Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Constitution (4)

"Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent." H. L. Mencken
"From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?"  Ronald Reagan

For some time now it must have been obvious to everyone that there is something rotten in the state of the United Kingdom (to paraphrase Shakespeare) in that our system of democracy has been but a sham. It has been a sham based on a premise that we, the people, are the masters and that those we elect to represent our views are our servants, when in fact the exact opposite has been the truth; a truth that those we elected to represent our views have managed to deny; and one that we, the people, have chosen to ignore - and which has meant that we have lived under a system of democratised dictatorship or, as some would maintain an oligarchy. Those that we have elected to represent our views have, due to the control exerted by the leaders of their parties, been subjected to following the diktats of their leaders and party whips, to the detriment of the duty imposed on them by their office; a situation that also brings discredit to those individuals as they appear to have no sense of duty, honour or principle.

Allow me to ask a question: who amongst you would agree to pay someone, together with their expenses, to carry out work on your behalf without having first obtained an estimate or quotation? Yet is that not what we do at general and local elections, wherein we provide a blank cheque to political parties - both national and local - if elected, to 'manage' our nation and community? Do we not agree to a blank 'conditions of employment' because, actually, their duties are unspecified? Do we not agree to be governed, or ruled, with no caveats imposed? Do we not agree to the concept that we are content to be regulated in thought, word and deed without any indication as to the constraints to be put upon us? Every one of us wishes to be 'free' to choose our own way of life, yet we agree to accept unspecified shackles imposed on us. Every one of us also agrees to manifestos offered us by political parties, manifestos which are in effect contracts of employment, yet knowing full well from previous experience, that the promises contained therein are meaningless and can be ignored or will be broken.  Another question: if we wish to be 'free', to make our own decisions about how we wish to lead our lives and the society and country in which we wish to live, why do we agree to be 'governed' or 'ruled' by 'government' in the first place? Why do we agree to those who are meant to represent us being constrained by political 'rules' which mean they are unable so to do, as when accepting ministerial office they are forced to support government policy and consequently must ignore the wishes of those they are meant to represent? To agree to such conditions means, to misquote Enoch |Powell, we must indeed be truly mad.

It is beyond doubt that the present two Houses of Parliament require considerable change in their composition and their membership. The House of Lords has become a placement for political appointees, those appointments being made by patronage exercised by party leaders as has the House of Commons through candidates being shoehorned into what were considered safe seats, again at the behest of party leaders. Suggestions have been made for reform of the House of Lords by means of elected members in order that it may retain its existence as a revising chamber for government policy. Reform of Parliament per se has become necessary due to the botched and ill-thought through policy of devolution instigated by the last Labour government under the premiership of Blair and most importantly to rectify the West Lothian Question.

That which follows is but a suggestion for how change might be introduced, once we are free of the European Union, to negate the situation that we now have, one that I term an 'elected dictatorship', thus returning power to where it belongs, namely the people.

