Academy of Ideas

Democracy under siege?

January 23, 2019

A recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at the Barbican in London on 14 October 2018.

Over the past year, debates about democracy and its woes have been ubiquitous. There are fears tech giants and algorithms are undermining elections. Liberal democratic values such as free speech and universalism are questioned, even by liberals. Populism is variously claimed to be a threat to democracy or its very embodiment. Some claim undereducated voters were conned into voting for Brexit or Donald Trump and argue citizens should have to earn the right to vote by passing a test. Elected governments in Poland and Hungary have been censured by the EU. But managerial style of rule suggests anti-democratic tendencies have been developing for decades, excluding and ultimately angering voters. Many government powers are now exercised by unelected experts and quangos. Is it time to give more power to The People? What is democracy and what threatens it today? Can liberalism renew itself sufficiently to save democracy?

editor-in-chief, The Economist

former deputy chairman, Transport for London; co-chairman, Urban Design London

broadcaster; political commentator; presenter, BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster; author, The Rise of the Outsiders

Brussels correspondent, The Times; co-author, No Means No