Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Demand Five – No taxation or spending without consent.

This demand is summed up in the one word ‘Referism’ as the government has to ‘refer’ to the people for their funding.

A government without money can do nothing but it is our money they collect and spend so we believe that we  should therefore be consulted  over their proposed annual budget a decision currently left to parliament but to date has never voted down the chancellor’s budget.

Concern was expressed when formulating this demand that the people would simply vote themselves more money every year but experience from  a number of local authority referendums, around the turn of the century, to seek approval form the electorate for the level of rates, offering a choice between a rise, status quo or reduction, had the people realistically opting, in most cases, for the status quo.

The people seemed more than capable of judging whether they wanted to vote for an increase to their rates to cover an  increase in services and given that choice told their councils to consolidate their spending rather than increase it.

This concept of local referendums was taken up by the Conservative party in 2010 who passed a law that would make Councils have to hold a referendum if they wished to raise rates above 2%. Interestingly councils kept their increases to below 2% to avoid having to consult the people who would most likely have contested their spending plans.

So while the experiment to hold referendums, to get the people’s approval on budgets, has been tried at the local level it has not been tried at the national level.

Some worry that rejection of the national budget would disrupt government programmes but should the budget not be approved the government would automatically carry on with the same amount of money approved the year before thus giving them time to amend and resubmit their budget for approval.

The holding of referendums need not be an expensive exercise and we have always envisaged that the introduction of electronic voting would speed up the process and reduce the costs significantly.

It’s our money and we should approve the government’s plans to spend it – it really is that simple.    

Monday, 19 November 2018

Demand Four - The People's Consent.

This demand is in three parts with each giving the people the ‘Power’, given certain criteria are met, to call for a referendum on any given matter.

The basic method for trigger a referendum, in all three areas, would be the raising of a petition given the set benchmark of signatures has been met. The next requirement is that a certain percent of the available electorate has to turn out to vote and then the third element is that the majority, to get change, has to be significant. The exact detail of each of the three stages is not yet set but what should be clear is that to hold a referendum is no easy matter.

So the first area a referendum could be held is only advisory on the government and can cover any matter than the public wish to draw to the government's attention. So for example if the correct number sign a petition to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph then they could attempt to get a referendum held but the result if passed by the requisite number would only be advisory.

The second area that a referendum could be held is to specifically challenge a piece of government legislation before it becomes law. If the vote meets the requirements then the government’s bill is defeated. This gives the people real power over their government.

The third area in which the public could challenge decisions and seek rejection would be the decisions made by government or official bodies also elected and appointed officials including ministers and judges. Again strict benchmarks would need to meet and the sort of things that could be challenged would be planning consents and the sentences handed down by judges.  

This demand is critical to our whole agenda as it places real power in the hands of the public and therefore the ability to stop the government’s legislation if the majority so wish it.

Finally to avoid the public simply repeating the call for a referendum, should they not get the decision they want, we propose a ‘don’t ask again clause’ to cover a certain period  and while we suggest a period of 25 years in our pamphlet this would need to be discussed in further detail with a possible alternative being a yes/no question added to every referendum which asks if the public wish to be consult again on the issue within a defined period.

This demand gives real power to the people over their politicians and parliament which both become subordinate, under certain conditions, to a sovereign people.    

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.