Monday, 21 September 2020

"All politics is local"

 The quote used in this title is famously associated with the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill.

Our second demand is about 'Real Local Democracy' and is the main reason I became interested recently in Somerset's plans to become a Unitary Authority (UA).

Somerset currently has a County Council (CC), four District Councils(DC) and then the Parish and Town Councils beneath them.

We already have 55 UAs in England and local government in Wales and Scotland are all based on UAs.

Westminster has set out three criteria for any county to submit plans to becoming a UA.

1. Any UA should improve local governance.

2. The proposal should command a good deal of local support.

3. Any UA population to be larger than 300,000 to 400,000.

Somereset County Council's business case 'One Somerest', all 148 pages of it, tells us that there will be improved service outcomes focused on prevention and value for money (?), that support is growing for the plan and that the population of Somerset is currently 560,000.

First all centralisers say that things will be improved, while the only way to prove the plans popularity would be hold a referendum and finally by any measure an organisation looking after 560,000 people is not local.

In our pamphlet we point out that the sovereign independent country Iceland, with its own law making parliament, police, fishing policy and navy to enforce it, only has a population of 366,000 with 59 local    municipalities which on average makes the population of each one only 6203. That is what local democacy looks like not the "One Somerset" proposals.

Every CC or UA are still predominately agents of central government with around 30% of their income coming from central government grants.

Doing away with DCs and centralising power into UAs is not improving local democracy but the exact opposite and is typical of the way big goverments work believing that centralising power in some way improves democracy.

Local people want their councillors to be accessable and accountable and centralising power seldom if ever achieves that.   

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Demand four - The People's Consent.

 My 18 years experience of business life make me sympathetic to the principles of workers cooperatives typified perhaps by the sign on my notice board behind my desk which read "It's difficult to soar like an eagle when you are workjing for turkeys!" I was strongly of the opinion that those above me far too often had become divorced from what was really happening on the ground. Even so my sign was I guess a tad provacative and could well explain why I never got promoted!

Anyway much as I favour the 'workers' involvement and abiltiy to influence the direction of their companies I feel it would be disastrous for any firms future if the they could ultimately call the shots.

This then is the reasoning behind the first part of our fourth demand 'The People's Consent' which allows the People the opportunity, through a referendum, to let the government know about a new policy they want. This however is only advisory albeit it would be very foolish of any government to ignore ther wished of the majority. 

The other two parts, to our fourth demand, aren't advisory but compulsory and the government of the day must action the People's wishes if a majority demand it. The second part enables the people to stop a piece of govenment legislation and the third enables the people to object to such things as planning applications and the sentences issued by our courts. 

'The People's Consent' is an essential ingredient to restoring real democracy which allows a sovereign people the mechanisms, via referendums, to truly exert their will.  

    

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Revolutionary demands within an evolutionary timescale.

 After THA'S conception in 2012 it became increasing clear, as the years ticked by, that our revolutionary demands would only come about through an evolutionary process. If we were the subjects of a monarch for 600 odd years and those of our current parliamentary democracy for nearly 400 then the revolutionary changes to our governance, as covered in our six demands, are not going to happen overnight.

As a result, my aim has simply been to keep the pilot light on so that we are there as and when the public wake up, to the reality, that nothing is going to change in the way we are governed without substantial reforms to our parliamentary system.

The trouble is the working public are too comfortable and busy keeping their jobs and maintaining their standard of living to give any thought to the reform of our governance.

However, could this be about to change next year as the double economic hits of Covid-19 and a No Deal TransEnd hit us and the working public come to understand that the blind faith they have placed in their politicians has been misplaced as they realise the full scale of their incompetence.

If the majority don't wake up they will certainly deserve all they get but I fear that the reality is that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

 

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Democracy is about 'Power' stupid.

Few if any books I’ve read in and around the subject of ‘Democracy’ come to the same conclusions we do which is that unless and until the ‘People’ have real effective 'Power' nothing is going to change.

