Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Our Criminal Justice Sytem.

I've just finished the book 'The Secret Barrister' who describes, through various stories, the increasing problems and inadequacies of the whole of our Criminal Justice System.

 In summary he highlights the problems as the increasing work load put onto unqualified magistrates, serious financial cuts to the CPS leading to very poor and faulty case work presentation, political interference as with cases like 'Nick' and an overly complicated sentencing system. 

He however is very clear, that despite its faults ,our adversarial sytem is preferable to the continental system where the state alone presides over the proceedings.

What is completely missing from the book is any comment about the total absence of the public at large being able to have their say about how the system operates or the decisions and sentences passed by it.

Now the primary purpose of our Agenda addresses this issue by demanding that the inherent sovereignty of the people be recognised. Then under the third element of our fourth demand, 'The People's Consent', we require public approval, permitting challenge  and possiblity of rejection, of the decisions made by official bodies, elected and appointed officials, including ministers and judges.

I can think of nothing better for improving our governance and justice system, and correcting its faults, than to allow the public the ability to shine a light onto and into the whole system.

At the moment our government's priorities are seldom if ever those of the majority of the people and until that is rectified nothing much is going to change apart from a few deck chairs as the Ship of State continues to take on water. The rot in our governance has been growing for some time now but under our current incompetent government the water intake is on the increase.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Beware the trappings of power.

 I'm a fan of the 'A Very Short Introduction' series which are many and varied and I've just finished the 162 page one on 'Socialism' by Michael Newman.

 This gave a very good summary of socialism from the rapid economic and social changes, associsted with urbanization and indusrialization, in early 19th century Europe through to the break down of communism in Russia with the fall of the Berlin Wall and ending with some final thoughts of its future in the 21st century.

In outlining the Socialist Traditions in chapter one he covers Utopians, Anarchism, Marxism, Social Democracy and Communism.

I wrote about Anarchism back in August and so I was struck by the comment in this book that anarchists are critical of hierarchical organisations and provide a perpetual warning for all movements:-

"Beware the trappings of power, beware bureaucracy, and ensure that authoriy is always distrusted."

 Apart from its vision of decentralized self-governing organisations, this was its essential contribution to socialism. 

It is for the above reason that our movement will never become a party and is the danger that all new parties fall into so well typified by UKIP, the Brexit Party and I suspect will be the future of Fox's Reclaim Party.

For The Harrogate Agenda to succeed it has to become a mass people's movement aimed at restoring the inherent sovereignty of the people while being beware of the trappings of power, bureaucracy and ensuring authority is always distrusted. 

If you want to revolutionise the status quo you don't join it.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

What we can learn form the Levellers.

 On Mastermind on Monday one of the contestants specialised subjects was on the Levellers which I did vaguely recall were an early movement to improve our democracy so I looked up further details and discovered the following.

They were prominent during the Civil War in the 1600s with the political aims of extending the franchise and achieving manhood suffrage as they believed that everyone had equal rights to the  vote.

They were called the 'Levellers', as they wished to level out society. They had many ideas on how they thought society should be and their political and religious objectives were put forward to Parliament in 'The Agreement of the People' in 1647. This document was much more radical than those before it. Along with their political aims they wanted to reform the legal system to give equality to everyone before the law and achieve recognition of people's fundamental rights and liberties.

They were however not sucessful primarily because they
didn’t gain popular support which meant that they could easily be ignored and thus defeated.They also failed to make inroads into the army with only limited rank and file support, despite their aims being to their advantage, as soldiers were more interested in their pay and conditions than in theoretical schemes of government. They also had no support from the officers, the so-called 'Grandees', like Cromwell and Ireton as their power could be curbed by the Levellers ideas. This meant they had little support in Parliament because the rich and wealthy landowners felt threatened by them for if their objectives were achieved they would lose power, money and land and there would be a major destruction of the social order.

Interestingly as with the Chartists, some 200 years later, the Levellers emerged at a time when there was severe economic hardship and this made their policies attractive to working class people, who would have mostly benefited from their reforms. However, as the economic situation improved support for the Levellers started to decline. This was the major reason as to why they lacked popular support.

Coming right up to date for our agenda to achieve mass support we sadly need the economic conditions to seriously deteriorate so that the people are forced to consider how badly the current system of governance
in this country has let them down. At that point they should hopefully focus on the necessary improvements needed to give them a far greater say in the way they are governed which needs to start with a recognition of the people's inherent sovereignty.

Next year of course with the double economic whammy of Covid and at best a limited trade deal with the EU the conditions should be ripe to advance our six demands.
If the people want politcal reforms they will have to wake up and demand them - it is up to them.

 As Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard “If we want things to stay as they are, everything will have to change. 

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Party politics destroys good governance.

 Politics, especially party politics, gets in the way of good governance and policies that would benefit the nation as a whole.

The media are unfortunately obsessed with  the whole game played out through party politics while the people only care about the necessary policies required to improve their lives. 

Only at election time do the people get to have their say but with no mechansim for the people to hold the government to account after polling day they are ignored until the campaign at the next election.

I've just finished the book 'The wake up call' by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge which is quite good at charting and explaining the decline in the West's governance, especially in the USA and UK, but when it comes to solutions they have a wish list of around 13 points. These they suggest would improve our governance but it relies entirely on the current lot in Westminster administering the changes and quite frankly that isn't going to happen for as the good old saying goes 'turkeys don't vote for Christmas'.

Over the last few years I have read over two dozen books in and around the subject of democracy but not one of them really gets to the root of the problem which is that the people do not have the power to hold their government to account between elections.

The first requirement to make this happen is for the people to have their inherent sovereignty recognised and confirmed in a new codified constitution ( Demands one and six). 

Next government needs to be brought closer to the people ( Demand two) and central government needs to be reduced in numbers and role with a new seperation of power ( Demand three)

Finally the people need the mechanisms to say no to government legislation and control their annual budget. ( Demands four and five)

There is nothing better out there at the moment than our six demands for improving our governance however as Edmund Burke said ' All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.'  

THA is ready and waiting!    

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 working 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 the wishes 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.