Monday, 2 April 2012


From Wikipedia we learn that the Chartists - or to be correct, one faction - called for six basic reforms to make the political system more democratic. Those six reforms were: 
  • universal male suffrage;
  • a secret ballot;
  • no property qualification for members of Parliament;
  • pay members of Parliament (so poor men could serve);
  • constituencies of equal size;
  • annual elections for Parliament.
They accomplished the first four with the fifth planned for implementation in the near future, assuming of course our home grown version of Hitler doesn't get overthrown. Were the Chartists to be reborn today, one imagines them looking round and observing that (paraphrasing a line from Star Trek) it's life, but not as they envisioned it.

That the first four points have been emasculated beyond recognition by the political class for their own ends - especially points three and four, but I digress - it seems to me that further 'basic reforms' are called for if democracy in this country is to survive.

In that respect - and apropo point six - one of the reasons for the American Revolution was the principle of "no taxation without representation". Nowadays, under representative democracy, we have taxation but do not have representation in that those that represent us, do not; they take what is not their money, but ours, without our permission nor with any constraints on what it can be spent.

Point six of the Chartist's demands was for annual elections to Parliament, something which, had we a form of Direct Democracy in this country, would not be necessary. However, every year our political elite present what they laughingly term 'their budget' in which they inform us on what our money - that they intend extracting from us - will be spent and subsequently, amongst themselves, decide whether 'their budget' is 'acceptable' or not. As it is our money should they not, in the first place, ask us? Should it not be us that decide the question of acceptability? Should it not be us that decide, 'Nope' go back and do your sums again?

To a certain extent one can argue that 'no taxation without public approval' should be one of any new reforms that is required for a new democracy. This question does, to a certain extent, form part of what should be discussed on and it could also be argued that it should form part of any new constitution that website will be proposing, hopefully in the very near future. 

Is not the idea of servant asking master on what the master's money can be spent not 'Referism' put into practice?


Anonymous said...

Of course, I fundamentally agree but I have nagging doubts.

you say "As it is our money should they not, in the first place, ask us?"

the problem is that it is equally true that people will be asked whose money has not been taken but are merely the recipients of its expenditure.

Will people who give nothing but receive much, vote to stop that state of affairs and if they wouldn't, how many of them are there?

with regard to the Chartists, to also quote from Wikipedia "Eventually, the first five goals were achieved, but that happened long after Chartism was a spent force.
. . . Political elites saw the movement as dangerous and refused to negotiate with it or deal with its demands. The government permanently crushed the movement in 1848"

I'm not against the ideas believe me. Just saying . . . letmethink

TomTom said...

Chartism was violent especially with the Plug Riots in The North and often fuelled by Irish immigrants in textile towns. It was not a middle-class pressure group. The Militia was used in towns like Bradford which did not become Chartered Boroughs until 1847 and needed the Militia because it had no Police Force.

Universal Suffrage kills accountability. The restricted franchise had taxpayers voting to maintain low taxes, and the rest agitating for the r8ight to vote. Once achieved Democracy loses dynamism because it is based on people always wanting something they don't have NOT on preserving what they do have.

Anonymous said...

This year, the last time I looked was 2012, the political system (not only in the UK) is running at least 100 years behind.
The 2 key words are: INTERNET, & ACCOUNTABILITY, if a person is going to run for public office then his whole life is public property and he/she should be held accountable for everything they do, just like us humans

Woodsy42 said...

One could consider the 'no property' rule might have been a mistake. They could not have forseen the benefit classes. If voting were restricted to wage earners (or NI payees perhaps) who contribute to public spending we would see some very different outcomes.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Anon (1): Fair comment and I accept your doubts. As those working fund those not perhaps voting should be confined to the former? Cue howls of protest.........

TT: Thoughtful comment, as always. Re-education perhaps the answer?

Anon (2): First paragraph definitely agreed! Ditto 2nd too.

W42: See above.

TomTom said...

They could not have forseen the benefit classes

You are of course mad. Have you heard of The Speenhamland System ? The Poor Law Reform Act 1834 and the introduction of Workhouse Unions ?

Perhaps the fact that major Infimaries in England like St James Leeds are former Workhouses ?

That the Victorians were terrified of Ochlocracy or Rule by the Mob. ?

James Higham said...

The Russian and American systems of recall are good - it takes a certain number but we'd have those sorts of numbers here.