Democracy On Trial

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0120100511

Michael Portillo examines the past and future of democracy over 2,500 years.

Michael Portillo losing his parliamentary seat was voted Britain's third most favourite TV moment.

So, the man who has felt the sharp end of the democratic process sets off to examine and interrogate development of this fickle, fragile, sometimes futile entity that we know as democracy.

Before 1900, there were no genuinely democratic countries in the world - and never had been.

By 1943 only a handful of countries were still democratically run.

It seemed that a forty-year experiment in representative government had run its course - and failed.

Yet, sixty years later, democracy is seen as the greatest gift that can be bestowed on another country, and it's an ideal worth fighting and dying for.

Michael Portillo uses this a starting point to question the effectiveness of a form of government we take for granted.

Seen by Plato as dangerous, the Enlightenment as a route to chaos and by nations in the Middle Eastern, Africa and China as far from a universal panacea - democracy has a surprisingly tenuous grip on the world.

Michael meets historians and the key state makers past and present to analyse the fall, rise and future of what we glibly call the democratic ideal".

Producer: Philip Sellars."

0220100518

Michael Portillo examines the past and future of democracy over 2,500 years.

Michael Portillo goes back in time to trace the difficult and often dangerous journey the democratic ideal has taken to arrive at the version we recognise today.

Although the democratic experiment began in fifth century BC Athens, it wasn't without its critics at the time and it didn't survive.

Despite Roman talk of the people", the form of government that Plato and Pericles would recognise lay largely untouched until the Renaissance - and even then it was dismissed as a route to chaos and mob rule.

Michael Portillo looks back at the statebuilders of the England, France and America as they grappled with the problems of how to enfranchise the people.

The story of compromise, confusion and conflict that surrounds the ideal of democracy back then helps us understand its frailties now, as well as the difficulties that can arise when countries rush to adopt this complicated and unruly form of government.

Producer: Philip Sellars."

03 LAST20100525

Michael Portillo examines the past and future of democracy over 2,500 years.

Michael Portillo losing his parliamentary seat was voted Britain's third favourite TV moment.

As a man who has felt the sharp end of the democratic process, Michael sets off to examine and interrogate the development of the fragile entity that we know as democracy.

Before 1900, there were no genuinely democratic countries in the world - and never had been.

By 1943 only a handful of countries were still democratically run.

Today there are democracies on every continent and democracy is seen by many as the gold standard of government, an ideal worth fighting and dying for.

But not everyone is convinced that democracy has triumphed.

In the final edition of 'Democracy On Trial', Michael asks whether democracy has passed a high-water mark and is now entering a long period of retreat.

In conversation with policy makers, pollsters and philosophers, Michael explores the paradoxes inherent in contemporary democracy and compares very different attittudes towards the democratic process in Russia, China, Iraq, Britain and across the world.

Producer: Julia Johnson.