Sunday, 16 October 2011

Political Parties - for better or for worse?

Two posts caught my eye today, one by John Redwood and the other by Autonomous Mind, that prompted the heading of this post. Unconsciously, both posts deal with an important matter, namely what is an ideal system of democracy and the inherent defects in our present system.

John Redwood discusses the various 'factions' within his party - and leaves the reader with the impression that the Conservative Party is deeply splintered. He writes that there are right-wing liberals; right-wing authoritarians; right-wing 'small state' Conservatives; right-wing 'better state' Conservatives; right-wing 'moral' Conservatives; new 'liberal' right-wing Conservatives; and new right 'neo-cons'. All things considered, it hardly presents the image of an 'united' party - but yet again I digress. Redwood also makes the point that many subjects cross the political divide and that it is all a lot more complex and fluid than a simple left-right analysis would suggest. Autonomous Mind posts on the fact that an Independent candidate appears to be the 'front-runner' in the race to become Irish President on the departure of Mary McAleese, albeit that the leading candidate would appear to have the backing of Fianna Fáil, the party to which he previously belonged. Hardly what one might therefore call an Independent and more what AM rightly terms an 'Indeplastic'.

Redwood's observations on the factions within his own party raise an interesting question, namely what is a political party, what is it's function and that of those that represent it. Bearing in mind Redwood's observations on his own party, it would seem that political parties have been formed as a means to enable people with disparate views, but who are also ambitious, cunning and unprincipled, to join together and thereby conspire in order that they may practise the art of dictatorship. Autonomous Mind is of the opinion that an increase in 'independent' candidates could hasten the demise of political parties - a belief that may well be true but one that then leaves a collection of 'independents' in that same position of being able to conspire in order to dictate the lives of those who have elected them. 

In most western democracies governments are elected for a 'term', one comprising a number of years, in which they are then able to 'order' the lives of their peoples. Those governments are invariably founded on differing and opposing ideologies resulting in a situation whereby a country's future is first directed one way and then the other (when power changes hands) and which leaves the people powerless to halt any policy with which they may disagree within a 'term' of office. That countries do require 'representatives' to handle matters of national importance such as foreign affairs, defense etc cannot be denied, neither can it be denied that those 'representatives' should not be placed in a position of absolute power, something all governments practise, without the people having recourse to question and if necessary halt something with which the majority disagree.

Following the Liam Fox 'episode' there are now calls for the power of lobbyists to be curbed and changes made to party funding. Yet do we not have a chicken and egg situation here? Were politicians not placed in the situation of wielding unfettered decision making, would there be a need for lobbyists? Were political parties made solely dependent on membership fees for their income, would there no longer be a need for donations from unions and business because are not unions and businesses, in making those donations, practising the art of lobbyists?

In another post Autonomous Mind believes that it will only be when the people wake up and realise they are being manipulated by the Marxists and leftists (to which I would add all politicians) and demand action on their terms, only then does he believe we will get a representative democracy.Yet whilst our present democracy places unlimited power in a system of government whereby they can dictate to their hearts content, how can we have 'representative democracy'?

There are those who will maintain that political parties will always exist, whilst bemoaning that existence, yet the demise of political parties, or at least their influence, could well be hastened with a shift to a Swiss style of democracy encorporating a degree of what Richard North terms "Referism", a change which would provide a representative democracy as it would by nature provide a representative form of self-governance.

Just a few thoughts...........


PeterCharles said...

To say any political party is composed of factions is akin to the old saying about eggs and grandmothers, a statement of the obvious. Labour and the LibDems are just as factional, as no doubt is UKIP or the BNP let alone the Greens.

Of course the drive in both Labour and Tory spheres, under Blair for Labour and under Cameron for the Tories, has been to reduce factionalism by controlling the selection lists, not with too great a success it should be said. The only thing they have really achieved is the creation of ranks of poliplastics a la Europlastic or Indieplastic, politicians that will bend in any direction at any time, and yes-men.

