Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The 'cost' of our political system

No, not the 'direct' cost of salaries, buildings etc, etc; but the 'hidden' costs of the time spent by our politicians  'maneouvering' for position within the hierarchy of the Coalition, about the time spent ensuring that each party gains some element of 'public approval' among their respective supporters; and in so doing David Cameron is able to ensure that the Coalition does not 'collapse' before its expiry date thus maintaining his own individual position. Daniel Korski has a post on the Coffee House about the apparent 'rise' in the power wielded by Nick Clegg at the expense of William Hague, one that is a prime illustration of the foregoing.


Does it really matter, other than for 'presentational' reasons, who invited German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle to Britain on a 'we still love you' visit yesterday, when no doubt Westerwelle had been urged by van Rompuy and Barroso to accept on the basis it provided them with 'PR' that they could then use to show that the EU really wanted the UK to remain a full and active member? That is but one example of the 'smoke and mirrors' that affects our politics. Is William Hague going to kick up a fuss' when, no doubt, Cameron has informed him that some room must be given to Clegg to bolster his position as Leader of the Libdems in order to quell any 'rebellion' among LibDem MPs and party members, thus preserving the life of the Coalition? More 'smoke and mirrors'. Who is better qualified to 'talk' to those in Brussels than someone who has worked there and no doubt knows those that matter, while maintaining the Coalition 'line' that we intend to remain a member? More 'smoke and mirrors'.


That our MPs, in putting themselves forward - or 'having themselves put forward' - for election to Westminster to represent their constituents - and supposedly to serve those constituents - is a charade. They do so as it is the first rung on a career - one in which power and personal wealth can be the ultimate prize, not for any reasons of 'serving' the public. It is only necessary to witness their voting records to see MP after MP trooping through the lobbies in support of their 'party line' to see that this is true. Once elected they form a self-serving, self-preservation, clique - witness how they are now insisting that control of their expenses system should revert to them; witness how the recall of any MP is dependent on a committee of their peers being the deciding factor; witness how those in the expenses scandal are able to get re-elected, regardless of their perceived wrong-doings, because they are the only choice provided for the tribalist voter to support. More 'smoke and mirrors'.


Advancement for an MP is solely at the patronage of their party's leader who, when his party's image becomes stagnant, then performs a reshuffle of his 'appointees' with the aim of 'refreshing' the public perception of his/her government (or shadow government) - resulting in a re-arrangement of the occupants of the deckchairs on the Titanic; and for what purpose where any benefit to the country is concerned? What does, for example, the former occupant of one department, reassigned to another, bring to his/her new position, other than a desire to cement his/her progress up their career ladder?


Politicians make much of the need for 'transparency', or 'openness', from them, but are guilty of exactly the opposite. A recent example occurred in a speech Nick Clegg gave to Demos; and upon which Norman Tebbit comments. In his speech Clegg complains that the Lords, as currently constituted, is an affront to the principles of openness which underpin a modern democracy. That statement may well be true, but does not the same accusation also apply to those in the Commons? Can it not be said that the elected Commons with a veneer covering venality and self-interest can surely no longer serve as a chamber which legislates on behalf of the people? Clegg mentions 'dodgy' lobbyists corrupts politics - methinks that politics and our politicians need no help where corruption is concerned. If Clegg believes that individuals need the capabilities and opportunities to chart their own course through life, it has to be asked of Clegg - and his fellow politicians of all parties - why politicians spend so much of their time ensuring that we lead 'ordered' lives in accordance with the 'doctrines' that he and the other two parties impose on us?


For far too long our country has been pulled from 'pillar to post' due entirely to 'political doctrine' - illustrated by party A whilst in government creating a set of laws, then being thrown out of office, with party B entering office and promptly repealing said laws and introducing their own, based on a different 'doctrine'. Does the country benefit from this process? No! Who benefits from this process? The politicians! Suppose there was an alternative form of democracy, one in which no change to our constitution could be made without the approval of the electorate; no wars could begin without our approval; no agreements could be signed as a member of some shadowy world organisation without the approval of the electorate? Suppose there was an alternative form of democracy, both national and local, whereby political decisions could be halted by the electorate having the ability to say "No way, José"? (Sorry Barroso!) Suppose a system of democracy existed whereby politicians, because of the veto that the people have, were no more than 'managers' of the wishes of the people? Suppose an example could be shown whereby 'managers' of their country's destiny had been in office, on a part-time basis, for more than 20 years? Just suppose....


Between Christmas and the New Year I intend returning to the 'Constitution' question (having little else to do - sad is me, but I digress) and by way of an introduction to that post I thought a few general observations on the system of democracy under which we presently live might be in order, hence the above.


