Wednesday, 3 March 2021

The answer to the devolution question is real local democracy.

        I recently had my attention drawn to an article in the Telegraph by Nick Timothy, who was Mrs May’s SpAd, which suggested the answer to the issue of Scottish devolution would be the creation of an English Parliament with further powers devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In brief his suggestion would see the creation of an English parliament to balance the devolved governments in NI, Wales and Scotland and the creation of a new federal government for the UK. So, by my reckoning that is a net increase in the number of politicians in the UK which I’d be totally against.

I don’t disagree with the basic principle of an English parliament to discuss English business but I believe there is a better solution than creating another layer of politicians over us.  Like so many others, Nick Timothy hasn’t really opened his mind to consider other possibilities which are outside any current thinking. 

The first key point to make is that while I accept the current devolved governments are probably here to stay our second demand for ‘Real Local Government’ makes their role less important. Our idea of ‘Real Local Government’ is based on the county structure with them being constitutional entities in their own right with legislative and tax raising powers. The more ‘Local’ government is to the people they serve the less importance the devolved governments in NI, Wales and Scotland have.

This is not to say that there are not matters that need to be discussed on a Northern Irish, Welsh, Scottish or English basis but this could be done by the one set of UK MPs sitting, when necessary, in their ‘Regional’ governments in Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and say Manchester for the new English parliament. Then they could all come together in Westminster to discuss matters of national importance.

While this would likely see an increase in local politicians and certainly in their powers it would not see an increase in National MPs who would double up when needed in their respective ‘Regional’ governments.

Although in our pamphlet we mention a figure of around 300 MPs in the House of Commons I now believe a more realistic total would be around 450 but that would still be a reduction of 200 MPs. As to the House of Lords I believe we only need around 300 members with a third each elected, appointed and chosen by a system of Sortition.

In conclusion there is a strong case to be made to the people of the UK that what they really need is more local government rather than further devolution and the creation of an English parliament with its own complement of politicians. What I have outlined above greatly reduces the number of politicians overall while increasing local democracy, allowing the N. Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English to address their own particular issues with the same body of politicians who then come together in Westminster to discuss matters of national importance.

Real democracy is governed by the closeness it is exercised to the people and not by the total number of politicians you have lording it over you.   

 

 

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The glaring incompetence of our governments

  I challenge anyone to read “Blunders of our Governments” by Crewe and King and “Scared to Death” by Christopher Booker and Richard North and not come to the conclusion that our politicians and governments are totally incompetent.

I read the first several months ago and it categories the half a dozen ‘Human’ and ‘System’ failures that lead to our politicians, quite simply, floundering as they go about the task of trying to govern us.

The second “Scared to Death” was first published in 2007 but the 2020 revised edition, which I finished last week, has been brought right up to date to include a chapter on the Coronavirus. This is a must read book which I highly recommend.

 “Scared to Death” is 487 pages of detailed explanation and analysis of the many different type of scares that our governments have had to deal with in the last 50 odd years and reads a bit like a crime thriller as it outlines each scare and the government’s reaction and mis-management of each one.

The book covers 22 scares which included Salmonella, BSE, Satanic Child Abuse, Passive Smoking, Asbestos and Global Warming to name but half a dozen of them. In all of them the officials concerned and the media certainly didn't help the situation with they level of hype they introduced to each but the government’s actions, and the millions of pounds spent to ‘deal’ with them, were in the main completely unnecessary.

The role of our politicians is nicely summed up in the final chapter where it states: -

“A real problem politicians have with scares is the one they share with journalists. Much of the business of modern government has become so technical that it is often very difficult for them to get their heads round its complexities. They cannot develop an informed view of their own. Ministers under pressure of a scare are thus very much in the hands of their officials and advisers. If the advisers themselves have fallen under the scare’s spell, it would take a minster of unusual intelligence and strength of character to be able to identify the flaws in their advice and overrule it.”

I’m afraid it is blindingly obvious, looking at the majority of MPs sitting on the Green Benches, that we are not served by politicians of intelligence, strength of character and I’d add leadership abilities to master a brief and challenge their advisors. In fact, I’d say the average MP would struggle to run a welk stall or a bath or organise a piss up in a brewery or any other synonym you care to use. However, many are brilliant at jumping on any passing bandwagon and spewing out meaningless generalised rhetoric which achieves the square root of zero but usually suffices for the particular news cycle at the time. 

Finally, all the while our politicians are making a complete ‘clusterfuck’ of the scare in question or in our general governance, we the public can do absolutely nothing to stop the sheer lunacy of their decision making. This is why any reform of our governance and democracy has to deal with the key issue of who ultimately holds ‘POWER’ and, I'll happily stand corrected, but it is only our six demands that address this vital question by inisting the people have to have their inherent sovereignty recognised and confirmed in a written constitution.

People without power become cannon fodder to the vanity and incompetence of our useless party indoctrinated politicians.

 

Friday, 19 February 2021

The importance of establishing grassroot support.

After a discussion this week with a THA supporter, who believes that the introduction of a system of PR is a priority as it would encourage new parties to form, I was still not persuaded from my view that the reform of our governance was far more important than tinkering with our electoral voting system.  It is of course the aim of our six demands to radically reform our system of governance centred on the principle of giving the people real power none of which a system of PR addresses.   

Two weeks ago, I explained why electoral reforms, such as PR, would not give us the changes necessary to make our politicians our servants rather than our masters.

-http://harrogateagenda.blogspot.com/2021/02/electoral-reform-does-not-reform-our.html

During our conversation I pointed out how in our life time no new party had cut through and made a successful contribution in Westminster and even if PR did see a new party grace the green benches, they would still be restricted by the same Westminster system and thus swimming in the same corrupt cesspit with the people still not having one ounce of real power to control their politicians or government. Further to this, I suggested, it would not take long for a new party to turn native as unfortunately UKIP proved albeit in Brussels rather than Westminster.

