Denying democracy

PUBLISHED: 12:34 16 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:30 10 June 2010

At least Gerald Bishop's letter ('Majority in Favour of ASDA', Journal, July 31) has the virtue of directness. All the same, the arguments deployed are distinctly odd, not least in his democracy-denying conception of what constitutes a majority. When, on

At least Gerald Bishop's letter ('Majority in Favour of ASDA', Journal, July 31) has the virtue of directness. All the same, the arguments deployed are distinctly odd, not least in his democracy-denying conception of what constitutes a majority.When, on the two occasions local people have been able to express a preference - the Citizens' Forum referendum and the East Devon District Council organised poll - the verdicts were overwhelmingly against the ASDA estuary development. And yet Mr Bishop brushes these results aside on the grounds that 'we must assume' the majority - ie those who did not vote - "must be in favour". Why must we so assume? It simply does not follow that those who do not vote for something must be in favour of it. Come to think of it, should we assume that, as the majority of people do not vote in local elections, democratically elected councils have no legitimacy and no mandate to act? No majority of electors, let alone those who voted, ever voted in a post-war British government, so Mr Bishop's notion of majority is a bit skewed. Minority-polls happen for all kinds of reasons but, in the absence of any other means of gauging popular wishes, they are usually taken as representative. As it is, there is no evidence of a concerted, let alone popularly backed, pro-ASDA campaign in Exmouth.The advantages listed are dubious. Competitive pricing would not be an automatic consequence of ASDA setting up in town. Price wars may drive the small fry into liquidation. In my opinion, ASDA on The Exe would actually entail a net loss of jobs and traffic congestion would increase.And yet, he tells us that we need ASDA because otherwise 'our children's generation ... will suffer'. Odd one this - just about everything ever issued in the name of the Citizens' Forum stresses the enormous and permanent environmental damage a supermarket on the estuary will cause. In return for our children and our children's children being doomed to surveying a series of silent, foetid pools, they will be blessed with reduced queues at the ASDA checkouts. Some trade-off.Nick Smart,6 Rolle Villas, Exmouth.

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