Tuesday 31 August 2021

The people should be able to ‘recall’ their MP if enough of them want to.

The 'Recall of MPs Act 2015' 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 and was used successfully against Labour MP Fiona Onasanya who was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to a term in prison.

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

The law is explained here- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recall_of_MPs_Act_2015

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 California they go further and on the 14th of September there will be a vote as to whether the Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, should keep his job.

The California gubernatorial recall was sparked because of Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions which he was caught flouting. The full details are here - https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/08/25/california-governor-recall-election-gavin-newsom/

This extract from the article is pertinent “The mechanisms for recalling a politician in California was set up in 1910 by progressives intent on keeping a check on power.”

There in lies the whole point and a system of recall worth its name needs to allow the people to hold their politicians to account for any reason they choose thus constantly reminding them that they are our servants and not our masters.

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!    

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

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Why don’t the people get a say on whether we should go to war?

As a result of the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan I got to thinking whether our fourth demand ‘The People’s Consent’ could play a useful role before the country is taken to war.

The decision to deploy the Armed Forces in situations of armed conflict is a prerogative power taken by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Crown. Despite attempts to update this power in recent times this still remains the situation.

It is true that votes in the House of Commons have become more common place but the government of the day does not have to agree with or implement the result albeit they would be very unwise to ignore it.

1.     Afghanistan 2001 – The USA declared war after 9/11 on the 7th October 2001 with the follow up unanimous backing of UN Resolution 1386 on 20th December. UK troops were part of the coalition forces and there was no vote in parliament before their deployment.

2.     Iraq 2003 - The UK parliament voted to go to war in Iraq on 18th March 2003 by 412 votes to 149. The Amendment to allow more time for the UN to authorise the war was defeated by 396 to 217.

3.     Libya 2011 – A NATO lead forces began a military intervention of Libya on 19th March 2011 operating to UN Resolution 1973 voted by 10 with five abstentions.  David Cameron won the vote by 557 for and 13 against.

4.     Mali 2013 – No vote was taken before deploying military assets to Mali in support of France in January 2013.

5.     Syria 2013 – David Cameron lost the vote in 2013 by 285 to 272 to bomb Syria and decided not to take action

6.      Syria 2018 – Theresa May agreed to join France and the USA in bombing chemical weapon facilities in Syria without a vote in parliament.  

So, although a precedent has been set in the recent past a UK government does not have to seek a vote in the House of Commons before authorising military action.  

 Defining parliamentary approval for military action, in either a resolution
or legislation, in a way that provides Parliament with a meaningful role,
yet safeguards the Government and military’s capacity to act, is
paramount. Yet it is fraught with difficulties and potentially raises more
questions than it resolves. Government Ministers, MPs, commentators and
constitutional experts alike all have different expectations and different
opinions on what a resolution or legislation should achieve. This
dilemma also lies at the heart of the current convention and arguably is
one of the reasons advocates are pushing for a more formalised
solution. There are no right or wrong answers and possibly this circle will never
be squared. Achieving a solution acceptable to all will require immense
political will and as such, makes the continuation of the current
convention a much more likely prospect for the foreseeable future.  

However, having said all that the noticeable ingredient missing from all this is any thought that the people should have their say as and when applicable and appropriate. It is surely also ironic that we are now being asked to welcome Afghan refugees when we were never consulted about going to war in the first place. 

Our fourth demand ‘The People’s Consent’ would allow for the people to raise an advisory referendum to express their views on any given military intervention if enough, as would always be the case, want a referendum.

The key point about our agenda is that a sovereign people could never be ignored and would always be able to have their views heard if they wished it. Decisions would never in future just be left to 650 MPs but would be open to the whole 47 million electorate should they want to use that power.

That is what real democracy looks like.



Sunday 22 August 2021

Who should our MPs work for?

The answer of course should be us.

However, if you really think about it most of their efforts seem to go into promoting and working for themselves or collectively in government working to keep, often vocal minority, pressure groups off their backs.

This is simply not democracy by any measure. While we are so generously granted sovereignty for the day of any election, to chose our representative in parliament, they then generally ignore us, so often the majorities opinion, until the next election.

This cycle clearly leaves sovereignty in parliament which is not what democracy should be all about.

Representative democracy came about in an era when MPs travelled to parliament by horse or coach and therefore the only way the government could function was to send a representative there to carry out the wishes of their electorate. As we can see over time, they increasingly ignore our views and the relationship has become one of a ‘master and servant’ where their priorities are to themselves, their party and last of all us.

Modern communications and especially the internet have enabled a completely different relationship where we are able to let our politicians know exactly how we feel and what we want them to do on any given subject.

When I next see my MP in October I shall be asking him the question “What is his understanding of democracy” and whatever his reply I sense it will not involve real democracy, or people power, and hopefully he might just be left reflecting that at the moment our representative democracy is not real democracy.