In the U.S. today, town hall meetings and ‘tea parties’ parody and mimic the 18the century originals. Far from opening debate, they close it down. Demagogues tell the crowd what to think; when their phrases are echoed back to them, they boldly announce that they are merely relaying popular sentiment. In the UK, television has been put to strikingly effective use as a safety valve for populist discontent: professional politicians now claim to listen to vox populi in the form of instant phone-in votes and popularity polls on everything from immigration policy to pedophilia. Twittering back to their audience its own fears and prejudices, they are relieved of the burden of leadership or initiative.