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The Why? Curve

Democracy in Crisis

Season 1, Ep. 84

It's the biggest year in the history of democracy - more than half of the people on earth have the chance to choose, through the ballot box, who governs them. So why is democracy - the system that gives the ultimate power to the people  - in such deep trouble? Autocracies like China say their form of government works better. "Illiberal" democracies like Russia claim the countries where your vote actually counts, are weak and failing. And even beacons of democratic values like the US are caught up in threats of dictatorship and allegations of vote-rigging. Do those who say a system can't work if it's paralysed by instant popularity and short-term vote-winning, have a point? Is there something fundamentally wrong with western style of government? Natasha Lindstaet, Professor of Government at the University of Essex tells Phil and Roger why democracy is in trouble, and suggests some ways to fix it.

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  • 97. Is it 1939 in Europe?

    A dictator set to succeed in grabbing another sovereign nation, and challenging, with tanks and missiles, the political landscape of Europe - is this, as the Polish prime minister says, our 1939? Should the West be ready for the collapse of an arms-starved Ukraine, and a victorious Vladimir Putin poised to challenge NATO right on its borders? If Donald Trump wins the US election this year, will reliance on Washington no longer be an option for halting Russia’s expansion? David Galbreath, Professor of War and Technology at the University of Bath gives Phil and Roger his analysis of the crisis ahead
  • 96. Why Is Populism So Popular?

    Populist parties are gaining ground - Reform in Britain looks likely to be a major challenge for the Tories. And Donald Trump's MAGA movement looks set to propel him into the White House in November. Across Europe, too, and in Brazil, the Philippines and Turkey, we have seen the rise of groups appearing to take on the establishment on behalf of the people. So what IS populism? Why does it seem to have such a hold on our current politics? And what are the risks of government based on antagonism and fear? Andy Knott , a senior lecturer in politics and philosophy at the University of Brighton, tells Phil about the roots and consequences of populism. 
  • 95. Electric Cars In The Slow Lane?

    What’s happened to electric cars? Weren’t we all supposed to be driving one by now? Is it the cost, the range or the lack of charging points? Is the government still on track to phase out new petrol cars, and reach net zero on emissions? Tom Stacey of Anglia Ruskin University steers Phil and Roger through the complexities of electrifying the driving experience for all of us.
  • 94. Prisons In Crisis

    Our prisons are at breaking point - too many inmates and not enough cells. How did we get to the point of having more a higher proportion of the population behind bars than any other country in Western Europe? Why do politicians promise “tough on crime” sentences, without providing the means to deliver that? And does prison work, anyway? More than half of those who serve short sentences, go on to be convicted again. Mark Day, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust takes Phil and Roger through the challenges of sorting out our out-of-control system of incarceration.
  • 93. Councils of Despair

    What happens when the bins aren't collected, the roads are full of holes and the libraries are shut - because the council's gone bankrupt? That's the dilemma facing local government. Europe's largest local authority, Birmingham, has just issued a notice saying it's effectively gone bust. Many others have done the same or are about to. So what has gone wrong with the system? Is the way we pay for local services in dire need of reform? Professor Peter Murphy, Director of the Public Policy and Management Research Group at Nottingham Trent University, tells Phil and Roger how bad things are and what needs to change   
  • 92. The Gaza Effect

    Gaza casts a long shadow. In the midst of an economic crisis, in an election year, with transport, education and the NHS all limping along, what is the dominant subject, splitting parties and deciding by-elections? A war 2,000 miles away, over which the UK has next to no influence. Allegations of Islamophobia and anti-semitism are rife across the political spectrum. Even the normal processes of the Westminster parliament seem to be challenged by this issue. So why has the Gaza war assumed such a huge profile in UK politics? Robert Ford, Professor of Political Science at Manchester University, tells Phil and Roger how it has come to dominate our discourse.
  • 91. UK Budget - Fiscal Headroom Or Financial Headache?

    It’s a question taxing Jeremy Hunt - cut back on what we all pay to the government, or use his small surplus to prop up schools, hospitals and other neglected public services? Is his budget intended to rescue the UK economy, or to try to lessen an imminent Tory election defeat? Frances Coppola, the economist and author of “The Case For People’s QE”, takes Phil and Roger through the chancellor’s choices and the likely consequences
  • 90. The Generation Game - And Why Boomers Are Cheating

    Why are the prospects for young people so much worse than for their parents’ generation? They can’t buy a house, their rents are extortionate, they have a massive student debt and there’s no job security, plus they’re inheriting a climate-damaged planet. Is it all down to the greed of the baby-boomers? Or are feckless, apathetic work-shy, oversensitive youngsters their own worst enemy? And what can be done to fix intergenerational inequality? Liz Emerson, CEO and co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, tells Phil and Roger what needs to happen.
  • 89. A Matter of Life and Death. Who Decides?

    Should we have the right to end our lives in the way we choose - with others allowed to help us? Euthanasia is back on the agenda after a number of celebrities pushing for a change in the law. But what about the risks - the sick and elderly feeling they are a burden to be dispensed with? The devaluing of life itself? Dr Sam Carr lecturer at the Department of Education and the Centre for Death and Society at Bath University talks to Phil and Roger about the issues surrounding assisted suicide