Thursday, 21 January 2021

Democracy.

 I have just finished the 132 page book 'Democracy Under Siege' by Frank Furedi. In it he traces the history of democracy and the struggle to achieve the level of democracy we have but he fails completely to offer any suggestions for ways of improving things.

The key lesson that has finally sunk in is that the people of this country have still not achieved real democracy as the Representative Democracy we have is not real democracy.

Democracy as explained many times before comes from the Greek words demos meaning 'People' and  kratos meaning 'Power' thus 'People Power'.

So, while back in ancient Greece, when discussions about democracy first arose, the closest they got to implementing democracy was the use of sortition, selection by lottery, to administer their cities. The trouble was with the likes of Plato and Socrates as strong opponents of democracy, for fear of rule by the uneducated mob, the development and progression of democracy stalled.

 Moving on the reality is that throughout history the 'elites' have always argued against granting the people more power believing that the serious business of governance need to be left to the well-educated. Coming right up to the present day, and our Covid crisis, we find the situation even worse as government minsters, while still not trusting the views of the people, are now hiding behind 'Expert' opinion. Our place is not to argue but to accept and do what we are told. 

Indeed for hundreds of years the people in this country had no real power being ruled by an absolute monarch or elsewhere by dictators and under both regimes the people were kept firmly in their place. Since its concept real democracy has been in short supply in the world with perhaps the Direct Democracy in Switzerland the closest system around that gives the people real power.

However, from around the 1650s the likes of the Dutch philosopher Spinoza and others like Kant and Paine started to seriously address the issue of democracy which accelerated with three main events. They were the English Civil War, the American War of Independence and of course the French Revolution. 

Then spurred on by the Industrial Revolution and later the formation of unions and of course improvements in education the people, following and supporting the Chartist movement, started to demand a greater say in their governance with of course demands for the vote. The momentum gradually built up and eventually became unstoppable and politicians realised they had to act and from the mid1800s political reforms were placed on the statute book with, for example, a vote for every man over 21 becoming law in 1884.

In the 1930s the spread of communism saw the talk of democracy again coming to the fore but nothing much developed or changed and today we are left with our system of Representative Democracy and a political class who, in the main think, they are better than us and still don't want the people to have a greater say or more power. The hash our politicians, of all colours whether Brexiteers or Remainers, have made of agreeing a comprehensive trade deal with the EU 27, that does not harm our economy, proves beyond doubt that the greater say and power the people have in their governance the better.

Be under no doubt that our current system of Representative Democracy leaves power firmly in the hands of our politicians who seldom if ever listen to the majority and spend their time pandering to the latest pressure group often promoted and even supported by the MSM. The only power we have is at election time, so one day every five years, and increasingly a large proportion don't vote believing it a waste of time as our politicians once in office don’t listen to them.

The absolute irony is that politicians and other 'elites' today, who are still suspicious and against the opinion of the majority, are they very same people who wish the majority to accept the views of minority groups, like Extinction Rebellion or Black Lives Matter to name but two recent examples, who they either openly support or do little to show they disagree with them.

 The concerns of further democracy, leading to mob rule, is a genuine concern which is why our fourth demand, 'The People's Consent', is so careful framed to ensure the power granted to the people cannot be abused and of course would be backed up by constitutional restraints in a written constitution – which is our sixth demand.

Further I would point out that the education and awareness of the public now clearly exceeds that of the peasants hundreds of years ago and when asked or given I'm convinced the public's decisions will be as good if not better than those made by our out of touch politicians.

It is amazing to think that despite the word 'Democracy' having been around and discussed for around 2500 years we have still not achieved real democracy in this country and I strongly believe it is time the cause for real democracy is advanced which is why I support our six demands.    

 

 

 

Friday, 15 January 2021

Referenda

 I've just finished the book 'Despised' by Paul Embery which sets out very clearly "Why the modern left loathes the working class."

He bases the book largely on his own experiences growing up on the Becontree estate in Barking and Dagenham, which was formed in 1963, this estate is the largest council estate in the UK. 

