Sunday, 11 August 2019

The People are key to protecting our freedoms.

 
While campaigning  groups and individuals do there best to try and hold each government of the day to account, whenever it transgresses our freedoms, what we really need is a permanent solution for keeping our governments in check which needs to be established on a statutory basis. 

To me the answer lies in the significant political reforms as advocated by the six demands of The Harrogate Agenda which seeks, as its most basic, to make our politicians our servants and not our masters.

Our first demand turns on its head the fundamental assumption on which the UK is based, which is that Parliament is sovereign. This is an archaic convention which belongs to the days of the horse and cart, when the outlying provinces had to send their representatives to Westminster in journeys lasting days, then not to see them for months, perforce to trust their judgement.

In a world of instant communications, it is no longer necessary to argue for a sovereign parliament. In modern democracies the people exert their sovereignty. The people of the UK comprise the ultimate authority of their nations and are the source of all political power. The fact should be recognised by the Crown and the Governments of our nations and our Parliaments and Assemblies.

However, when it comes to real democracy, this frames our second demand. We believe that the foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which should become constitutional bodies exercising, under the control of their people, all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted to the national government. Democracy is nothing if it is not local.

Our third demand addresses national government and calls for the separation of powers. The executive should be separated from the legislature. Prime ministers should be elected by popular vote and they should appoint their ministers, with approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of their powers and responsibilities.

One of the most powerful and most controversial, however, is our fourth demand, where we demand that no law, treaty or government decision shall take effect without the consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded. Furthermore, no law shall continue to have effect when consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people.

Our fifth demand requires that there should be no taxation or spending without consent. No tax, charge or levy should be imposed, nor any public spending authorised nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government, except with expressed approval of the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures.

That brings us to our final sixth demand. Accepting that there are many flaws in our current constitution, we do not presume to dictate what it should contain. Instead, we demand the setting up of a constitutional convention. Parliament, once members of the executive are excluded, must host this to draw up a definitive codified constitution for the UK.

Crucially, it should recognise the sovereign status of the people and their inherent, inalienable rights, latterly to be approved by them through the mechanism of a referendum.

All this is of course not going to happen overnight but we in The Harrogate Agenda are prepared for the long game learning from the Chartists before us that took around 75 years to get five of their six demands enacted. Only with our six demands enacted will the political climate exist that allows the people to preserve the freedoms that they hold dear and not see them whittled away by our politicians who currently act as our masters and not our servants.    









Thursday, 25 July 2019

Populism


It is easy to see why the gullible and lazy or simply impatient turn their support to populist movements and parties as they believe that they will bring instant results.  However history teaches us that to change the status quo takes time and persistence.

In Greece the electorate’s flirtation with a populist party has just come to an end and one wonders how long it will be before the scales fall from the eyes of the Italians who support the 5 Star party?

In our own country the electorate never gave Nigel Farage’s UKIP enough votes to gain an MP at Westminster and I suspect the same will be true of the new Brexit Party. As for Boris the public have yet to be asked whether they want him and I believe he will not receive the endorsement he is expecting if and when an election is held.

The two key problems with Populist parties is that they have no intellectual depth and second they end up trying to turn the tide operating in the same corrupted political system. It is therefore not surprising that they wither almost as quickly as they rise.

The Harrogate Agenda seeks to address this situation with it’s six demands offering the political reform first which will then allow a new system of governance to emerge that will be able to cleanse the corrupted and corrupt status quo with the a sovereign people, with the real power to act as the guardians of their own future.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

We have to penetrate their bubble.

 When I first read 'Blunders of Governments' by Crewe and King (a must read IMO) it helped me understand why our politicians are often so incapable of successfully completing projects aimed at solving the problems we face.

It helped explain the many reasons why our politicians are incompetent  and in particular how they are inflicted by large doses of 'Group Think' and the stupefying impact of living in the Westminster bubble.

So when Corbyn says he nor his party are racist he isn't lying it is just that he is totally unable to see things objectively for the reasons mentioned above.

The plain facts are that most if not all our politicians are increasingly isolated and out of touch with the real world as, even at their surgeries, they largely only get to see the minority that have problems which helps explain their often warped priorities which ignore the majorities wishes.

A further point about Labour's current troubles is, as stated by ex-Labour Peer Lord Triesman of 50 years standing, that under Corbyn's leadership the party is beyond reform.

