Could "People Power" kill our EU membership & home grown political ills?

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among those who are.

H.L. Mencken

BJ, UKK41, has a most interesting post on the question of bail-outs and other matters “EU – one well worth a visit.

The nation state governments have favoured their new EU friends in Brussels and totally turned their backs on their own people – why should the people now pay for their greed and arrogance.

In the monthly newsletter from the Campaign for an Independent Britain (CIB) Edward Spalton proposes that:

Writing only requires pen and paper and the price of a few stamps or the use of a computer and email. It could be made a great deal more effective if writers were prepared to apply a little organisation. If an editor receives one letter, he may publish it if it takes his fancy – or not.  If he receives five or six on the same subject, all expressing the same points differently, one or more is almost certain to be published. The letters page is the most read part of local newspapers.

Then there are MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. If they get one letter from a constituent complaining about the EU they may disregard it or simply give a stock answer. If they get five or six, they will begin to take notice. Their offices keep a note of topics which concern their constituents. If they keep getting individual complaints about the EU from their constituents, differently expressed and from different people, they will begin to take notice.

If you like writing, I would like to discuss the best ways of multiplying the power of the potent influence of public opinion. People can be front line campaigners from their own homes. We need to keep up the impetus now that the enemy is on the defensive. Would anyone be interested in forming a local correspondence circle get in touch with me?

Edward ends with his contact details: Tel: 01283 730903 – email: edward(at)spalton(dot)me(dot)uk

Yet another idea that would need “organisation” presents itself with the passing of the re-call bill, if it ever does get proposed by the Coalition. I have pointed out previously, any re-call of an MP will be subject to the final decision of a committee of MPs, said committee agreeing that a serious error has occurred to enable a re-call to be enacted.

With the majority of the British people in favour of a referendum on EU membership it should not be too difficult to arrange for the necessary signatures on a petition, setting out chapter and verse, calling for a re-call of the majority of MPs. Such a plan would place our MPs – or at least those on the “final-decision” committee in an impossible quandary – in that they would either have to agree to allowing what would amount to a referendum/general election, or they would have to deny every single petition and thus show themselves to be the elected dictatorship that they have become.

Richard North, EU Referendum, continues his series of posts on the political problems encapsulated within our democracy and suggests a voter”s alliance and in so doing links to CallingEngland, in which post her crie de coeur is:

There is no political party or even an outsider who can lead us out of this mess. The change casino online that must happen must come from us as individuals and we must be responsible for our own actions instead of looking to others. No-one will come.

The more I consider Richard”s idea the more attractive it appears as it is becoming even more obvious that as Lord Acton, the British historian, who said: “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” these words are proven to be increasingly more evident by the day.

Nothing illustrates that more than the leaders of the Lib/Lab/Con who all maintain that our country”s membership of the European Union is necessary in order for us to succeed in the world. Power has indeed corrupted the reasoning of those three men – with opinion poll after opinion poll showing that the country wants a referendum on EU membership, they repeatedly refuse to grant one. MPs elected to Parliament are controlled by their party leaders and are forced through the whipping system to place party before their country and constituents. Political manifestos are produced at the time of general elections, the contents of which bear little relation to what actually is subsequently promulgated into law – and in some noteable examples manifesto promises are completely ignored.

The foregoing are examples of a situation which cannot and must not be allowed to continue. As I have stated on many occasions the present political system is enacted on the basis that politicians are those with the power and that the people must serve the politicians – when in fact it is the reverse that is true, namely that power rests with the people and politicians are no more than servants of the people. In this context Richard North poses the question of how to we get from where we are to the position where we wish to be – a people free from central government interference. He makes a telling point when he writes:

….. the answer is to recognise that we are seeking to overthrow the status quo, changing the order of things. That makes us, by definition, revolutionaries – and no revolution ever succeeded by working within the system.

which kinda makes a mockery of Cameron”s stated wish to change the European Union from within – but again I am guilty of digressing.

Much has been written on how to fix our democratic system and the cure for all our ills would seem to be the creation of an English parliament, one to rival that of Scotland and the Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. There is also a movement for the United Kingdom to become a confederation, one comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst our country remains a member of the EU, all the creation of an English parliament would do is to cement the break-up of the United Kingdom – a course of action on which the EU is intent in accordance with it”s NUTS programme.

In any event all that the creation of an English parliament, or a confederation, will accomplish is yet more politicians resulting in more cost to the public purse. Yet another cure for our ills is outlined in “The Plan”, a treatise by Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan, in which they propose a “100 day plan”. Ukip have also their version as the panacea to the problem of national politics and governance here (page 13). The problem with all these ideas is that we are still left with pesky politicians – and far too many of them!

