Saturday, 14 May 2011

The keeping & breaking of political promises

Jim Pickard, FT Westminster Blog, writes on promises kept by the Coalition coupled with those that have been broken, in respect of the latter citing open primaries, a ban on the sale of alcohol below cost, the limit on the number of special advisers and the protection for whistleblowers in the public sector. What seems to have escaped the notice of Pickard is that even when supposedly keeping promises, those promises have not been kept as the original promise contained hidden caveats, said caveats not being mentioned.

I have  posted on two examples previously, namely the re-call system of MPs and the instigation of local referenda. To recap what the Coalition promised on those two matters:

page 27 of the Coalition's document Our Programme for Government:
"We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents"
"We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue."
In both examples the hidden caveat is that MPs will have the final decision on any recall of one of their own and within the Localism Bill local authorities may disregard the result of any local referendum if they so wish.

What infuriates this blog is the hypocrisy of journalists who would appear to have agendas of their own, who may be just too lazy to research the topic about which they write, or more likely have no wish to bite the hand that feeds them. For journalists who profess to rail against the curtailment of freedom to ignore the two examples mentioned above can only be described as an abrogation of their responsibilities. A further instance of said abrogation is in a linked article by Pickard in which he provides the example of Sarah Wollaston gaining her seat through a one-off open primary and then becoming a critic of Coalition policy. Whilst it is intimated, this is but more skewed reporting in that the point should have been made plain that open primaries interfere with leaders of political parties being able to insert placemen/women as candidates thus ensuring they have voting fodder, come a vote in Parliament. It is well known that people do not think about what they read and accept what they read as fact, something which results in a form of brain-washing. It is unacceptable that people in this country should need to resort to external journalism - eg outlets such as Russia Today - to ascertain what is actually happening.

Readers may consider me naive to believe in openness and transparency but I have to ask how, without openness and transparency, are people to be informed and thus become able to form their own opinions. It is accepted that the worlds of politics and journalism are about power and control, two things that are practised more openly than they have been in the past, thus firmly cementing both in the hands of a select few, instead of in the hands of the many.

The world of the internet has increased the public's knowledge and awareness of what is happening - and therein lies a quandry for the political elite and journalists. It is the stated aim of politicians to increase the availability of the internet, yet in so doing they will, potentially, be increasing the voices of dissent. It is therefore no wonder that the European Union wishes to impose some form of censorship on what information should be available to internet users.

Finally, on the subject of keeping and breaking political promises, I can but refer to this post and suggest that were our political elite to remember these ten points they might well be able to increase the 'keeping' element, thereby decreasing the 'breaking' element.

Update: It seems we have a case of journalistic 'mea culpa'. Sue, Muffled Vociferation, took the trouble to email Jim Pickard and linking to my post, asked: "Oh Dear. Perhaps this blogger could do better at your job than you do?" Jim Pickard's reply, to his credit, read: "You're right sue! I resign! But seriously, Witney makes a very good case - thanks for pointing this out. Jim"

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