Tag Archive | "electoral reform"

Gordon Brown destroys our faith in representative democracy

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Gordon Brown destroys our faith in representative democracy


Gordon Brown’s decision to remain as leader of the Labour pemocracyarty and, as a consequence, prime minister of this country serves only to shatter what is left of the publics faith in representative democracy. His decision to remain and those spineless Labour MP’s that surround him demonstrate their utter contempt for the people of this country. It is clear that the vast majority of Labour MP’s are petrified of losing their seats as an angry electorate reacts to the appalling way we have been treated and punishes them for bringing our country to the verge of bankruptcy through a combination of poor stewardship, lack of foresight, incompetence and their spendthrift policies. Rather than face the wrath of the people for their comprehensive failure, they choose to demonstrate and highlight the sheer impotence of the people of this country to exercise their will. I don’t know whether we ever had a truly democratic parliamentary system or if it is just accentuated by this government’s actions.

I find myself asking, doubtless alongside many others, just what it will take for the people of this country to be able rid ourselves of this unelected prime minister? Gordon Brown knows full well that he is despised by the majority of the people in this country, this is evidenced by numerous polls, we simply don’t trust him or his party any longer. This was further reinforced at the local elections as the public leave Labour in droves and then, the view was strengthened even more with the Labour party receiving just 15.3% of the popular vote in the European Elections. This is less than half the percentage that was needed to get New Labour into power in the first place. Or, to put in another way, just 1 in 7 of those that voted in the European Elections supported Gordon Brown and his Labour government. He has never never had the right or the mandate that would allow him to lecture us on “what the people want….” with 2 out of 3 people voting against his party at the last general election. Indeed, he has even less right to make this statement now, when 6 out of 7 voters said that he and his party do not speak for us.

The actions of Gordon Brown and his party clearly demonstrates that the people of this country have little or no power over what happens in parliament. Yes, we are entitled to vote for the party of choice once every 5 years, but under the current system, with less that 35% of the popular vote any party can get into power with a substantial majority, that allows them to do pretty much anything they want, up to and including a refusal to follow a manifesto commitment. If the public are dissatisfied with their MP they can do nothing, we have no right of recall. If the public are unhappy with a government, they can do nothing other than wait for the next election. This is not a society where power is vested in the people. Yes, the politicians keep telling us that we have a free society, that we are in a democracy, but where is the evidence?

The majority of people are angered by MPs’ abusing their expenses, but truth be told, they were angry before that. We were angry that our individual liberties had been decimated by successive governments, albeit the ultimate prize must go to New Labour who have virtually destroyed whatever was left under the guise of fighting crime and terrorism. We were angry that this government has taken our country to the brink and then, rather than accepting responsibility, chose to blame everyone else or, to lie, by saying that they couldn’t be expected to see what was coming. We were angry that in spite of successive tax rises, it was difficult to see the benefits, hard-working people were taxed even harder, whilst the workshy were cushioned with ever increasing tax credits. We were angry that in spite of the boom, this government failed to control spending, in fact, they continued to borrow. We were angry that this government were wasting up to £100bn every year through poor decision making, inept management and inflation busting increases in public sector budgets. We were angry that this government sought, against the will of the majority to introduce ID Cards, a database state and remove our inherent right to privacy. We were angry that as a direct consequence of the tax raid on private sector pensions, many excellent pension schemes were forced to close entirely or to new members. We were angry that this government sought to punish those that had prudently saved in a private pension scheme, whilst ignoring the burgeoning cost of the gold-plated pension schemes offered to the public sector. We were angry that MPs’ voted to introduce ever more draconian laws to control and govern the majority, whilst providing themselves with exemptions or immunity. The bottom line is we were furious well before the expenses scandal. The fact that MPs’ from all parties were helping themselves to our money was simply the icing on the cake, it became the conduit for the public to express their anger, frustration and contempt for those that sought to have parliament control, rather than serve the public.

We need change and we need it now. We do not want another talking shop that will allow this government to see out the next year. We need real reform. If we are to accept that we have no choice other than to retain our current prime minister and this pathetic government, then we must know that this will be the last time that we will be held to ransom. We need fixed term parliament, we need the power to recall individual ministers, we need the power to demonstrate a vote of no confidence in a government, we need the power to determine which local candidate will serve our local party, we need the power to vote on manifesto promises rather than having to accept an all or nothing situation, we need the power to have existing legislation repealed or changed to better represent the interests of all the people rather than a small section. In fact, what we need is power returned to the people. See Restoring faith in parliamentary democracy.

