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.


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.

Thursday 3 December 2020

How do you sack your MP?

 The answer to the question in my title is you can't apart from at a General Election. Then the electorate are usually more focused on voting for a party than the actual candidate who, however inadequate, ends up living to fight another day.

Between elections there is nothing you can do even if what he says he will do he contradicts with his actions. The simplest reason as to why what politicians say and do diverge is I believe because in the end they put party loyalty above their own principles and beliefs which are in any event usually pretty flexible! I would also point out that in supporting their party they may well be disregarding the views of the majority in their constituency.

Recently the Tory MP Bob Stewart was interviewed on Talk Radio about the PM's new Tier System and said he had no choice but to support his PM. He however admitted that in his constiuency there were those who supported the measures and those who didn't. What of course he will never know is what the majority felt.

In our second demand 'Real Local Government' we suggest it should be up to each constituency whether they wanted a system of recall and if one now existed in Bob Stewart's constituency then if enough people wanted to they could raise a vote of no confidence in him. Then there would be no question as to whether his support for his party was also accepted by his constituents.

A system of MP recall is 'Real Local Democracy' and, I cannot help feeling like so many Tory MPs, the 'gutless' Bob Stewart might just find that it helped stiffen his backbone to put his constituents first.


Friday 27 November 2020

No taxation or spending without consent.

With our Chancellor spending money like water it's appropriate to consider our fifth demand which is quite clear that there should be no taxation or spending without the consent of the people in an annual referendum.

Currently our Chancellor and government can tax, spend and borrow without so much as a thought as to whether the majority of people approve of what they are doing.

You can take your pick on numbers but give or take the odd billion our total national debt is currently 2.3 trillion, which equates to around 105% of our GDP, while we will now need to borrow around 100 billion each year, of our 750 billion national expenditure, to pay our bills.

The obvious question is whether we have had any say in these levels of expenditure and borrowing and of course the resounding anwer is a big NO - that's zilch input. These decisions have been made by virtually one man, our Chancellor, who the government supports.

I know the obvious concern is that the people are not responsible enough to be involved in  deciding how much the government spends each year but past experience, from local government referendums on rate increases, proves that the people welcomed the chance to give their opinion and can make reasonable decisions. In brief outline in 1999 Milton Keynes, followed in 2001 by Bristol City and Croydon asked their rate payers whether they wanted their rates to be less, stay the same, or rise and the clear majority in all cases voted for their councils to  reject decreases or increases in expenditure and to accept small rises to keep the budgets at thr same level as the year before. By rejecting decreases the people proved that they can be responsible. 

The government has NO money of its own and and over 50% of its income comes from income tax and National Insurance contributions so I can see no reason why we should not be asked each year to approve the governments annual budget.

Again we explain in our pamphlet that should the people vote down any government plans to increase spending then the governemnt automatically get the previous years budget to kept them going while they trim the budget before presenting it to us again.

I cannot think that anyone would disagree that governments waste our money so to ask them every year to present their budget to us for approval would be common sense. I doubt the  government of the day would like the discipline of this but that is their problem not ours.

The classic refain of 'No taxation without representation' needs a slight adaptation to '  No taxation without our approval'.


Friday 20 November 2020

Why do our politicians ignore us?

 The increasing reality is, that for some time now, our politicians don't fear us as there is nothing we can do to impose our will on them individually or collectively.

The only time politicians attempt to appeal to our desires is at General Elections and even then, for some years now, around 40%
are not persuaded by their promises to vote. At the last election, in 2019, 33% of the voting population of 47.5 million didn't bother - that's 15.7 million and the reasons are spelt out below in this simple Google search. 

"After increasing for many decades, there has been a trend of decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1980s. In general, low turnout is attributed to disillusionment, indifference, or a sense of futility (the perception that one's vote won't make any difference"

I find it sickening to watch our preening, hypocritical and mostly incompetent pol
iticians taking us from one blunder and crisis to the next.

The reason we have six demands
, and not just a list of things we would like, is because unless and until we DEMAND what we want we will continue to be ignored and the government of the day will continue to pander to the last pressure group to sit on them.

