Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Demand Three – Separation of Powers.



This demand has two separate but linked parts.

First, that our Prime Minister should be elected by the people thus preventing the party anointments that allowed Major, Brown and May to become PM. So at the time of elections as well as voting for a party you also get to vote for the PM you want.

Second, that the cabinet (executive), as in America, should be completely separate from parliament (legislature) thus allowing the whole of the House of Commons to hold the executive to account.     

Returning to the first part let’s consider the legitimacy of David Cameron when he became PM. He gained office by virtue of 33,973 votes in the 2010 election. All these came form his constituency of Witney, which boasted 78.220 electors.  The rest of the nation was not allowed a vote for the man. He may have been elected as an MP, but he was not elected as prime minister through a general franchise.

As to Parliament it should and must hold the executive to account but with our cabinet being mainly selected from the H of C as with ALL ministers, that totals around 200 MPs who are compromised, and if they know what is good for their careers will not want to rock the boat within their own party.

So when formulating this demand we concluded that ministers and other office holders cannot be members of parliament. If members become ministers, they must resign as MPs. As a consequence PMs must appoint their own ministers - from whatever source they choose -  subject to parliamentary confirmation and dismissal. This has the added advantage of widening the recruitment pool.

As to our monarch she or he remains head of state with their duties unchanged. The PM keeps that title and while elected they are still PM and not a President.

Finally we would suggest the term of office for the newly elected PM should be, as in America, a maximum of eight years. However that detail shouldn’t distract from the basic principle that we should have an elected PM and their ministers must be separate from Parliament and held to account by it.     

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Demand Two - Real Local Democracy.


This demand is based on two key principles. The first is that decisions should be made as close to the people they impact on and second, that central government should concentrate on matters of national importance such as Home and Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security and the national  finances.

Currently our local authorities are nothing more than central government agencies established to administer centrally-defined laws at local level. So our aim is to invert the entire structure of the British state. Instead of top-down systems, we need to start locally and create structures built from the bottom up. So these local authorities – which could be counties, cities or the former county boroughs – become independent legislatures in their own right. Those that feel that local authorities are too small to become legislatures need to consider the likes of the sovereign state of Iceland, with a population of around 300,000, which is smaller than the London Borough of Croydon or the Metropolitan District of Bradford and Yorkshire alone is larger than over 100 countries in the UN.

Controlling taxation is at the heart of true localism, to which effect we believe local governments structures, as constitutional bodies, should become the primary collectors of tax. We would envisage that they would collect most if not all the taxes from the people and enterprises resident or operating within their areas of jurisdiction. In this system the surplus from their own areas would be remitted to central government with poorer authorities sending less per capita to the centre.

So when local taxation prevails, allied with local democracy, there is every opportunity for variable tax rates and thus real tax-competition between local authorities which would create downward pressure on taxation for the first time.

Another plus is that Westminster MPs would become even less important than they are now, while democratic representation at local level becomes more relevant and more important. This then could see a reduction in MPs to around 300 with a reformed Upper House of say 100.

Details of how individual MPs and members of the Upper House are selected might be left to the electors of the county set out in each local constitution and implemented by local legislators. After all if we are to have localism, then the terms and conditions governing the employment of representatives should be decided locally. Thus MPs could be funded by their local authorities with the people having a direct say in what they are paid and also how much their expenses  should be.  Also if one area wanted to introduce a system of recall, between elections, then they would be free to do so.

Thus with this demand we see democracy close to the people , with government – local and national – under the direct control of the people – anything else is not democracy.








Monday, 29 October 2018

Demand One - People Power.

Over the next few weeks I thought I'd go back to the basics and review each of our six demands in turn.

Our first demand 'Recognition of our sovereignty' is the key to the other five and at its simplest lays down that in the final analysis it should be with the people and not parliament where ultimate 'Power' lies.