Anything less will be a lost opportunity, it will demonstrate complete and utter contempt for the people of this country and will further reinforce the belief that there is a ruling elite and then the rest of us. I don’t believe that Gordon Brown has what it takes to deliver these reforms, but then again, I know that David Cameron won’t, he is all talk and no action. So, I live in hope that Brown, who is clearly so desperate not to go down in history as the worst Chancellor and Prime Minister ever, that he might just try and push through the reform that we so desperately need….the thing I am left with is whether or not he has the competence to deliver anything.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (21)

Restoring confidence in Parliamentary Democracy

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Restoring confidence in Parliamentary Democracy


Nothing irritates me more than having people claim that they speak for me and yet, that is precisely what I have to put up with from this government and party leaders. Not one of our party leaders, but in particular our prime minister, has been given a mandate to speak on behalf of the people of this country. Yet, the most common expression coming out of the mouths of all party leaders is “What the public wants is…..”. It is this precisely this arrogance that angers me most and I suspect that there will be others that are similarly angered, although I can’t nor will I claim to speak for them.

However, based on my limited number of friends and colleagues, I can say that I believe the expense scandal is the conduit for peoples anger, but not the primary reason. Instead, based on my straw poll, most people were already apoplectic about the failure of this government to listen to them and the abject failure of MP’s (backbenchers and opposition parties) in holding the Executive to account. The consensus was, that this government had become authoritarian, reckless and completely out of touch with the wishes of the majority. Further, that the introduction of over 3,600 new criminal offences over 12 years had sought to criminalise the majority, whilst offering exemptions for MP’s.  Further, that the removal of long-held and cherished civil liberties had been arbitrarily removed on the pretext of fighting crime and terrorism, using fear as the primary justification. Yet the statistics clearly demonstrate that the loss of liberty has produced no tangible or demonstrable improvement in our daily lives. Violent crime for example has doubled under this government.

All MP’s have an opportunity to restore confidence in parliament, democracy and, of course, members of parliament, but only if they truly understand what angers the public. Speaking for myself, I have listed below what I would like to see introduced in terms of electoral reform/change and manifesto commitments, not every one will agree with me but, unless the party leaders agree with my points, they must not claim to speak for me.

Electoral Reform

  1. Every MP must be required to stand down and seek reselection whenever there is an election
  2. Local primaries must be introduced which allow the local people to select which candidate they want to represent their preferred political party.
  3. The local people must be provided with the means and the ability to recall their MP [The barriers would have to be realistic and there should be a limit to the number of recalls in any given parliament]
  4. Introduction of fixed term parliaments
  5. Removal of the Whips ability to exercise their powers in all matters that are not covered by the ruling party’s manifesto
  6. Introduction of a procedure that allows the public to lodge a vote of no confidence in the government which will lead, if successful, to a new election
  7. Requirement for an immediate election where a party wants to change leader during their term in office [No coronations]
  8. Introduction of Proportional Representation to better reflect the will of the people [There are a number of variations of PR and I would be open to debate on which would be the preferred option taking account of the fact that no electoral system is perfect, but FPTP is not in my view, representative]
  9. Boost the power of select committees, provide stronger investigatory powers and require that the chair is elected by secret ballot rather than appointed
  10. Require all major legislation that is not contained in the Manifesto to be put to the people in a referendum
  11. Allow the civil service to be answerable to elected ministers only [i.e. not parliamentary aides or peers]
  12. Introduce a fully elected, but much smaller upper chamber [I would suggest that members of the upper chamber are all independent to avoid a situation where laws are simply rubber stamped]
  13. Devolve power from the centre and provide for more local democracy and accountability
  14. Repeal any law that provides members of parliament with legal exemption or special tax concessions which are not available to the public [With the exception of parliamentary privilege]
  15. Limit the number of new laws that can be introduced during any parliamentary term and for each new law introduced, one existing law must be repealed
  16. Party leaders must be made legally responsible for the introduction of all manifesto commitments
  17. Remove Ministerial Veto
  18. Limit the powers of the prime minister to prevent this country going to war without the consent of parliament
  19. Make ministers responsible and accountable for what they say outside parliament as well as inside [Ministers’  must the same type of sanction for misleading the public as they do for misleading parliament. We need an end to spin]
  20. Prevent all political parties from using ‘positive discrimination’ to select candidates based on race, gender or religion
  21. Require that all candidates seeking selection to represent their constituents have been resident in the ‘seat’ for not less than 5 years [This will ensure that the candidate has local knowledge and limit the powers of the party leaders to parachute prospective candidates into safe seats]
  22. Introduce a limit on public borrowing as a percentage of GDP, above which they must seek a mandate from the people through a referendum [No longer should it be possible for a PM to have the power to virtually bankrupt a country without recourse to parliament or the people]
  23. Place a limit on the Executive, above which they must gain parliamentary approval, for investment in private sector institutions
  24. Introduce tighter regulation of quangos and lobbyists
  25. Increase the power of backbench MP’s to hold the Executive to account and, if necessary, overturn unpopular legislation
  26. Members of Parliament rather than the Government must set the Parliamentary timetable
  27. Require that all new legislation is only passed when or if at least 35% of MP’s are present to debate and vote

