Thursday, 4 August 2011

Presently, is there really any point........?

So the subject of e-petitions makes the headlines and in so doing does, unintentionally, re-open the debate on the subject of the effectiveness of Parliament - not that I expect the majority of people will consider that aspect. Conservative Home has an article by Paul Goodman, which in turn links to another article by Sir George Young in the Mail.

Presumably the snapshot of the Mail frontpage on ConHome is that of the print edition, in which case the Mail is guilty of disingeniousness in stating that MPs will vote on the death penalty. The fact that it is highly unlikely any debate would be held is due to the fact that a committee of MPs will be the arbiter of whether or not any petition is worthy of being considered for debate and, more importantly, any such debate would be meaningless even if it were held, as Mary Ellen Synon points out.

Sir George Young is likewise guilty of duplicity (but hey, being a politician why should we expect anything less) in that he writes:
"Parliamentary time is not unlimited and we want the best e-petitions to be given airtime. That’s why we will be closely monitoring the site over the coming months to assess whether the threshold is right, or whether it should be lowered or raised."
That statement is just 'code' for ensuring that only the petitions the politicians want get accepted and that no doubt the thresholds will be raised to make it even more difficult for the public to acquire the necessary signatures.

It also beggars belief that Young can also write:
"But if lots of people want Parliament to do something which it rejects, then it is up to MPs to explain the reasons to their constituents. What else is Parliament for? People have strong opinions, and it does not serve democracy well if we ignore them or pretend that their views do not exist."
Why break the habit of a lifetime, George?

If the people overwhelmingly present a petition for something it is not the job of MPs to vote it down and then go back to the constituents and explain their actions. Contrary to the requirements of a true representative democracy, which is what MPs maintain we have, MPs are not elected to be the moral conscience of the nation. Were such a petition with overwhelming support to be voted down by Parliament, that situation could well be the catalyst that will bring the masses out onto the streets.

And Young no longer feels Parliament is irrelevant?


Anonymous said...

Surely the whole point of Parliament should be that it represents and airs a wide range of different opinions. Instead it has been corrupted by the machinations of the Lib/Lab/Con. They have totally stifled debate and closed down all effective opposition to their EU agenda.

As a miserable sop we are offered e-petitions. Well they will fool the naive but they wont change anything. They are an admission that the system has been smashed to pieces by the very people who have been entrusted with its preservation!!

Stuart said...

Young happens to be my MP. The man is full of it. I wrote this to him back in 2003 and here is his reply. At the time some Conservatives signed a petition to oust IDS and this triggered a full vote.

The issue: The recent Conservative vote of no confidence struck a chord with me.
Twenty-five signatures or letters were sent to the 1922 committee, triggering
the referendum of confidence in their leader.

Having thought about it, I believe what is good enough for the Conservative
party must be good enough for the British electorate. A mechanism for a
specified number of British people to trigger a full referendum on a particular
matter of Governance or even a confidence vote in the Government itself if it
gets completely out of touch with the electorate.

The Conservatives are currently using the argument that many referendums have
been held across the country by New Labour and are requesting one on the
European Union Constitution, so I do not believe the Conservatives have a
legitimate argument against the British people having the means to request a
referendum directly themselves. I do not know whether New Labour have a similar
rule within their party but if so would mean they must back such a mechanism

I am amazed that many organizations have rules to ensure democratic decision
making is ensured yet our country has to live with a Government for five years
without legal recourse. Organizations including our political parties which
would doubtless not back such democracy in the country as a whole.

The current situation of the opposition party begging for a referendum only
highlights the need for an official legitimate mechanism for the people to hold
a binding referendum, rather than live in a dictatorship for all but one day
every five years.

Date Issue Raised: 31 Oct 2003
My response: Thank you for the email.
While I understand your argument, I do not agree with it. The referendums you refer to have been agreed by Parliament, and the Conservative Party is arguing that Parliament should authorise a referendum on the new EU Constitution. If we are returned at a General Election, that is what will happen.
You want a referendum that is not authorised by Parliament - indeed one that may overturn something that Parliament has done. I think it very difficult to reconcile that with our system of Parliamentary sovereignty.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

A: True, but the point is it is not just about the EU. Since when were MPs elected to be the moral conscience of the nation? Since when were MPs given the power of God? They are there to enact that which the people want, not vice versa!

S: My commiserations - I would offer to swap Cameron for Young, but neither of us would gain or lose!

"You want a referendum that is not authorised by Parliament - indeed one that may overturn something that Parliament has done. I think it very difficult to reconcile that with our system of Parliamentary sovereignty."

And that sums up all that is wrong with our system of parliamentary sovereignty!

Bil said...

He's also my MP. Just sent the following to him. Don't expect a sensible response though.

Dear Sir,

I have just read your opinion in the Daily Mail and it seems I must explain your terms of reference to you.

You state in your article:

"But if lots of people want Parliament to do something which it rejects, then it is up to MPs to explain the reasons to their constituents. What else is Parliament for?"

