Professor Bogdanor said that although the number voting at elections has fallen interest in politics is about the same as it was fifty years ago. The democratic spirit is healthy but the democratic institutions are failing. Levels of volunteering and charity giving are very high. The RSPB and National Trust have a million members each.
“Disenchantment with democracy flows from the conflict between a maturing democracy accustomed to universal suffrage and the rights that go with it and the traditional mass party which increasingly exists not to give effect to popular demands but to frustrate them.”
Fifty years ago one in eleven of the population was a member of a political party, now it is one in eighty-eight. He ascribes this to the marked difference between ideologies in those days, that the parties were more class based and issues were simpler.
One in eleven seems very high to me. People’s social lives must have revolved around Conservative Association dances and Labour fund-raising dos far more than now. I remember hearing David Starkey, the historian, speaking about his childhood in Kendal, and how important trade union outings and choral societies were. The trade union was the focal point of his parents’ community, as the church or mosque or synagogue is in a faith community. Charity plays that role to a degree these days. Three times a week a colleague will ask you to sponsor them cycling or walking in groups for some good cause.