once our own house is in order, we can sit back and lecture everyone else on how to run their countries. Or not. After all, what business is it of ours?

    If the UK had ceased endlessly interfering in everyone else's countries years ago, we might have found ourselves in a better position to weather whatever storms, economic or otherwise, came our way, but always our government is more interested in everyone else's countries than their own.

  • Comment number 91.

    CoeurDeHamster wrote:
    63. At 12:28pm on 08 Feb 2011, Total Mass Retain wrote:

    56. At 12:24pm on 08 Feb 2011, Toothpick Harry wrote:
    ...where they keep having referendums until they get the answer they want.

    I have news for you: we had a referendum on the EU in 1975.

    Did we? I must have missed that. The referendum I voted in during 1975 was for the EEC (the European Economic Community) or “Common Market” as it was then called – not the political body we are subservient to now.







    Correct. That (1975) referendum was a vote on a membership in the Euroepan Common MARKET, not in the EUSSR; a multionational superstate run by unelected Commissars, just like USSR, which, btw., has already went the way of dinosaurs, while EU is only now beginning to fail.

    [particularly in its phoney eurozone]

    [there's a lesson somwhere there for still surviving "fellow travelers".]

  • Comment number 92.

    Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan are dominated by al Qada. The terror org asserts its control in Yemen over their moderate President. William Hague wastes his time. North Africa and the Middle East convert to an anti-American position in the effort to remove NATO.

  • Comment number 93.

    Ok so here it is Tunisia
    Democracy means for us in the UK:
    To be completely over run by Tax.
    To be paying huge prices for everything.
    To be a Taxpayer (or an excuse for endless funds to cover up the cracks in policy)
    To have a government that feeds you lines that obviously 2/3 of the population actually believe's. Dont denie it you voted them in.
    A society where working is optional and again the taxpayer bails out those that choose not too.
    I could go on and on.

    I doubt if Mr Hague will be truthfull do you. He's a politician after all.

  • Comment number 94.

    5. At 11:04am on 08 Feb 2011, Simon Morgan wrote:

    2. At 10:17am on 08 Feb 2011, devilzadvacate1 wrote:
    //
    Perhaps now would be a good time for us to accept that we are no longer a major player on the world stage and perhaps just for once keep our noses out of other peoples business.
    Tunisias problems are for Tunisians to sort out.
    //

    -How on earth is promoting democratic reform 'putting our noses in it'?

    Democracy is what we are all about. We know it to the best form of government possible. We should make very effort to promote it, whether we are still a major world player or not (and in my view, we are).

    //////////////////
    Do we know, or are we assuming that the 'Western' model of running a country is superior?
    Frankly, this is not our business to get involved in. We are not exactly a shining example of how do deal with other countries.

  • Comment number 95.

    If William Hague has gone to Tunisia to promote democracy then perhaps we should have a visit from the Swiss Foreign Secretary to do the same thing in the UK. They have a fantastic democratic system, and a much better railway to go with it!

  • Comment number 96.

    Total Mass Retain:
    Should we have referenda on every international treaty and re-ratify them every generation?
    ----------

    Why not? the world has changed a lot in the last 30 years, might be sensible to revisit things to see if they are still relevant, doing what they were designed for and effective.
    --------

    Or will the electorate really make an objective decision on a dense, 300 page document written in legalese? Do you really think they are qualified to do so? What if some want to reject it because of one or two clauses but the rest are happy with those clauses but not with one or two other ones that the first group are happy with? The purpose of our representative democracy is to work through the detail and make decisions on that. I'm not saying Westminster always does a good job of that but it is what we pay them to do.

    ------------

    Are you suggesting that because some people aren't as bright as others, or haven't been trained in 'legalese' that we shouldn't have a say?

    If some want to reject clauses but others don't, then the majority wins.

    The purpose of our Representative democracy is to keep a select few in the manner to which they have become accustomed whilst continuing to do as they please. They may come out of their ivory towers once every 4-5 years to see what's going on, but after they have been re-elected on false promises (EU referendum) then they disappear again. Hardly Representative I'd say.

    As General_Jack_Ripper so eloquently put it, 'I prefer the non-interventionist approach where the government encourages open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy (with the EU as well as the other countries of the world) while not interfering politically, militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations' (and without them interfering in ours).

  • Comment number 97.

    William Hague can only promote democracy abroad, if he also argues for the UK's removal from the EU and cuts links with the European court on human right. The issue of prisoners' voting rights proves, yet again, that UK domestic policy is decided in Europe & that the UK parliament is an irrelevence. We have ministers being paid, to supposedly run the country, when all they do is rubber stamp whatever the franco-german alliance puts in front of them. Actions speak louder than words, and David Cameron's appallingly renaging on his promise to abolish the human rights act shows that the wishes of the British people are of no consequence whatsoever, as far as the tories are concerned (or libdems or labour for that matter - they all view us with contempt).

  • Comment number 98.

    71. At 12:37pm on 08 Feb 2011, Total Mass Retain wrote:
    52. At 12:21pm on 08 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:
    It's none of our damn business.
    Americas obsession with exporting democracy has resulted in numourous wars all over the world, we have aided and abetted in their adventures when we should have learned our lesson from the crusades.

    You cannot impose religion or democracy.

    Perhaps the thing we should do is allow democracy in our own country, like a vote on the EU treaty for instance, as promised by Blair and Brown and our current PM.

    Hipocrasy????

    Should we have referenda on every international treaty and re-ratify them every generation?

    Or will the electorate really make an objective decision on a dense, 300 page document written in legalese? Do you really think they are qualified to do so? What if some want to reject it because of one or two clauses but the rest are happy with those clauses but not with one or two other ones that the first group are happy with? The purpose of our representative democracy is to work through the detail and make decisions on that. I'm not saying Westminster always does a good job of that but it is what we pay them to do.

    If your evaluation of the unqualified average briton is correct then why did the government promise a referendum, was it to win votes by any chance, another example of the lack of democracy in this country.
    Some decisions are far too important to be trusted to politicians, I wouldn't trust most of them to walk my dog.

  • Comment number 99.

    I am happy to join in with critics of how democracy has been handled in this country by either Labour or Tory Governments.

    What saddens me - and also disturbs me - is the extent to which British citizens are prepared to wallow in criticism of our political institutions, submerged in an apologetic guilt-ridden swamp, which prohibits any condemnation of fanatics in other countries. So many people in this discussion, not only want to reject western values; they are prepared to abandon any notion of morality, as long as they have an opportunity to knock the west. We saw it in the thirties, when the left bowed to Stalinism, and for many including the UK Communists, bowed to the Nazis during the pact between Hitler and Stalin.

  • Comment number 100.

    85. At 12:50pm on 08 Feb 2011, Slave to the System - I am not a number wrote:....

    ________________________________________________

    Nah nah! This is the Brave New World... you are slave to the system AND number 85.

    ... did someone say something about democracy?




 

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