One could also argue that under our current political class Westminster is beyond reform but if we accepted that then nothing is going to change.

So if we accept that Westminster is in urgent in need of reform then our task is to get involved in the long slow haul to penetrate their bubble and make it crystal clear that unless and until they accept the principle of our six demands they will no longer get our support.

It would be helpful if our media could promote our cause but we cannot expect any help from them and they will only follow once our politicians have 'got it'.

Fortunately there are far more of us than them but it is up to us to take the fight to them.                                                                                       

Monday, 8 July 2019

Our dysfunctional system of governance.

It's a real problem knowing where to start, these days, with a critique of our current political system,our politicians and current government. Suffice to say they are no longer fit for purpose and well past their 'Best before Date' and in urgent need of reform.

The main downside to our current dysfunctional form of governance is that the views and opinions of the largely 'Silent Majority' are consistently overlooked.

The media's fortunes are now heavy linked with the current 'Establishment' and it is not in their own self interest to rock too many boats. The media's use of 'Vox Pops' readily portray the general public as the great unwashed but are careful to provide 'balance' with hand picked members of the public who happily agree with and spout support for the liberal left of centre shallow 'apple pie'  PC views they espouse.

Unless and until the majority have the real power, that our six demands would give them, to make our political class our servants instead of our masters we will continue to be unrepresented and unheard.

The direct influence of the vast majority of the public, with their common sense views, is what is missing from our current political system. 

Monday, 1 July 2019

Recall of MPs.

I'll be honest this new law, passed in 2015, had rather passed me by until the Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was recalled and lost her seat in Peterborough in May.

Before that Ian Paisley, from North Antrim, was suspended for 30 days under the same law and now Chris Davies, of Brecon and Radnorshire, faces a by-election on 1st August for fiddling his expenses.

The details of the law are explained here -

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recall_of_MPs_Act_2015

Our second demand for Real Local Democracy could see individual counties setting up procedures for recalling their MPs which, unlike the existing law, need not only apply when MPs have broken the law.

Real Local Democracy should allow constituents the right to recall their MPs for any reasons, including general incompetence, so long as sufficient signatures are obtained.

If we go on accepting the political status quo then we only have ourselves to blame for the mess our politicians get us in. 


Monday, 17 June 2019

Knife Crime.

In all the media coverage and political comments on this growing issue the question is always "What can the government do about it" and the debate then centres on such things as more money and on an increase in police numbers.

My belief is that if you asked the 'People' what they think should be done about it they would start by saying that we need a 'colour blind' policing policy of Zero Tolerance and a very strict attitude towards the parents and their responsibilities towards their children and society as a whole in preventing the gang member culture.

That our political elite are out of touch with real people is a given and it is long overdue that they responded to the views and demands of the 'People' and act on them.

Many aspects of our current Welfare State cause a reliance on the State to do something as problems occur whereas the solutions so often lie within society and the family and all that is needed is for our politicians and government to show some guts and challenge head on those who promote the 'State knows best' dependency cuture.

THA gives the 'People' the power to demand our politicians take full account of thier concerns, views and solutions.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

It's time for an elected Prime Minister.

In November last year I explained the basics of our third demand 'A Separation of Power'  and in particular the need for an elected Prime Minister - here is the link


At the moment, with the current Conservative Party 'charade' at trying to elect a new leader the need for the 'People' to elect our PM could not be more obvious or needed.

Of all the elements from our six demands electing our PM would be really simple as at the time of a General Election, as well as voting for a party to govern, we would also be able to vote for the PM we wanted. This could lead to a PM who was from a different party to the one with a majority in the Commons but that doesn't stop the process of governance it just creates the need for policy compromises which is an important element of democracy. In America, for example, we have had a Democratic President with a Republican House of Representatives and their government still functioned.

An elected British PM's cabinet would also sit outside parliament, while approved by it, which would mean the whole Executive being held to account by the whole of Parliament.

Having an elected PM would dispense with the farce that we are currently experiencing as the Conservative party goes through the motions of a type of 'Buggins' turn' internal election for their next leader.         

Monday, 13 May 2019

Recall of MPs.

On Thursday 6th June there will be a by-election in Peterborough brought about by the 'recall vote' taken against the Labour MP Fiona Onasanya who was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to a term in prison.

This was only possible as a result of the 'Recall of MPs Act 2015' which made it possible for 10% of constituents to be able to recall their MP and call a by-election but only in the limited circumstance of being found guilty of a wrong doing that fulfils certain criteria.