To add my twopennworth to the mix – and admittedly not yet fully “thought-through – it would seem that a mix of the US and Swiss system of government might just well provide that for which Richard North wishes. First, reduce the number of MPs elected to Westminster (they wouldn”t be needed as all that Westminster would be left with would be matters such as defense of the realm, foreign policy etc), neither would they need to meet that often (emergencies excepted); devolve to all county local authorities responsibility for internal matters – health, education, law & order – whilst also giving them tax-raising powers; and combining that with Richard North”s idea for annual referendums.

Ok, so that may well produce some anomolies within the UK on how health, education, law& order are managed within the UK – so what? By giving local county authorites tax-raising powers – and here I “pick-up” on a point mentioned in “The Plan” – it would create something I do not believe we have ever had in this country; namely a downward pressure on taxation.

Anyway, just thought I would “stir the pot” even more …..

25 comments for “Could "People Power" kill our EU membership & home grown political ills?

  1. ivan
    May 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Let me give the pot an additional stir. Do away with MPs all together – let the people that pass a simple examination in English, the history of England and a science subject discuss and vote on the net in place of the MPs. That way we would have a direct democracy. You want to vote – you pass the exam, you have a complaint about that – pass the exam and bring it up as something to be voted on.

    As a few people know I am writing a SF novel about this very thing. They say SF is prophetic, well I did the outline for the book just over 3 years ago. Maybe it will be out of date by the time I finish – I hope it is with the conclusion similar to mine.

    • WitteringWitney
      May 31, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      Basically, ivan, as I replied on my blog to this query. Nice idea but totally impracticable. The net is more unreliable than postal voting. Sorry, but you have not thought through the present situation nor presented a workable alternative

  2. May 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I strongly favour a Swiss style direct democracy. I’m sure it’s not perfect but it is a lot better system than hours. 100,000 voters can call a referendum to overturn legislation.

    Who knows the name of a single Swiss politician? Very few because they serve the people.

    • Paul
      May 30, 2011 at 11:57 pm

      You could say that about Norwegian and Icelandic politicos. And Hungarian, Slovenian ones etc etc.

      • May 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm

        Iceland is an interesting case. Didn’t President Grimsson support the referendum overturning the negotiated settlement with the EU after going bust?

        A good example of a country with direct democracy over ruling the government.

    • WitteringWitney
      May 31, 2011 at 7:54 pm

      Exactly DoB, exactly and that is how it should be. What we need at both local and national levels is those who understand what they should be doing in the public interest rather than what we have, namely potential wanna-be third rate celebs.

  3. Brian, follower of Deornoth
    May 30, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I think the whole basis of this discussion is flawed; the assumption is, that if the Government listened to the people, they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing now.

    I suspect, on the contrary, that the ever-increasing levels of Government expenditure and the ever-increasing levels of oppressive legislation are exactly what the people want, because they think these things will solve all their problems. If there were a even a large minority in favour of tax cuts and deregulation, then that would happen, but there is a large majority in favour of taxing and regulating other people.

    If you’ll forgive a long comment, I’d like to offer this quote from Hayek…

    The political structure of Germany and France, in the last years preceding the fall of their democratic constitutions, was to a very great extent influenced by the fact that for a considerable part of the electorate the state was the source of income. There were not only the hosts of public employees, and those employed in the nationalized branches of business (e.g., railroad, post, telegraph, and telephone), there were the receivers of the unemployment dole and of social security benefits, as well as the farmers and some other groups which the government directly or indirectly subsidized. Their main concern was to get more out of the public funds. They did not care for “ideal” issues like liberty, justice, the supremacy of the law, and good government. They asked for more money, that was all.

    • May 31, 2011 at 5:49 am

      “I suspect, on the contrary, that the ever-increasing levels of Government expenditure and the ever-increasing levels of oppressive legislation are exactly what the people want, because they think these things will solve all their problems.”

      That’s a worrying thought…

    • May 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      “there is a large majority in favour of taxing and regulating other people.”

      Correct.

      And those people are claim to be in favour of low taxes on [whatever] tend to be those people who have a lot of [whatever] and they want taxes on [something else] instead, or even worse, they just want to collect those taxes privately.

      As to regulating other people, I would say, in a non-expert sort of way, that most people support the smoking ban, the fox hunting ban, that drugs or brothels are illegal, that The Hallowed Green Belt must be protected at all costs etc.

      • Paul
        May 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm

        And those people are claim to be in favour of low taxes on [whatever] tend to be those people who have a lot of [whatever] and they want taxes on [something else] instead, or even worse, they just want to collect those taxes privately.