The word democracy, from the Greek word demokratia, is made up of two parts demos meaning 'people' and kratos 'power. The trouble is, as I pointed out the other week, our democracy, while developing since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, that's 803 years ago, has still not yet delivered the type of democracy in accordance with its true meaning.

Currently the only real power the people have is at the time of a general election when parliament gives up its power, briefly, to the people until the new government is elected. Once elected the people have absolutely no power to change anything whether they see their MP, petition Downing Street or hold a rally in London. If the government of the day wants to ignore the people they can until the next election when they will again try and dupe us into voting for them.

The evidence that people are unhappy with the current state of affairs is that at general elections a sizable number don't bother to vote knowing that who ever is elected nothing much will actually change whatever the people say or do. Once the political elite get back the reigns of power they can literally do what they like, while accepting they do need to get any new legislation through parliament, which with an overall majority is seldom a problem.

In the last election, in 2017, from a voting population of 47 million as many as 15 million didn't bother to vote which is the same number as voted for the Conservatives (12.5m), Liberal Democrats (2m) and Greens ( 0.5m) combined.

The arrogance of our elected politicians, that only they know what is best for us, is simply not sustainable in the future and I'm of course a strong believer that the collective will of the people is a far better gauge as to how we wish to be governed that the collective thoughts of our liberal or should that read illiberal elite?

If you believe in the true meaning of the word 'Democracy' then there can only be one logical move that is to progress our governance, after 803 years, towards the 'People' having real 'Power.' 

 

    

Monday, 22 October 2018

Democracy British style.


I read an excellent book a while back called ‘Prisoners of Geography’ by Tim Marshall and in the chapter on Western Europe he wrote this:-

“ There is a theory that the relative security of the UK over the past few hundred years is why it has experienced more freedom and less despotism than the countries across the channel. The theory goes that there were fewer requirements for ‘strong men’ or dictators, which, starting with Magna Carta (1215) and then the Provisions of Oxford (1258), led to forms of democracy years ahead of other countries.”

While, as he goes on to say, this is not provable it is none the less an interesting observation and helps explain why we have been a reluctant member of the political EU project. That is not to say we don’t wish to trade with our neighbours which is of an entirely different order.

Anyway this got me thinking aout the few THA supporters, since our formation in 2012, who have ‘dropped out’ because they maintain we are not going fast enough or making sufficient progress.

However the facts are that revolutionary political reform, of the magnitude advocated by our six demands, will not happen overnight. Just look at the state of our democracy now, since the signing of the Magna Carta 813 years ago, we still don’t have proper democracy based on the true meaning of the word expressed as ‘People and Power’. I have said before and I’ll say it again at 67, while I hope to see our demands enacted in my life time,  I may well not but that is no reason not to have started the ball rolling for the reform of our governance so desperately needed in this country.

Anyone interested in helping move our agenda forward please get in touch off the contact button on our website:-


Friday, 19 October 2018

Demand six - a codified constitution.


I’ve just read a really good little book, of 156 pages, called ‘Acts of UNION and DISUNION’ by Linda Colley which describes the history of the United Kingdom and what has held it together and what is dividing it.

In her final chapter she writes :-

“A widely recognised way of managing fault-lines and diversity in states is by improving and revising the quality of governance.(Amen to that!) So how might this be attempted in the UK? Let me end by offering three suggestions , the purely private observations of a semi-detached if attentive observer.”

Her three suggestions are :-

  1. To match the devolved Parliament and Assembles of the 1990s England needs its own Parliament situated in the North of England to help lessen the North-South divide.
  2. If one above takes place then the UK needs to work out a more federal system with Westminster concentrating on national issues with a great deal of power, decision making and taxation devolved to the four national parliaments and to local and regional authorities.
  3. A more federal UK would need a written constitution – which as well as serving to entrench and communicate citizens rights and the workings of a devolved political system, a new written constitution might supply some fresh constitutive stories for a new kind of Union.

Finally she concludes with the quote “ A policy of drift will never result in united strength” to which I’d add another  “ If we want things to stay the same then things are going to have to change.”