Starting with the premise that for individual liberty to exist it becomes necessary that government intervention be limited and the first requirement of any suggested change is to constrain those matters for which a national government is responsible. It then must logically follow that the patronage and areas of decision making exercised by party leaders be limited, together with that of party whips, where candidates standing for any political party is concerned be that at national or local level. The next limitation on misuse of position to be addressed is the ability of an electorate to have the choice of recalling any elected candidate for failure of acceptable standards of behaviour, coupled with the failure to represent the majority view of his electorate. Finally, the people must have the right to challenge any decision made by those elected representatives. Consequently, with the intention that the United Kingdom remains just that, a united kingdom and one with the minimum of government, it is proposed:
  • National government will be responsible for foreign affairs, defence of the realm, immigration, national resources, energy and taxation in order to finance only the foregoing, with all other areas of responsibility being devolved to county authorities, including taxation thus making them self-financing. As the area of responsibility is severely curtailed so can the number of elected representatives be curtailed and thus reduced to say 300/350¹, coupled with the point that as the areas of responsibility have been curtailed, so the number of 'sitting days' can be curtailed.This curtailment of 'sitting days' would also negate the necessity for 'second homes' as the cost of hotel accommodation could be claimed for any overnight(s) that may be necessary. Also as the responsibilities have been curtailed, so would the existing responsibility to individual members of the electorate thus lessening any workload.
  • All elected members, both national and local, should be answerable to their electorates, so it is logical to require that political parties allow an electorate of a constituency, or local ward, to choose the candidate from a list supplied by each party, ie by the system known as Open Primaries. Likewise it is important that electorates have the right to recall their representative, without any political interference/intervention, by means of a petition signed by say 10% of the electorate.
  • No decision that affects the United Kingdom, its independence, security or its peoples can be made law without the agreement of the people by means of a referendum called by a petition signed by say 10% of the total electorate.
  • Any decision made by the national elected representatives can be challenged by the people, again by means of a referendum called by a petition signed by say 10% of the total electorate.
  • Proposals for taxation to pay for those areas of responsibility mentioned above must be presented by political parties at general elections in the form of an estimate/quotation in order that the voters can see where and how their money is to be spent.
  • All manifestos to have the legal status of a contract, one twixt political party and the people, with the right of redress where any section of that contract is broken.
     Reverting to the question of the House of Lords and what changes are necessary, many suggestions have been forthcoming from an elected assembly to the recent proposal by Ukip that the House of Lords becomes the House of Legislature and the House of Commons becomes the English Parliament with another layer of government which would include a First Minister, more politicians and the necessary bureaucratic support. In view of the flawed devolution process which created the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly one can see the idea that an English Parliament would 'level the playing field' - yet if all 'local' matters were to be devolved to county authorities why would it be necessary for any 'national parliament' to exist? The House of Lords was originally conceived as an amending chamber, one to check any possible 'excesses' by the House of Commons, yet if the people have the ability to check any 'excesses' by their elected representatives (see above) then why is such a chamber necessary either?

    The argument will no doubt be made that people are not sufficiently interested in politics to perform that 'checking' function and it is an understandable point of view to a certain extent but, conversely they have never been given the opportunity, so who is to say? Inexperienced they may be, but could they make a worse job of governing themselves than politicians have made governing us? Keith Joseph said something that is very true, which is by giving people responsibility you make them more responsible. By handing back what is, in effect, the governance of the nation to the peope will negate the political ability to play fast and loose with our nation, it's finances, it's society and it's future because whichever political party has a majority and whatever their political beliefs as a party, they will be unable to impose that idealogy on the electorate. On the subject of imposing idealogy, one asect of political life that would cease under my suggestion is that state funding of quangos/ngos/fake charities would immediately cease. Of course such organisations wishing to influence public opinion should have the right to exist - however they will do so by a reliance on donations, a method which should soon 'sort the wheat from the chaff', so to speak.

    Some may say that the above suggestion is far too simple, but then is not simplicity a factor in the best of methods? What more is needed by way of embellishment as those elected would be but managers of the people's will - and how many managers does one need? 

    Part (5) will deal with local responsibilities and will, logically, be longer in content and with more detail. I would also hope to include a draft Constitution for consideration.

    ¹ The figure is suggested to cater for the fact that there are approximately 130 counties in the United Kingdom, plus cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham etc. Whilst this would mean a representation factor far beyond the Electoral Quota of +/- 5%, this matters not as with the majority of functions presently carried out by MPs being handed to local MPs (or councillors) it would be the latter who would be dealing with constituents individual local concerns. What it allows for is one elected representative per county and possibly 3/4 per large city.

    Afterthought: There may well be other areas that national politicians would need to manage - the thought has just occured about state pensions - but as I intimated, this is but a 'draft' of an idea, so comments are more than welcome (which no doubt will be forthcoming.......)


      James Higham said...

      Proposals for taxation to pay for those areas of responsibility mentioned above must be presented by political parties at general elections in the form of an estimate/quotation in order that the voters can see where and how their money is to be spent.

      They'll still bend the stats and tell porkies.

      WitteringsfromWitney said...

      JH: Lie and be found out and they pay a penalty - like a tax rebate? It will be a legal contract and why not? Simples!