        Selfish self-interest.

        In that sense, it’s pointless asking for lower taxes on anything. Because everyone wants higher taxes and telling others what to do but never themselves, of course. Then it’s an outrage.

        A lot of people seem to have an ultimate faith in the NHS and so on that I find both mystifying and terrifying when you consider the standard of care that often prevails there. They can’t see dreadful (but more usually indifferent) customer service when it’s staring them in the face.

    • WitteringWitney
      May 31, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      BfoD: If the government did listen to the people they would not be doing what they are doing now – agreed, but they are obviously not listening so why is my argument flawed?

      The only reason that the populace accepts what they have is because they have been conditioned by relentless government pressure that only the politicos know what is best for us – they are no beginning to wake up to the fact that they have been conned.

      Re your quote by Hayek: which is why the idea of an annual agreement by the people to both local and central government of their past and future performance is critical. What both spend is our money and they should earn the trust and also be made to answer for the consequences of their actions.

      • Brian, follower of Deornoth
        May 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm

        The flaw in your argument is that you assume “people power” will shift politics in the direction you desire. I wish it were so.

        But I suspect people are not waking up to the fact that they have been conned; they are fearing that if they don’t demonstrate “people power”, the gravy train will run dry.

        There are many demonstrators exhibiting “people power” in Lisbon, Madrid and Athens as we speak; they are demanding more money, not more liberty. Recent events in London have shown many tens of thousands of people demanding more benefits; a few hundred demanding lower taxes.

        • WitteringWitney
          May 31, 2011 at 9:32 pm

          BfoD: Rest assured, at the end of the day, people power will shift pol8itics in the direction I desire – oh, ye of little faith!

          Everyone has their ‘limits’ and I believe those ‘limits’ are fast being approached by the political elite. Just you hang around for the next, say, 12 months………

          You think I am wrong about people power – prove it!

          • Brian, follower of Deornoth
            May 31, 2011 at 9:56 pm

            I *hope* I am wrong about people power; but I have learned not to conflate what I wish for with what I expect.

  4. Junican
    May 31, 2011 at 12:43 am

    The way our system works is that we elect representatives by majority votes. We then rely upon these representatives to use their intelligence to govern both for the majority and for the minority, without undue favour for either. I personally think that this is the best way, even though it has its faults.

    There are lots of faults. Ministers being MP members of the governing party is one. That would not be such a big problem were it not for the number of junior ministers. Too many people on the payroll who thereby lose their independence.

    But the most serious fault by far and away is the lack of interest of the electorate regarding who represents them. That is easy to say, but it is a far more complex issue than appears to be the case at first sight. That is, it is not merely a question of voter apathy.

    I think that prospective MPs are not sufficiently scrutinised by the public in public. For example, there is no reason that the prospective MP for my constituency should not answer questions from the voters in my constituency as to his views and intentions regarding a particular subject. This could easily be done on line, and his answers published on line and in the local paper. There would be a problem of duplication, but that could easily be overcome by questions being listed on line and, where they duplicate, being amalgamated. There would also be questions which are really, really stupid. These would also be listed and put into a category “Not to be proceeded with unless there is support from at least (say) 5% of voters” (A ‘yes’ ‘no’ simple voting system could easily be organised). Profanities could easily be ‘bleeped’ out. One of the advantages of such a plan would be that it really would not matter what party a candidate professed to belong to – his answers would be the important thing.

    Another difficulty would be the time element. As we know, the PM can call a General Election at any time by giving a month’s notice. A month is not a long time for the process that I have outlined. OK. Simple answer – make the PM give three months notice – no problem – Belgium has not had a government for over 12 months. Has Belgium fallen apart?

    The ‘apathy’ of voters in not their fault – it is the fault of the stinking rotten system that we have.

  5. Junican
    May 31, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Further, as regards the EU, the real problem is that it has got too big for its boots. This seems to be a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty. The problem is that this treaty is only understood by a small number of people. So it follows that Eurocrats can claim any powers they wish, since the only people who really know what the Treaty is about are the Eurocrats – that is, the only people who matter – there may be the odd MP who understands, but anything that he may say is drowned out.

    Would it matter if the Lisbon Treaty was ignored and the EU apparatus made to disappear, while keeping in place the agreements already made? I doubt that it would matter for one second.

    The problem with treaties like Lisbon is that, once agreed, they become written in stone. The is no system for any amendment other than from the EU itself. Such a situation is utterly crazy.

    • WitteringWitney
      May 31, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      J: in response to both your comments:

      The problem with your first para, first comment, is that they don’t, hence the system has to change.

      Second para, first comment: agreed – too many pesky politicians!