 Manifesto Commitments

  1. Repeal the Human Rights Act
  2. Draft and legislate for a Bill of Rights that seeks to embrace the protection of the people, not least from the introduction of arbitrary new laws which seek to remove, reduce or infringe the civil liberties of the majority [Based on the principles of the American Constitution rather than a citizens charter]
  3. Provide a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
  4. Halve the number of Quangos in one parliamentary term
  5. Scrap the Tax Credit Scheme and return to a simplified tax regime using tax codes and thresholds
  6. Review the Barnett Formula used to determine funding for the Scottish Assembly with a view to bringing it in line with England
  7. Cancel existing, ongoing and proposed IT/Database projects including, the NHS Database, the Travellers Database, ContactPoint, the Communications Database
  8. Review of the RIPA Act with the aim to limit the investigatory powers to the police, security services, HMRC and DWP
  9. Repeal oppressive civil liberties legislation that has resulted in the routine monitoring and recording of the actions and activities of all UK citizens rather than the minority that could justifiably be monitored.
  10. Complete a full scale review on the use of CCTV cameras
  11. Allow DNA to be retained only in cases where someone has been charged and convicted. All other DNA samples to be removed within 45 days of election
  12. Introduce a means by which the public can demonstrate their support or objection to debates or proposed legislation in the form of an online petition [Such as the existing Downing Street petition site, with a minimum number of votes being required before the point is debated in parliament]
  13. Review and remove Health & Safety laws that seek to impose the will of the government where a commonsense approach would be more appropriate [Health & Safety laws are crippling business and government arrogantly assumes that the people of this country need a nanny state or are incapable of carrying out their own risk assessment]
  14. Review and remove the raft of so called ‘PC’ laws which, instead of outlawing discrimination have simply ended up identifying people as being different, or in need of legal protection. This discourages integration rather than promoting it. Many of these laws are in fact discriminatory in that they provide positive discrimination.

I am not a constitutional expert, nor can I claim to have any parliamentary experience, but that is the whole point, it should not and must not preclude me from having an opinion on how our system of parliamentary democracy functions. The details can be debated, but the fundamental points I have raised above need to be addressed if we are, in my opinion, to make parliament more accountable and return power to the people. You, of course, at least for the time being, are entitled to your own views, provided they don’t fall foul of the new laws enacted under New Labour. Hopefully, once collated, there will be a true consensus on what the people want, rather than MP’s, Ministers or party leaders telling us what we want.

Once parliament is truly representative and accountable to the people, then we may start to see a slow, but sustainable return of confidence in politics, politicians and democracy.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems, World | Comments (11)

Party leaders must beware of the wrath of the voter

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Party leaders must beware of the wrath of the voter


Looking back over the past two weeks I have become increasingly concerned that party leaders are, for the most part, issuing small soundbites to humour the electorate, rather than taking clear or decisive action. Many MPs’ have referred to the fact that their claims were, either “within the rules” or “within the guidelines”. So, I decided to look at the definitions of each which are reproduced below: [Party leaders please note]

Guidelines: A statement or other indication of policy or procedure by which to determine a course of action.

Rules: A principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.