What happened in the first decade of this new century was that the Becontree estate changed beyond recognition as governments believed that:-

 "....today's working class really did desire the move to a more globalised world, in which such concepts as borders and national sovereignty were of diminished importance, traditional values - such as around family and patriotism - were obsolete, and liberal progressivism enjoyed hegemony. Well, some of them did, no doubt. But from where I was sitting, most seemed thoroughly ill at ease with such a proposition."  

 He goes on:-

"The people in these places cried out to those in power to heed their concerns. But for years these cries were unheard'"

Then we come to the 2016 referendum and the majority in Barking and Dagenham and many other areas, despite the prophecies of disaster, saw their chance to strike back against the political class and vote leave.

First, they saw the economic doomsayers as blatantly overhyping the situation. Second, predictions of economic meltdown had little resonance in their already depressed areas. Finally third, they saw it as the only opportunity they had in their life time to force the political elite to listen to them.

The referendum for these people clearly served a purpose. 

The majority of these people had also long held the view they wanted to leave the EU which explains why the Conservatives broke the 'Red Wall' in the 2019 election as the voters in these areas responded to the guarantee that 'Brexit would be done' unlike the muddle offered by the Labour party.

Those who argue that those that voted to leave did not fully understand the implications entirely miss the point that the vote was to leave and the people who voted such then expected the government to sort out a good deal. That our governments TCA is nearly as bad as a no deal is simply another indication of how incompetent our politcians are and how they have once again let down the people.

Our fourth demand sets out three areas where referenda, under certain qualifying conditions, can be called by the people and I believe the evidence from the 2016 EU referendum offers full justification as why this demand is so essential.

The reforms to our governance need to offer the people the ablity to call for a referendum - real democracy demands it.

  

    


Saturday, 9 January 2021

The hurdles to political reform.

 Any sane person, from whatever political persuasion, should support reform of our governance to improve our democracy. 

However the reality is that amongst our politicians and the politically active there is nearly always a reluctance to get behind new ideas as they have not originated from their own 'stable' or they see them as a threat. Also any ideas they do have, for reform to the status quo, are usually limited in scope and ambition.

Therefore politicians from the Left, Right or Centre, our media or business leaders are the very last people who will get behind, support and promote THA's six demands.

For our agenda to 'catch on' it has to first evolve and grow amongst the people at the grassroots. When this happens, and critical mass is finally achieved, it will be impossible for the Establishment to ignore the pressure on them to change.

The reality however is that there are two major hurdles to overcome before the grassroots will devote the time and energy to demand the changes we advocate.

The first hurdle, involves the daily conditions they face deteriorating to a point that they can no longer ignore the obvious conclusion that the faults lie squarely at the door of Westminster.

The second hurdle, is to get our ideas before the people in a manner they understand and explain the peaceful actions that we can all take to exert real pressure on our politicians to accept our reforms.

In conclusion, the time could well be approaching where the public start to wake up to the total inadequate nature of our governance as they suffer real hardship from the government's attempts at handling the Covid-19 virus and the inadequate nature of the Trade Cooperation Agreement agreed with the EU on December 24th last year.  

Our politicans have been having a free ride for far too long and the time is fast approaching for the people to demand changes that give them real power to control the Establishment who should only work for the people's benefit rather than their own self interests as they feather their own nests.  


Friday, 18 December 2020

Sortition .

I first came across 'Sortition' after reading 'Against Elections' by David Van Reybrouck a couple of years ago.

In it he explains that for most of its 3000 year history, democracy did not involve elections at all as members of the public were appointed to positions in government through a combination of volunteering and selection by lottery. In fact, he points out that the original purpose of elections was to exclude the people from power by appointing an elite to govern over them - and haven't they been supremely successful.

The action of selecting or determining something, in this case a government, by casting or drawing of lots is called ‘Sortition’ and of course our juries are selected using this system today. Based on this and the fact that sortition was used to select the governments in ancient Greek cities the author believes that there is no intrinsic reason why all our governance could not be selected in this way.

I think the principle of sortition has a great deal going for it, after all if our juries can be selected by lottery then why should not elements of our governance. However, my own opinion is that it would not be practical or desirable to adopt it for all our governance.