Take Murray Bookchin for example. In the two books of his I’ve read recently - ‘The Next Revolution’ and  ‘The Ecology of Freedom’, totally some 638 pages between them, he covers his ideas for people’s assemblies in the first and traces the conflicts hierarchical structures bring to society in the second.

His idea for people’s assemblies at local level, at first appear to be a step in the right direction, but it soon becomes clear that they are nothing more than part appointed and part elected talking shops without any permanent power to change things.

Central governments are very good at hanging onto power and over the years have come up a number of ruses to convince the people that they are improving their local democracy from unitary councils, to regionalisation and devolution to name but three Westminster have supported.

However democracy whether national or local only lives up to its name if the people are recognised as sovereign and have the mechanisms to exert their power over their politicians.

Our six demands directly address the issue of who holds the power and one can come up with all the fancy ideas you like, to supposedly improve democracy, but unless the power is held directly by the people then the ideas are all simply window dressing.



Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Anarchy

Since being involved with THA my reading list has been many and varied in and around the broad topic of democracy and the latest book I've just finished was 'On Anarchism' by Noam Chomsky.

Anarchy is the state of a society being freely constituted without authorities or a governing body. It may also refer to a society or group of people that totally rejects a set hierarchy. The word anarchy was first used in 1539, meaning "an absence of government".

Interestingly Chomsky points out all anarchists are socialists but not all socialists are anarchists!

The trouble for anarchists is that no nation has ever, to the best of my knowledge, been run according to this principle except very briefly in Spain, but then only in some areas, before the communists established their hierarchical controls over them.

Smaller structures like kibbutzes, in Israel especially in the early days, would have passed the test as 'communes' but realistically a nation needs a government.

The BIG issue then is whether the people have any real power over their government and the reality is that over time most, if not all, governments increase their powers and become more isolated from the people they serve.

In Comsky's book I was struck by this passage:-

"New revolutions must dissolve the government altogether or bring it closer to its legitimate institutions...The uprising that ends by strangling or dethroning a sultan is as lawful an act as those by which he disposed, the day before, of the lives and goods of his subject. Force alone maintained him, force alone overthrows him."

It should go without saying, but let me emphasis, that THA is not for strangling anyone or a state of anarchy! What we strongly advocate is peaceful resistance, in line with the thoughts of Gene Sharp, to bring about the reforms to our governance we demand. However, what I do take from the quote above is that it is totally legitimate for a people to take back power from their governments especially when the governments power is being increased, centralised and ultimately abused.

This is the key to THA - to give power back to the people for only by having real power can the people make their politicians their servants and not their masters.


Friday, 31 July 2020

In Defence of the People.

The more I read and think about our Agenda, since our formation in 2012, I'm increasingly certain that the opinion and views of the 'people' is on balance every bit as good, if not better, than those of our politicians.

Yesterday I was was struck by this quote by Thomas Jefferson, USA's 3rd President, which was in Dr North's blog post on EU Referendum as well as on the new blog Turbulent Times. 

"I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false."

This quote has been taken from a letter he wrote complaining about the misinformation in newspapers which is similar to the aphorism attributed to Mark Twain some years later "If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed".

The 'elites' of our world come up with every excuse imaginable as to why they are the fount of all wisdom and it is indeed very easy to portray the 'masses' as uneducated dullards but those that are are a very small minority.

The claim that the 'people' lack the education to make major decisions ignores the facts that politcs is about more than just the facts. As the Chartists pointed out people knew more about politics than they were given credit for and were often better equipped with what was happening on the ground than the elites living in their ivory towers.

Trusting the views of the majority should not be considered a risk and is in fact the absolute cornerstone of a real democracy. The advantage to the collective will of the people being properly heard is that it allows fresh air to penetrate into the stale air of the Westminster bubble.

Of course our Agenda's fundamental aim is to give the people real power over our politicians.