Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Can new parties change the system of governance?

An early dissident to our strategy, of applying pressure on existing politicians to accept our demands, cited the Italian Five Star party as evidence of a new party making rapid progress.

This returned to my mind due to the main Spectator article this week which covers the potential coalition between the ‘alt-left’ Five Star and the ‘hard-right’ Lega. The trouble, which both parties will face, is that their coalition still has to operate within the existing dysfunctional political system that since the 1990’s has been dominated by the corrupt and obscenely overpaid political class. As a result, if the coalition comes off and lasts, one cannot help wonder how much they will both actually achieve within the existing system before they themselves are corrupted by it.

It is for the above reason, that to get the political changes we seek, we are determined to stick to our six demands for a more ‘people responsive’ political system which we believe can best be achieved when enough pressure is applied to our existing MPs.

Our six demands come as a package and our task is to educate the public of their worth and need and explain how they must bring pressure on existing MPs to adopt and support them or lose support at elections.

Another interesting aspect of the Spectator article shows how under-reported these political developments in Italy are in our media. One obvious reason could well be that both Five Star and Lega are both united in their hostility to the Euro and want to see the EU radically reformed especially the Stability and Growth Pact which compels member states to keep budget deficits below 3% of GDP. It would simply never do for the likes of the ‘Europhile’ BBC to report too many anti EU stories.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Democracy for Realists - by Achen & Bartels

If I laboured reading the book on Epistocracy I positively had to drag myself through this one which I only achieved with huge chunks of skim reading and bye-passing the 44 incomprehensible figures and tables.

The author’s basic theme is that the romantic folk theory of democracy, with thoughtful citizens voting in competent governments, is not supported by analysis. What they reveal , which was no surprise to me, is that people’s votes are largely directed  towards parties and other key factors like the economy or even good or bad weather, at the time of the election, and have little to do with the actual competence of the next government.

The authors base their analysis on the USA, where they are from, and believe democracy needs a rethink but do not offer any alternatives. What they do say is that realising and accepting that the current system is broken is “ a prerequisite to both greater intellectual clarity and real political change.” Amen tho that.

As I said last week, while I accept that western democracy is not perfect it is better than any of the alternatives that have been tried. THA is very clear that the election of representatives who carry out the often boring task of governing us on a day to day basis should remain. However there should be new powers given to the people which allows them to properly monitor and if necessary challenge the government of the day between elections. It matters not why the people elect one party over another or whether they always censor their government well. The point is that it is for the people to decide their own fate and the more practice they get, at checking thier government, the better they will get.

The only alternative to the increasing involvement of the people before, during and after elections is to be increasingly governed by an elite who would gradually become further removed from the desires and wishes of the people they govern.

Achen and Bartels are yet another two who point out reforms are needed but come up with no real alternatives. On the other hand THA’s demands, to reform and improve our system of democracy, and make any government more accountable to the people, has six specific proposals and has yet to be bettered.          

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Against Democracy - by Jason Brennan

I laboured through the above book, of 245 pages, based on the proposition that 'Epistocracy', the rule by the better informed, could well be better than democracy. He didn't say it would be better as he readily admits it hasn't yet been tested.

He believes, and he is very un PC in his observations, that the general public/electorate are simply too stupid to vote and therefore shouldn't until they become better informed.

From my view point I've never believed democracy is perfect but like Churchill I strongly believe that 'it is the worse form of government except for all the alternatives'.

He takes a long time to offer his actual alternatives, which he does in the last 40 odd pages and to me he offers some very thin gruel.

First he suggests nobody should be able to vote until they have passed a test to assess their 'poitical knowledge'. Then he suggests, as an additional feature, that those who pass the test could carry more than one vote. So everybody gets one vote but those better informed individuals could get say 10 votes each. Finally he suggests that there could be an 'Epistocratic Council' of those who have passed the test who could then veto any piece of government's legislation.

It's not a book I recommend you read as I've told you the salient points here. 

For me the the only council we need is that of a sovereign people who under our fourth demand ' The People's consent' would, given certain criteria, be able to reject any piece of government legislation with which a clear majority disagree.

Epistocracy would I believe inevitably lead to something far worse than democracy as the 'elite' furthered their grip on our lives.

Who knows where they would stop?

Perhaps we would all be forced to become vegans.    

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Reforming the House of Lords.

A small article caught my eye in the papers yesterday which reported that the first woman Commons speaker, Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, has suggested a plan to trim the House of Lords - which would do her out of a job.

She wants the number of Lords cut from 785 to 400 and to make retirement at 75 or 80 compulsory - Boothroyd is 88. These are the types of recommendations contained in our second demand 'Real Local Democracy'.

She also wants to end the 'election' which takes place when one of the 92 hereditary peers retires. She feels  this is an anomaly in a 21st-century democracy and said "when they fall off the perch, that's it!"

These ideas seem eminently reasonable and sensible but how will they ever come to fruition?