This new law is at least a start but does not allow the recall of MPs for general incompetence which is what real democracy demands.

In our second demand for 'Real Local Democracy' we are quite clear that under our proposed system of governance with a real increase in powers at the local level it would be up to the local people in each county to decide on such matters.

To quote from page 12 of our pamphlet :-

"Details of how and under what conditions individual MPs(and members of the upper house) are selected might be left to the electors of the county, set out in each local constitution and implemented by local legislatures. After all, if we are to have localism, then the terms and conditions governing the employment of representatives should be decided locally.

We could also envisage a situation where MPs are no longer paid from the central funds, but by their counties. It would be for the people of each county to decide how much their representatives were paid, how much should be allowed by way of expenses, and how they should be held accountable. Also, if one area wanted to introduce a method of recall, that would be up to them. Thus do we see democracy closer to the people, with government - local and national - under the direct control of the people. Anything else is not democracy."  

Nuff said!    

Monday, 6 May 2019

The use of referenda.

Last week I explained how the third part of our fourth demand, 'The People's Consent', would allow us to challenge the decisions  made by government bodies such as elected and appointed officials, including minsters and judges.

As usual I posted this on 'EU Referendum' and some of the comments suggested that for the 'People' to be able to challenge judges would lead to mob rule.

I understands these concerns but to me it is akin to suggesting that any democratic majority decision amounts to mob rule especially when you don't agree with the majorities point of view. Furthemore it completely overlooks the significant checks and balances that we suggest must go along with the use of referenda.

Of course the decision of a jury, in a court case, can already be subject to appeal but the whole point of our fourth demand is to give the 'People' real power to ensure 'officialdom' can always be held to account.

Last week I pointed out the biased summing up at the Jeremy Thorpe trial by judge Cantley, which went against point 10 of Sir Matthew Hale's resolutions for judges toi follow, which could be the sort of issue the people might like the chance to comment on but I think there are better examples.

Take for example the 30+ years it has taken for the recent Infected Blood enquiry to be set up or the 25+ years it took for the investigation into the Hillsborough Disaster to get underway - are not these examples where, if the 'People' could have their say, governments would be forced to act sooner with the results open to the 'People' to challenge in the event of a whitewash.

I don't think governments and minsters would like the 'People' to be able to interfere in their cosy deliberations conducted at their own speed but then it is clear that our MPs, when considering Brexit, don't much like democracy.

The use of referenda, as outlined in our fourth demand, gives the 'People' real power without which we don't really have a functioning democracy.             

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Rule of Law.


I’ve recently finished a very good book called ‘The Rule of Law’ by Tom Bingham that sets out, in relatively simple terms, what constitutes the RofL and the importance of a country abiding by it if wants to be considered as a modern democratic nation.

Credit for coining the expression ‘RofL’ is usually given to Professor A.V. Dicey from Oxford university who used it in his book ‘An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution’ in 1885.

The various elements that make up the ‘RofL’ have evolved over time and are still being added today with recent considerations being needed to cover modern day terrorism and the sovereignty of Parliament over Brexit.

A point which I had not really focused on is the important part our judges play in interpreting the law whenever disputes arise but that also begs the BIG question who polices the judges?

One of the historic milestones making up the Rule of Law is Sir Matthew Hale’s list of ‘Things Necessary to be Continually had in Remembrance’. Hale was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench from 1671 to 1676. His list runs to 18 points which all judges should follow and point 10 particularly caught my eye as it states ‘ That I be not biased with compassion to the poor, or favour to the rich in point of justice’.

Recently I read a book on the Jeremy Thorpe trial and in particular the outrageously biased summing up by the Presiding Judge Joseph Cantley, who in his summing up roundly condemned the prosecution witnesses and praised the defendants, while claiming not to express an opinion! If you want to see Peter Cook at his lampooning best take a look at this from his address, in 1979, to the    Secret Policeman's Ball  in aid of Amnesty International in which he ridicules Cantley’s summing up!

So the point of this post is to emphasis the third part of our fourth demand ‘The People’s Consent’ which would provide the means for the public to have their say at such blatant bias by a judge. In fact this demand would apply to any judge led Public Enquiry that the public deemed to be a whitewash like the Chilcot and Hutton reports.

Finally if so many politicians want a second referendum then how about the people having their say on their performance when they feel like it? Now that is how democracy should work and I would find it hard to believe anyone would not agree?