      Third para, first comment: agreed – but see above, the populace has been brainwashed into thinking only the state can provide….

      Fourth para, first comment: which is exactly why there should be open primaries!

      First para, second comment: We all know that – which is exactly why any EU treaty is couched in the terms it is thus deliberately making it difficult for the ordinary person to understand. EUcrats are not fools – well not in that regard, anyway!

      Second para, second comment: There may be a few Directives/Regulations in place that do make sense, however that is beside the point in that any law by which we are governed has to be made by those who are answerable to us – and the EU ain’t!

  6. DP111
    June 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    It is mentioned in ridicule that the Swiss have not has a revolution or political crisis in 700 years. Well, there is no need for the Swiss to rebel, as the system of government they have is made by them, and for their good, and if required, they can change it whenever they feel the need. Moreover, the Swiss system is based heavily on the cantons. Thus different cantons can have different laws pertaining to that canton. For instance, a canton may not have any inheritance tax, while others do etc.

    The other salient point is that in most other nations, the state has a monopoly of force, including deadly force, and the citizens are disarmed. In Switzerland it is the other way round. In the final analysis, this is what keeps statists in check.

    • WitteringWitney
      June 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      DP111: Exactly!You make two excellent points, firstly on the question of localism. On the second point, I have to admit that that had escaped me however the fact the people are armed may well have a salutory effect on those in government!

      • DP111
        June 4, 2011 at 12:53 am

        The real problem is that politicians in the UK or the EU, have huge amounts of money at their disposal, with no check on their powers to spend or throw around the world.

        Switzerland OTH sidesteps the first issue by making the cantons the sole authority for levying taxes. As cantons are small, they do not have absurdly huge amounts of money at their disposal. In addition, there is a legal maximum on the rate of taxation. This further reduces the amount of disposable money available.

        Furthermore, all budget proposals for the year by the canton or the federal government, is subject to a referendum, by law. On some relatively modest budget change, the Swiss can still force a referendum by collecting sufficient number of signatures.

        As most of the tax raised is at the cantonal level, cantonal politicians are truly held responsible for tax and spend decisions. As the taxpayers are in close proximity with politicians, both politically and geographically, to the taxpayers, Swiss politicians are keenly aware of the taxpayers breath.

      • DP111
        June 4, 2011 at 1:01 am

        Consider the problem
        The GDP of the UK is around 2 trillion pounds. Assuming that one way or other, the Treasury rakes in 50% of this, we have £1 trillion spending money available to the PM and the chancellor. This is so huge a number that not even the Treasury has any idea what this number actually means in actual spending terms. £1 trillion is 1 million millions. Now how can a voter, or even a mathematician, decide that the government budget is fine, too huge, or misallocated, when such huge numbers are being considered, and for regions that have no relevance to the voter. No way.

        Now for Switzerland. Assuming Swiss GDP at £400bn, and 25 cantons, a maximum tax take of 30%, we have 400*.3/25 = £4.8bn average per canton. Thus the average Swiss voter has to make a judgement on a sum, though still huge, is atleast on the right side, when compared to £1000bn that the UK voter will have to decide on. Moreover, it is on issues pertaining to his/her own canton, where the voter has a stake and ownership of the problems and the money.

        From this it follows that what we should be looking at is the devolution of taxation authority, not just to the shires but maybe even lower, to the boroughs or voting wards ie to the ward. This is the ward that a MP represents. The ward then decides, or its people decide, how to spend the money on the ward – education, health, police, illegal immigrants etc etc, and what % to be sent to the central government to run what only central government can. Now we have accountability, with fixed sums, and fixed legal requirement how the money is to be spent. In addition, as the ward councilors and MP, are now local, they can be got at. The canton/ward is highly unlikely to be charitable to the centre, as it holds the purse (but not so huge as to give it ideas of greatness), has the responsibility and bears the consequences. This also has the desirable effect that the central goverment becomes the servant of the shires or the ward.

        • WitteringWitney
          June 4, 2011 at 8:21 am

          DP111: You are talking to the converted – I have long argued for local taxation, whether that be by a sales tax or land value tax.

          • DP111
            June 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm

            WW

            Good.

            Just been to your blog. Will be visiting more often.

  7. I am replete
    June 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    “..the leaders of the Lib/Lab/Con …. repeatedly refuse to grant one.” (an in/out referendum on the EU).
    Richard is consistent on this, that we are the people, and the politicians don’t grant anything. They do what the people, their employers, tell them, or move over for those who will.

    • June 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      “They do what the people, their employers tell them, or move over for those who will”

      Could not agree more – perhaps we need to shove a few to get the message over?

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