Thursday, 18 August 2011

Constitution (3)

"The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are."
H. L. Mencken
In the run-up to the 1997 general election, the Labour government led by Tony Blair made a decision, presumably for electoral gain in Scotland and Wales - or so it was perceived at the time - to further devolve certain powers to those countries. This has been shown to be incorrect as, with his desire to be seen as a true European and 'at the heart of Europe', it was no more than cover to implement the idea of the European Union to divide our nation - as they have done for every member state - into regions. Besides the many problems that subsequently arose constitutionally, the greatest was the "WestLothian Question".Originally raised on 14 November 1977, by Tam Dalyell, Labour Member of Parliament for the Scottish constituency of West Lothian, this question was exacerbated by Blair's devolution programme.

When Hannan & Carswell first began selling their idea of localism, Hannan, in 2008, made the statement that all the powers devolved to Edinburgh under the 1998 Scotland Act should, in England, be granted to counties and cities. He also proposed that local authorities should become self-financing through a local sales tax that would replace VAT, whilst making the point that, by happy coincidence, the Treasury raises through VAT precisely the same sum it allocates to councils: £83 billion. But why stop there? Why not devolve to local authorities the ability to manage their own education, health care and law & order? 

Before taking the subject of devolution of power further, let us take a few steps back and ask ourselves some further questions - questions that are not in any particular order of importance.
  • Why do we have so many Members of Parliament and what is their function?
  • What, exactly, is the function and status of local authorities and local councillors?
  • Why do we have a system of democracy whereby political parties can present a manifesto for government that is so vague and/or in which certain 'promises' are then ignored, or if they are implemented the end result is totally different to that originally proposed?
  • Why does our form of democracy result in a system of government that can only be described as democratised dictatorship or, if you prefer, oligarchic? When considering that question, remember that dictatorial power can only come about when the 'ruler' has both the power to make law and to enforce it.
  • Why does our present form of democracy not define the relationship between the governance of our nation and it's people, one that sets the limitations on power and provides people with cast-iron safeguards that protect them with a means of redress and remedy during parliamentary terms? 
  • Why does our form of democracy permit the leaders of political parties to dictate those from whom we may select a representative?
That the number of people voting in elections, both national and local, has declined is no longer in doubt and is, indeed, acknowledged by politicians. It has also been reported that when questioned about a failure to exercise their franchise, those people usually responded that either: (i) it matters not who I vote for, nothing changes, or; (ii) there is no difference between any of the three main parties, or; (iii) promises are made but rarely delivered. That people are dissatisfied with politics is beyond doubt true, but it can be argued that that dissatisfaction is exceeded by a sense of fatalism in that no longer do the people expect any party to cut taxes, ensure that public services do work for their customers or even to regain our nation's independence.

Yet it is possible to introduce a system which reverses the present status quo, namely one that reverses the present state of master and servant; one that reduces the number of those sitting in Parliament; one that prevents those elected acting as a dictatorship; one that means those policies that the people wish enacted, are; one that provides people the ability to punish those who stray from their mandate; one that breaks the hold of party leaders over the behaviour of their elected party members; one that breaks the nepotism that exists in politics, both nationally and locally; and one that prevents politicians extorting from the people money that they spend without having beforehand obtained the people's consent. That system is one called Direct Democracy.

This entails limiting the areas in which national politicians are responsible, whilst ensuring that that responsibility is closely defined, agreed and monitored. It involves devolution of responsibility for all what may be termed 'internal' matters to local people - and as with national politicians all 'internal' matters would be defined, agreed and monitored. By instigating a system of taxation (and not necessarily a sales tax) for local authorities, it would initiate something that we have not, to my knowledge, had in this country; namely a downward pressure on taxation. Rather than central government, should not it be the parents of a child that decides what type of school they wish their child to attend; what subjects are taught and how they are taught; what form of discipline is used, how and when; even who should be employed to teach? Should it not be for local people to decide the level of law & order they want, whilst also deciding who should implement that law & order and how? Likewise should it not be for local people to decide how many hospitals they want and where, how those hospitals and their health service should operate? (no pun intended).

In the next part of this series, Constitution (4), it is intended to begin with national 'government', the areas for which it should be responsible, the number of representatives required in each house of legislature and how they should be elected etc, etc.


TomTom said...

It should be illegal for political parties to context local elections. It should only be Independents printing their programme in the Ward and living in the Ward.

TomTom said...

context = "contest" in code

eddyh said...

It would be a start, if the same powers that have been devolved to the other parts of the UK, were devolved to England. Our politicians will never allow this to happen because the next step for an English parliament would be to declare independance from Scotland, Wales and NI, ridding us of the parts that we currently support with our taxes.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: 'Sok,, I knew what you meant!

I have no objection to representatives of political parties standing in local elections - they have the same rights as anyone, surely?

What does amuse me is that standing in local elections is free, whilst in a general election a deposit is required.

e: Patience, patience - the cure to your problem will be revealed in the next two posts in this series.......

Stuart said...

Having just come back from holiday I have caught up a little by reading your posts on a constitutional settlement. I have shared with you my incomplete attempt at a written codified constitution for the UK. One thing I never did was to list the important features and aims first. In fact I started with the American Constitution as the base. I do believe in properly defining the counties and their powers and will add this to my C in the future. I particularly liked your point that by diminishing the power of parliament, it weakens a so-called political class.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

S: I shan't be posting part 4 for a couple of weeks so if you get your amendment done in time do let me have it. I intend quoting your C anyway -- if that is permitted?