A new website has been set up (talkconstitution.net) with a view to allow people to discuss all aspects of this subject (moderation will be employed purely to negate trolls, bad language, etc) and it is not intended primarily for those in the United Kingdom. Presently a 'holding page' is visible, however it is hoped to have this new website 'working' by 2nd January 2012 and confirmation of that will appear on this blog.

8 comments:

BJ said...

Good for you WfW, I await with bated breath.

I never know whether it is better to have numerous websites dealing with constitutional issues or one big one with all the talents combined - I'm thinking of The British Constitutional Group (http://www.thebcgroup.org.uk/) when I say this.

I suppose it's a matter of "the more the merrier"

Stuart said...

BJ,

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who believe having an unwritten, uncodified contract spread over a thousand pages is adequate to limit government. They believe we already have a system that is simply not being adhered to. They are not capable of the belief that all our constitutional doctrines can be condensed into a single document such as the US constitution that has stood the test of time for several hundred years and helped produce the freeist nation on earth. But then many are so against the American's that they are against a single document constituion for that reason alone.

Tarka the Rotter said...

@Stuart...
"They are not capable of the belief that all our constitutional doctrines can be condensed into a single document such as the US constitution that has stood the test of time for several hundred years and helped produce the freeist nation on earth. But then many are so against the American's that they are against a single document constituion for that reason alone."

Mmmm the USA has only existed since 1783 (OK 1776 if you prefer) so that is by no means several hundred years. However, much of the US constitution was based on English Common Law which has a considerable lineage, so you may have a point. Personally, I believe any change to our constitution should be referred back to the people. Clegg can twitter all he likes about the House of Lords being an affront to democracy, but out ancient constitution had a balance between the executive (the monarch) the hereditary landed interest (the lords) and the elected house (the Commons). It was a system of checks and balances - this we have now lost, and I suggest that is an affront to the people of these islands.

Stuart said...

@Tarka,

You are quite right that most of the American Constitution stems from British political theory. It really saddens me that so many people hold producing a British constitution in a single document is almost unBritish. They appear to me at least as very closed minded. Would you buy a house without a "contract"? Why do we allow our representatives to govern us without a contract?

right_writes said...

Very good post WfW, but there is one element that you missed that I think is probably the most dangerous aspect of our system of government. Namely, the state bureaucracy, which is still beavering away at the c1923 Salter/Monnet plan for a supranational system of government.

Daniel Hannan (bless) observes that whatever the stance of an opposition party (real or imaginary) once it begins to govern, commences to persue the interests of 'the project' and 'their colleagues', and in this, if in barely anything else, he is right.

Following the trend of your threads recently though, and as a member of UKIP, I wandered over to the UKIP members blog (haven't been there since January, a comment on DD again) and posted a couple of threads on the subject of direct democracy.

As you know, it IS UKIP policy, and very laudable too. However, I was very disheartened by the response, possibly a reflection on my meagre efforts to state the case, but hopefully not. So far I have (in a poll) garnered 20 votes, 18 positive, 1 negative and 1 ambivalent, to the proposition that UKIP bring this longstanding policy right to the front in speeches, literature and branding bylines. Most of my correspondents don't seem to think that it is of any real interest to the electorate(???). There is one correspondent that went for it with positive support, and in one sentence, stated why… He lives and works in Switzerland!

I have great admiration for the efforts, enthusiasm and diligence of people within UKIP, but I am beginning to think that some of them, just don't get it. My rather stately progress towards this emerging view may be down to my willingness to grant them the benefit of the doubt, but my patience is really beginning to wane I think.

Anyway, kudos to your efforts on the DD meme and the new website, and if there is any way that we can get together (virtually or otherwise) I am interested in taking part, health permitting.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

BJ: The object of the exercise is to create a forum (not a blog with comments for a discussion on what is a constitution, on what should it be based, and what constraints should be placed on politicians.

Wait for what appears here twixt no and the New Year and the site going live.

S & TtR: You both make good points and (see above) you will have the opportunity to continue that discussion there.

r_w: See first response above. You will get access to the forum.

Re Ukip, I am fast coming to the conclusion that half of the membership only think what NF tells them to think......

TomTom said...

Westerwelle is a joke, known in Germany as Schwesterwelle - his choice of advisers and odd business affiliations makes him an ideal matching to William Hague. His role as deposed leader of the FDP, Liberal Minority Partner in Merkel's coalition gives him an affinity with Nick Clegg as does the fact that his FDP Party is currently on 2% in German Polls which is less than the 5% required to enter Parliament at the next election.

The Pirate Party is 4-times as popular

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: Thanks for the 'insight' - much appreciated.