Our PMs latest eye catching but completely impractical and undeliverable
Green initiative sums up how much our politicians are out of touch and have completely lost the plot and it should also be noted that this policy is largely recycled old material.

 If we want things to change then we are going to have to actively campaign to get what we want as, what is for certain, left to their own devices our self-centred politicians are not going to give up power to a sovereign people of their own accord.


Friday 13 November 2020

"The normative incompetence of governments"

 I don't recall linking to you-tube clips before but I came across this six minute extract of an interview with Jordan Peterson, of whom I’m a fan, and I thought I could make use of it in a blog post.

In it he is being interviewed shortly after Trump won his first term and points out, correctly IMO, that Trump didn’t so much win as Hilary lost due to some major campaign errors. Incidentally I believe the same will be said this time round where Trump lost rather than Biden won.

Anyway four minutes on in this clip, but listen to the whole thing, Peterson points out how he is hoping for a return to “normative incompetence” amongst politicians and accepting an underlay of “irradical corruption” which I think does also fairly accurately describe much of our governance in this country.

That being the case raises the question whether the decisions and conduct of a sovereign people would be much worse than those made by our governments and for me the answer is that they would not be.

Our fourth demand ‘The People’s Consent’ is the one that empowers the ‘People’ and while they will of course make mistakes they will be theirs and hopefully they will learn from them unlike our politicians who regularly repeat the mistakes of the past.

Our governance needs to be based more on the principles of Sortition than Epistocracy, as it is now.

Enjoy the clip and ponder whether we should continue to accept the “normative incompetence of politicians” with their underlay of “irradical corruption’.

Friday 6 November 2020

Separation of Power

The American election prompts me to reflect on our third demand a 'Separation of Power'.

In America the President and his cabinet , the Executive,are separated from the legislature. Whoever becomes President appoints his cabinet, which can not contain any members from either House of Congress.  Politicians joining the cabinet have to resign from either the Senate or House of  Representatives and positions are also open to to people outsde politics.  So for example a General could become the Secretary of Defense. Finally the President's cabinet is not confirmed until approved by the Senate.

In this country our future PMs are chosen by their party and not the country at large and the cabinet and PM sit in the legislature or House of Commons.

Our system does not have a separation of power with the key disadvantage that with the Executive sitting in the House of Commons holding it to account is not so vigorous as it would be if it sat outside it.

If Biden wins his abilty to govern will be severely curtailed by the Republicans holding the Senate which, given the country is split virtually down the middle, between the Republicans and Democracts, is democracy in action.

A Separation of Power would improve our governance hence our third demand. 

Friday 30 October 2020

Our Criminal Justice System - continued.

 Over the last week I have finished the Secret Barrister's second book 'Fake Law' and again had my eyes opened to the problems our Justice system (JS) faces which is of course always  a concern to the man and woman in the street.

The key thing I've learnt is that while judge's decisions are often criticised, by the tabloid press, hotly followed by ignorant 'dog whistle' politicians and then the public at large, it should be understood that judges work within the laws of the land as passed by parliament. 

So for example when there is a hue and cry over say a judge's lenient sentence politicians should look in the mirror as sentencing law is set down by an act of parliament. This is not to say that politicians haven't sought to change the laws concerning our JS but the book sets out very clearly how their interventions usually make matters worse.

I always thought David Lammy would be hard to beat for 'dog whistle' politics and jumping on every available passing bandwagon but Chris Grayling is in the same league, if not worse, and every one of his measures to 'reform' our JS, when he was Minster of Justice, has made matters worse. 

So how does this relate to our Agenda?

As I pointed out last week, the third part of our fourth demand 'The People's Consent' allows for the public to challenge and possibly reject decisions made by government, or official bodies whether elected or appointed including ministers and judges.

So in conclusion disatisfaction against 'lenient' judges would be better directed by the tabloids and public towards our 'lenient' politicians who lack the courage to out argue the vocal public minority who would brand them 'uncaring' if they were to pass tougher laws and take the necessary actions to greatly reform our complete JS including reforming of our prison service.

If the people want to see the changes they desire in our JS and more besides then the future is in their hands but is they don't work together to ensure their voice is heard then nothing will change.    



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.