There is little doubt that the party system is central to the corruption of our political representatives, we now have legislation by diktat rather than the weight of logical and measured argument, and the centralisation of power in the office of the prime minister and the favoured in their little cabals. It is this centralisation that has made lobbying so pernicious, corruption so endemic and allowed the elites to gather power to themselves. Lobbyists and pressure groups no longer need to cajole, bribe or convince 50 or so MPs to take their stance, just one or two at ministerial level is all that is necessary.

I recall a point made by a Swiss MP or whatever they are was asked why Switzerland seemed to have little in the way of political party organisation compared to elsewhere in Europe. "There is no point," he said, "the Swiss system means the big decisions are by plebiscite, there is no scope for political parties to impose a particular view or policy." I have admired it ever since.

john in cheshire said...

WfW, it is possible that a majority of people will, some day, en masse vote for a party other than their traditional candidate, just out of a fit of pique. I wonder if that was the case in Germany in the 1930s? The lunatics who are now lording it over us, are taking their exercise of powers to the point of absurdity, such that even the most stubborn voter of a particular party can recognise that they are laughing at him. In which case, there could be an atavistic backlash which brings to power someone, or something, that cannot be predicted or controlled.
What do you think?

Anonymous said...

The only loyalty an MP should exhibit is, to his constituents.

If the constituents are not happy with an MPs' performance, he/she should be summoned, questioned and dismissed if that is deemed necessary, at all times MP's subject to recall by constituents 'star chamber'/review - on a tight leash.

The cabinet/executive should be entirely separated from the legislature.
All prospective MPs to have 10 years work experience outside of Westminster, a civil service career disqualifies eligibility.

Party system to be dismantled.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: I will take your first paragraph as a slap on the wrist, but I needed an 'intro'......

You last paragraph deserved repeating and I have done a follow up post using it. thank you!

jic: Nice hope but I feel what will awaken the masses is either some cataclysmic external event which affects us, or that somehow and in time people will learn about the Swiss system and then demand its introduction. I do feel if only they could be 'educated' they would suddenly become interested in politics, both national and local, once again.

Anon: Completely agree with your comment!

PeterCharles said...

Rest assured I was only referring to John Redwood's comments, my hand never came near your wrist.

There is a further point that I have made before that comes out of Redwood's comments, where he says that many subjects have support that crosses the political divide as well as the factional one. There are some few policies, assuming they are honestly meant which is always a dangerous thing to assume where politicians are involved, that I could agree with that come from all parties, and not just consensus ones I should add. However most policies paraded by individual parties at election time are things I do not believe government should be doing at all or else solutions I disagree with. In the event no party has proposed a raft of policies that I would consider supporting in aggregate, they always balance out for me as likely to do a great deal of harm and little, if any, good. This is why my preference would be to do away with party based government completely and every proposed Bill would be subject to a referendum, decided on the basis of a majority of those entitled to vote. I would even fund the media necessary to publicise, criticise or support those Bills in order to generate informed public debate.

TomTom said...

Political Parties are increasingly geographic: SNP = Scotland DUP = N Ireland PC = Wales Conservative = Home Counties

Labour and Liberals depend on Northern seats but do nothing for them - look at Brown's Spending Spree and then look at how little pork barrel went to Bradford, Leeds, Oldham, Bury etc.

There are really no national political parties but no proper coverage of regional parties either

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: Thank you. Agree with what you say but with the point that had we a proper press, staffed by proper journalists, funding of the media to examine political policies would not be necessary.

Of course, if we had a Swiss style form of democracy........

TT: Fair comment, but as I have argued, who needs political parties?

graham wood said...

PC You have it exactly right in your first post. Could'nt agree more and I have expressed a similar view for years.
"There is little doubt that the party system is central to the corruption of our political representatives"

The Swiss system (and the quote) is definitely IMO an excellent summary of the massive difference between the two systems.

Party Whips and their coercive power can only be described as madness and an insult to the intelligence of any reasonably independently minded MP able to think for himself.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

gw: Pleased to see that PC and I have another convert........!