So this book is in tune with much of the THA in particular our second demand for ‘Real Local Government’ and our  sixth demands 'A codified constitution' which apart from creating a constitution for the 21st century would also confirm all five demands. It is ironic that this country has helped write constitutions for other countries, for example Germany after the WW2 and more recently Iraq, and yet still has a constitution that forbids MPs wearing a suit of armour in parliament.  

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

More on Localism.

Recently Michael Krieger, the Brazilian entrepreneur and founder of Instagram, wrote a piece titled:-

" It's time to focus on Localism,Decentralisation and Community."

He was writing with regards the USA but his points are just as applicable to us and I have condensed his essay into the seven key points I feel he makes.

1. Most of us are conditioned to believe life is best organised in scale. In other words, we've been convinced it's best to have as many people as possible operating under a single overarching centralised government structure in charge of micromanaging society from the top down. He believes this is outdated, unnatural and increasingly dangerous.

2. In the western world, we tend to justify centralised superstates because they're ostensibly based on democracy but this doesn't hold water for three reasons:-
a. Just looking at the C21st the 'will of the people' is frequently ignored.
b. A one-size fits all solution to problems in a geographically and cultural diverse nation 325 million, tends to make everyone unhappy. (This applies to the UK and especially the EU)
c. When you over centralise power you streamline systemic corruption. All the big money donors have to do is buy-off a few hundred representatives who conveniently all gather in the same place, far from their constituents, to pass legislation which is often written by lobbyists.

3.Centralised power is unaccountable and exceedingly corrupt.

4. Those against 'Localism' often say it is as corrupt as central government but that is because the people's attention is focused on the centre. If REAL decisions are made locally the people would concentrate on local government where corruption is easier to detect.

5. Local improvements need to be made by local people in their communities - eg. Cleaning up empty spaces and creating community gardens is the sort of thing that brings people together, improves quality-of-life, even mental health and is achievable at relatively low costs.

6.Trusting Local governments to raise their own finances locally, rather than central handouts, instantly makes them more accountable and responsible to their communities.   

7. Localism will increasingly become a necessity as central governments struggle to solve and fail to resolve local issues.

As I wrote last week politicians need 'skin in the game' or their decisions increasingly do not reflect the 'will of the people'. Our second demand for 'Real local democracy' takes fully into account the importance, if not necessity, of local government, based on our historic country structure, taking over more and more power currently undertaken, so badly, by Westminster.



Thursday, 4 October 2018

The importance of having 'Skin in the game'.

I was recently referred to an interesting article, on the Internet,  about a book which I have not read myself yet, called 'Skin in the game'  by M. Taleb.

The key points from the article were:-

1. An insight as to why societies and economies thrive or fail boils down to  one of scale.

2. Organisations that function well at a small scale (ie.localised) fail when scaled up and centralised ( ie globalised).

3. Both markets and governance function well at a small scale because those making the decisions must absorb the consequences of their actions/choices.

4.The entire point of centralised hierarchies is to buffer top decision-makers from the consequences of their actions and choices.

5.Having 'skin in the game' exposes decision makers to the consequences of their actions.

6. The decisions of political leaders, like going to war, has virtually a zero risk of them being killed.

7. Leaders of highly centralised hierarchies lead cost-free lives enabling them to to pursue disastrous policies.

8. Cheating is easier to get away with the more centralised the organisation or government.

9. Cheaters at the top of the wealth-power pyramid hire slick attorneys to evade consequences or they buy political influence/protection, in effect legalising cheating by those at the top of the pyramid in systemic ways. Small scale governance mostly avoids this as the office holders are more readily made to face the consequences of their decisions.

10. A state issued currency is the perfection of a centralised system which enables governments to avoid the consequences of their policies.

Our second demand for 'Real Local Democracy' recognises all the above and aims to give the basic unit of our counties REAL power including raising taxes and leave the central government to concentrate on the Nation's Home and Foreign Affairs, Defence and the National budget.