The answer to that is fairly simple to answer which is that if enough people want such a reform and demand it then it would be difficult for any government to ignore the wishes of the people. However what is also very clear is that until and unless the people start to demand such reforms the turkeys in Westminster are sure as hell not going to be voting for Christmas as the House of Lords is the ideal dumping ground and or cosy retirement refuge for our MPs and their buddies.

On the subject of Lords reform I was directed recently to the history of the Irish Senate by Edward Spalton who is chairman of  the long established Campaign for an Independent Britain.

Although the upper house of the Irish Free State was established in 1922, its powers were subsequently reduced in 1936 after it attempted to obstruct some constitutional reforms favoured by the government. Members of the 60 seat Senate can still only serve for 12 years with a quarter of the house standing for election every 3 years.

However the really interesting thing about the Senate is that when it was set up it could call for a referendum on government legislation if three-fifths of its members agreed. This power still exists today, even after the 1936 reforms, but while it now only requires a majority of Senators to agree it must also have agreement from one-third of the Dail. This power has never been used as the modern Senate is designed in such a way as to have a permanent government majority.

The overriding lesson that I get from this is that without the people being recognised as sovereign, and confirmed as such in a written constitution, then any government is free to change the rules of the game without consulting the people. Clearly the Dail was not prepared to have their Senate capable of stopping their legislation by calling for a people's referendum on the matter at hand.

While power is clearly not yet in our hands it could be and all it will take is enough of us deciding we are fed up with being governed by our current batch of  charlatans. 

The choice as they say is ours to make.


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

What are our MPs for?

I was struck to ask the above question after I was delivered a leaflet last week, from my Parish Council, inviting me to meet my Conservative MP, David Warburton on Saturday 21st April between 10.30-11.30, at our village hall to raise concerns with him about - and I quote from the leaflet:-

Potholes, planning, broadband, mobile phone coverage, school transport, housing, education, drainage, rural isolation, the NHS and ice and snow.

Does anyone reading this seriously believe that these are topics that should concern our MPs?

My answer is unequivocal, that these are issues that should be dealt with by local politicians leaving our MPs to concentrate predominately on matters of national and international concern. With Brexit very likely to lead to a self inflicted economic hit as our government struggles to come up with a coherent policy to leave the political EU but maintain our trade, I do not want my MP wasting his time on the the issue of potholes.

Our second demand for 'Real Local Democracy' states - 'The foundation of our democracy shall be the counties ( or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation, and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government.'

Under our proposals local politicians take on real responsibilities and have a proper job of work to do serving their local communities, thus driving up the calibre of the individuals concerned, leaving MPs, who we propose reducing from 650 to around 400, able to concentrate on matters concerning our nation state.

So is it Potholes or Brexit?

I know which of the two I want my MP to concentrate on especially given the astounding amount of raw ignorance there is at Westminster over the basics of Brexit as our MPs struggle to comprehend the differences between leaving the political EU but maintain the important existing levels of trade that we currently benefit from within the Single Market. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Major political reform takes time.

While waiting in the doctors surgery, with my 92 year old mother, I came across an article on the Suffragettes in this year’s February issue of Country Life, which contained a neat summary of the timescale involved from the movements conception in 1832 to completion in 1918. To do the maths for you that totals 86 years.

This chronological list of dates was called ‘The road to victory’ and contained 12 key dates as follows:-

1832 – First petition to parliament demanding women’s rights presented by MP Henry Hunt on behalf of Mary Smith of Yorkshire.

1866 -  Second petition to parliament.

1867 – Third petition to parliament.

1897 -  Millicent Garrett Fawcett sets up National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)

1903 -   Emmeline Pankhurst breaks away from NUWSS to form the more radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU)

1906 – The term Suffragette appears in print for the first time.

1909 – Suffragette Marion Wallace Dunlop goes on hunger strike in prison and is force feed.

1910 -  ‘Black Friday’ protests break out in reaction to Conciliation Bill which would have permitted some women to vote.

1912 – The Parliamentary Franchise (Women) Bill narrowly defeated leading to widespread unrest.

1913 – WSPU member Emily Wilding Davison kill under King’s horse at Epsom.

1914 – Suffragettes and Suffragists pause campaign to help war effort.

1918 – The Representation of the People Act gave women of property over 30 the right to vote but all men over 21.

Now if you add in two further dates as below the total time taken from the start of the suffragettes movement  to all women being able to vote who are over 18 is 137 years.

1928 – Women over 21 get the right to vote.

1969 – Men and women over 18 get the right to vote.    

It is a constant theme of mine to point out that the enactment of THA’s six demands is going to take time and it is essential we don’t strike out too quickly or early before we have a groundswell of popular support. That the progress is slow is of course frustrating but if we are not to fade away altogether then we must go at a steady pace and importantly keep THA pilot light still burning.

There is however one key ingredient we have that our forefathers never had and that is the Internet to help spread the word and is something we really need to develop with the help of our supporters.