The governance of our country or even local regions is now far more complex than the days of administering a Greek city in the 6th century BC. THA certainly wants to enable the ‘people’ to have a far greater say in the governance of our country but I believe the day to day running  and technical detail of our governance is best handled by dedicated officials overseen in the main by elected politicians but who are, importantly, answerable to the people they serve. 

The six demands of our agenda set out very clearly how the people will no longer be able to be ignored and provides them with the mechanisms to have their views heard and when applicable a majority will be able to stop government legislation. We have also been very careful to ensure that certain rules and procedures need to be followed to avoid the situation where we end up with mob rule.

I also still believe in our FPTP system for elections as, for all its faults, it still beats all the other systems and prevents the endless coalitions usually comprised of the same parties and people who perform endless deals behind closed doors. FPTP allows the people to get rid of a government they no longer trust.

My first choice, for a system of sortition, would be in the long over due reform of the House of Lords which, as I wrote last week, would be reduced to 300 members with a third each elected, appointed and selected by sortition. Also it could be used in part for the appointment of people to government official enquiries and quangos. Why should the members of the public not take part in such things which currently only go to the chums of our out of touch politicians.

Once sortition has been proved to work and is successful then I see no reason why the principle should not be extended to a reduced House of Commons of say 500 with the number of MPs allocated by county based on its population with at least a third selected by sortition.

In summary I believe the specific use of sortition should have its place in the long over due reforms to our system of governance as it gives the people real power and after all the defination of democracy is 'People Power'. Unless and until the 'people' have the ability to hold the upper hand over our politicians they will continue to take advantage of us and take us and treat us for fools. 


  

   

Thursday, 10 December 2020

The House of Lords by numbers.

 Nothing typifies the pityful state of our democracy than the numbers now associated with the HofL.

In the HofL Act of 1999 the bulk of the hereditary peers were removed and a cap of 600 set for its members.

However the current total is 794, of whom 665 are life peers which makes 84% appointees of Prime Ministers.

This is not DEMOCRACY but a CHUMOCRACY!

The size of the Lords has varied greatly throughout history with initially around 168 English peers which increased to 184 with the addition in 1707 of 16 Scottish peers. Then in 1801 28 Irish peers were added bringing the total to 212.

After the Life Peerage Act of 1958 and the Peerage Act of 1963, allowing women into the Lords, the numbers grew to an alarming 1,330 in October 1999 albeit a fair number never attended. The Lords reform of that year reduced the numbers to 669 but since then they have steadily risen to around 800.

In 2011 a cross party committee called on David Cameron to stop appointing new peers as he had created 117 since becoming PM in 2010 which was a faster rate than any previous period in history. Ironically the huge expansion of the Lords occurred while Cameron unsuccessfully tried to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600! Well I suppose as an epitath that about sums Cameron up.

At its current total, just short of 800, the chamber is the second largest legislative body after China's National Peoples Congress and dwarfs the upper houses of other democracies such as - USA Senate 100, France 348, Australia 76, Canada 105, India 250 and is even larger than The Supreme People's Assembly of N.Korea with its 687 members.

The serious review of the Lords in 2017 recommended  a maximum of 600 members (even thought the seating capacity is a maximum of 400), a fifteen year term limit for new peers and a two-out one-in limit on new appointments. This report to their credit was largely approved by the Lords.

The current total of 794 is of course well above the 600 cap and above the total of 669 in 2000.

Our current leaders manipulate democracy for their own ends ensuring thier MPs are in the main compliant 'nodding donkeys' and filling the second chamber with their cronies who have so often achieved little of worth as MPs or in other walks of life.

In our third demand 'A Separation of Power' we suggest a HofL of 100 and HofC of 300. On reflection I feel 300 and 500 would be nearer the mark. As to the 300 in the Lords I'm currently minded that a fixed term is essential with a third elected, a third appointed and the last third selected by a system of sortition. Sortition, as practised in ancient Rome, sees the selection by lottery from people who have put themselves up to do the job and a serious job of work it is rather than one senses now that it is just a glorified private members club for political has beens. 

There are many aspects of our democracy that need urgent reform but a reform of the Hof L, starting with cutting it down in size, is pretty high on the list.