I pointed out that THA, first and foremost, had to become a grassroots movement to bring direct pressure on politicians and, while accepting support from any individual, organisation or political entity, the movement would drift into obscurity if it became divorced from the grassroots and relied purely on the ‘Establishment’ for its promotion and implementation.

Somehow the discussion raised an analogy with the Protestant religion in this country with the point being raised as to who had tried to keep the C of E on the straight and narrow as it developed into a top-down organisation which has drifted into the socially liberal and woke institution it is today.

The answer is that little resistance came from the grass roots as they simply parted company from the main body and set up new Christian Churches such as Adventists, Anabaptists, Baptists, Calvinist/Reformed, Lutherans, Methodists, and Pentecostals.

 I know this is hypothetical but now let’s view the new Church denominations as new political parties and you could argue that what the C of E has needed is not new break away Churches but a grassroots movement with the power to hold the C of E hierarchy to account. If rather than break away from the C of E the congregations had held together and demanded changes and reforms to give them more power, they might have been able to influence and fashion the C of E into something closer to the views of the people it once served and lost.

In my opinion the same is true of our party system in that the more we have, with or without PR, they still don’t have the power or even the resolve to change our system of governance which can only come from the people.  

Radical change comes from mobilised grassroots – it’s just that at the moment the grassroots have other things on their mind that precludes them even thinking about political reform let alone acting to change things. However, I predict they will eventually wake up as the current deplorable state of our governance and politicians will not be tolerated forever.  

 

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Does Direct Democracy have draw backs?

 I recently added ‘Direct Democracy’ to my Google alerts which this week gave me a link to a book by Lascher and Dyck called “Initiatives Without Engagement: A Realistic Appraisal of Direct Democracy's Secondary Effects"

In the politics of the United States the process of ‘initiatives and referendums’ allow citizens of many U.S. States to place new legislation on a popular ballot, or to place legislation that has recently been passed by a legislature on a ballot for a popular vote. Initiatives and referendums, along with recall elections and popular primary elections, are reforms originating from the ‘Progressive Era’(1896-1920(. They are written into several state constitutions, particularly in the West.

In the book, they develop and test a theory that the ‘ballot initiative’ process fails to provide the public benefits commonly claimed for it nor increases political participation. Ultimately, they argue that the basic function of DD creates more conflict in society by constraining minority rights and push the public to act on polarizing issues like the death penalty and immigration. Their analysis is something that runs counter to the way ‘ballot initiatives’ are often framed by scholars and democracy reformers.

I haven’t read the book but I still feel I can make this key point which is that while minority rights are important and should be protected, they are not more important than the rights of the majority and for far too long the minority tail has been wagging the majority dog.

So given the authors are critical of the principles of DD I think is it fair to assume that their preferred type of governance is one based more on epistocracy than sortition and is certainly a long way from the true meaning of democracy or ‘People Power’.

It is with the above points in mind that when framing our six demands, and in particular our fourth demand ‘The People’s Consent’, that we sought to counter the possibilities of ‘mob rule’.

 As I’ve often explained our fourth demand is in three parts however each share the following basic principles. First, before a petition demanding a referendum it has to reach a threshold of signatures before it can be called. Second, once held benchmarks would be set on turnout and margins to legitimise the result.

The three parts to our fourth demand are - First, the people can initiate a referendum on any topic but the result if won is only a recommendation. This is vital safeguard to prevent any well organised group hijacking a referendum for their own ends.

Second, a referendum can be called to say no to any piece of government legislation before parliament.

Third, the public can challenge, via a referendum, certain types of decision by elected and appointed officials, including ministers and judges, in local or national government or official bodies.

It is vitally important to protect minorities and the vulnerable in a democracy but if real democracy is to mean anything then the views of the majority need to be heard respected and where appropriate acted on.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Electoral reform does not reform our governance.

Since the start of my involvement with THA I have come across a number of people who believe that a far quicker way to improve our governance is to introduce a new voting system, usually PR, or for a new party to be set up to challenge Labour and the Conservatives.

The first point to be made is that electoral reform will not give the people one more ounce of power over the eventual government that forms after an election. This would still be the case even with a coalition government formed under a system of PR or a government created from a new party.

Considering the likely success of new parties, you only have to look back at the lack of electoral success by UKIP in nearly 25 years, that didn’t manage to get one MP elected to parliament, to realise that this avenue is pretty much a dead end . This is a conclusion I came to after standing as a UKIP candidate on a number of occasions, even under my own party banner and finally as an independent.

As to having a system of PR just consider the current situation in Italy which has had no fewer than 66 governments since the WW2 and, even since extra electoral reforms in 1993, it has had ten prime ministers – compared with five French Presidents in the same period.

Also consider Belgium, which has PR, which lasted 541 days without a government, between 2010 -2011, after not one of the 11 parties that won seats at the general election got over 20% of the votes. I always find it interesting to point out with this example that the country seemed no worse off without a government for all that time – politicians really are not so important as so many of them think they are as the people can manage quite well without them!

Even where differing systems of PR have not led to the crippling impact of revolving door governments, as in say Germany, they have not, as I’ve said above, given the people any real power over their government after voting them in at a general election.

I now believe that there is a good argument for saying that one key reason our governments are so incompetent is that they attempt to govern divorced from the views of the public at large resulting in the country going from one crisis to another.

THA is about giving people real power over our governments between elections and this can only be achieved with reforms to our system of governance as set out in our six demands. Reforms to our electoral/voting system is largely a Red Herring.

If we want to make our democracy more democratic, which must fundamentally mean giving the people real power over our politicians, then the priority has to be the radical reform to our system of governance.