Democracy on Trial - Episode 1
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.