The correct ToR are for parliament to represent the will of the people. Must I remind you that the people are sovereign and lend you their sovereignty to represent them and not to have you dictate to them against their wishes.

In this particular instance, if the majority of the people wish for the return of the death penalty then you and all other MPs are bound by your ToR to put the death penalty back on the statute book.

I'm not assuming that this is the will of the people, merely pointing out that you and Parliament must reflect the majority of the people's wishes whatever that may be. For you to do anything else would be undemocratic and tantamount to dictatorship.

I certainly don't wish to hear MPs pontificate that they are powerless under the ECHR which seems to be a generic get-out when MPs don't wish to accede to the will of the people. We the people are sovereign and have never been asked about the loss of our sovereignty to the EU. Another post for another day.

I hope this clears things up for you.

Yours sincerely

PeterCharles said...

Strange. I started a comment before there were any others were posted and sent it just after A's comment, it was definitely there when the window was refreshed but it's gone now.

Was I moderated or is there a glitch?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: Tsk, were you moderated...?!

Actually now you mention it, I do recall seeing something from you - can only assume this is blogger up to its tricks again. At the end of this month will probably transferring to a 'private' provider and using Wordpress.

Care to resend?

cuffleyburgers said...

I am against the re-introduction of the death penalty but I would very much like to see it debated in parliament even if just to see the lies and contortions.

I think the recall mechanism, combined with open prinaries, which has been discussed would be an excellent way of reminding these loathsome individuals who is boss.

A skillfully managed campaign could see a significant number recalled, to force by-elections and possibly change the colour of government.

kenomeat said...

Just seen a discussion on the BBC News at One on the petition for return of the death penalty. Several minutes of discourse between George what's-his-name (the newsreader) and some guy from Amnesty. Of course it was never mentioned that the Lisbon Treaty would forbid capital punishment and the petition is therefore a waste of time.
Needless to say the phone hacking scandal was barely mentioned in the program as the Mirror Group is nothing to do with Murdoch.
I have linked the Mail article by Mary Ellen Synon onto Facebook. Can I suggest we all do this. Every little helps.

PeterCharles said...

I was making the point that the capital punishment question and its potential outcome illustrates a large danger in any system of direct democracy, decisions made by the ill-informed, uneducated and unthinking tend to be bad. It is bad enough when MPs, who mostly share those characteristics, do it. At least before Blair wrecked it the HoL occasionally provided some reasoned resistance

The 'hang 'em and flog 'em' lobby assumes either that the British Justice System is both honest and foolproof or it agrees with the government line that 'better ten innocent men be convicted (and hung) than one guilty man should escape'. The first is palpably false and the second should be anathema to any civilised person. No doubt some believe both.

Personally I believe that all terrorists and wannabe terrorists should be hung, chopped up and fed to pigs, ditto for those like the adults in the Baby P case. But I want to be 100% sure they are guilty, probably guilty is not far enough for the ultimate penalty.

Critics of the justice system estimate 10% of convictions are unsafe, i.e. do not pass the 'beyond reasonable doubt' test while its supporters claim 5% at most. Most of these occur in the areas of sexual assaults and those that rely entirely on 'expert' evidence that is anything but expert, e.g. shaken baby syndrome.

Before any such questions are put we must have a public that is both interested and fully engaged in the debate, a debate that must be extensive, informed, impartial and thorough. Our current media cannot provide that.

As for Young, this is simply an example of opportunist pot stirring in the hope of gaining a transient political advantage.

john in cheshire said...

Kennomeat, perhaps WfW can correct me but isn't it true to say that the European treaty allows for capital punishment, when those in the driving seat think it best serves their purposes. Capital punishment is not allowed for us plebs. We must suffer all the injustices that our legal system dishes out; particularly those as a result of the human rights legislation; but don't think for a minute our EU rulers won't introduce capital punishment if they feel really , really threatened.

Stuart said...

Having petiotions can only show up Westminster for what it is. A puppet for a superior government in Brussels. Also, our so called politicans as being completely anti-democratic and them having the mindset of rulers rather than servants.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Bil: Nicely put - be interesting to hear what response you receive..... if any.

cb: We beg to differ on this - although I have caveats (not relevant to this post to discuss here). On recall and open primaries - these to be discussed in my piece on a consitution (when it appears, work in progress)

k: The fact that CP would be forbidden under the LT and the debate would be a waste of time is what incensed me yesterday on Twitter!

PC: No problem with any part of your comment.

jic: Correct - see a previous post.

S: It will exhibit their dictatorial attitude when they throw out some petitions and if debated disallow them......

I do think though that the threshold needs to be raised as this would stop some of the more stupid ones. More on this in the constitutional thingy that is work in progress.......

kenomeat said...

John in Cheshire:
European Convention on Human Rights (as accepted by the EU) Article 2 (Right to Life), clause 2 reads:
Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force .....:
(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.
This can be interpreted in different ways. There's a lot on the internet covering this.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

k: Exactly and just as I posted.