Now, lets take a look at what the “rules” or “guidelines” say in respect of expense claims: Expense claims must be wholly, necessarily and exclusively in the performance of their Parliamentary duties

My take on this is that whether MPs want to refer to these as guidelines or rules, the vast majority of them that have claimed for anything other than rent, utility bills, insurance or other essentials cannot state in all seriousness that they have followed the letter or the spirit of the expense claims procedure. I have excluded mortgages only because in my view, mortgage interest reclaims should have been capped. If the party leaders are not going to look at this whole thing dispassionately, then the final arbiter of whether the rules or guidelines were followed, or if the claims were reasonable must be the electorate.

If party leaders fail to take account of the fact that the public consider many of these claims a deliberate abuse, then they demonstrate how completely out of touch they are. If they get this wrong, then they may well pay the price at the ballot box in a general election. I feel certain, that all of the party leaders and most of the MPs’ think that this whole thing will blow over, they could not be more wrong. If they don’t deal with it now, then the electorate will be reminded about individual MPs’ probity when they are asked to vote, nationwide opinion polls will not provide an accurate picture, because the electorate will be judging the individual candidates on a local basis. So, David Cameron, for example, must not get too cocky, because there are a good number of his own MPs’ that have themselves entered and benefited from unjustifiable claims. He could, therefore, find that whilst local constituents may want to vote conservative, they have so little confidence in the candidate, they put their tick elsewhere. As I have said, no national opinion poll will be able to predict that outcome, but party leaders could use a little commonsense.

Cameron is calling for an election and Brown is saying that the public want and expect the current government to fix the problems in “this parliament”. I dislike politicians speaking for me and therefore I will avoid trying to speak for others, but as far as I am concerned I DO want an election so that I can decide whether I support the candidate put up by the local party. I will say this, if I don’t trust the candidate, no matter what party he represents, I will not vote for him. I suspect many will act likewise, though how many is too difficult to predict.

Fixing the system that has allowed the abuse is the very least we expect from all MPs and party leaders, placing an immediate halt on the abuses is also expected of them. However, wrongdoing, abuse or fraud must not go unpunished, our lawmakers are supposed to set an example, it comes with the salary. Similarly, leaders that fail to act on abuse be removing the whip or insisting on deselection, will be viewed as condoning the activities of these wayward MPs’.

I don’t think Gordon Brown should call an election now, but I do believe he must have the courage of his convictions. If he believes he knows what the people want, then he must set a date for the election and it must be this year. If he has acted like a true leader, ensured that wayward MPs’ cannot stand for election again and applied the same rules to ministers as he does backbenchers, then he will do much better at the ballot box. I don’t think he can win, but it may not be a complete wipe-out. As far as Cameron is concerned, he must act in the same way, there is no point in the electorate voting for more of the same. If not, I predict, that at the next election, we will see a last minute surge to the Liberal Democrats and if that is the case, proportional representation is only around the corner.

However they deal with this issue, electoral reform is long overdue, all parties have a duty to increase their accountability to the people of this country. The system must also be changed to ensure that the ‘executive’ does not have so much power, resulting in them being answerable to no-one, including parliament. They can start by trying to widen their recruitment process for new candidates from the narrow section of society used now, to one which ensures that real people are given the opportunity to represent major parties and people with an appropriate level of experience are encouraged to put themselves up for candidacy, so that if the party is elected, they have a knowledge and depth in their cabinet ministers.

I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I know for certain, neother do our politicians and they have had and squandered their chance!

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (6)

MPs, are they fit for purpose?

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MPs, are they fit for purpose?


If you have ever wondered why so many government departments are in a mess, then you probably don’t have to look much further than the man or woman in charge. Ask yourself whether they are fit for purpose. If you visit MP’s websites, you will note that many are bereft of any detail regarding their past experience, in other words, before they entered parliament. Some may have had experience in senior management and others run a business, but by and large, my straw pole indicates that few have experience either.

My question is, should members of parliament, with little or no experience, be placed in charge of huge departments and labour forces? One minute they are trundling the street begging you for votes and the next they are running some of the biggest organisations in the country (in terms of budget, headcount etc). One or two may even be running departments which determine our civil liberties, even though the MP’s have little business, or for that matter, life experience. Little wonder that our civil liberties have been steadily eroded.

Could anyone imagine Barclays Bank appointing a postman and telling him to start running the business with little or no relevant experience? You know, “don’t worry mate, you can learn on the job”. Ridiculous isn’t it? But what is the difference? Would Unilever appoint a new CEO, who has a total of 7 years ‘commercial’ experience as the deputy head of the Inflation Report Division at the Bank of England and an economic writer on The Guardian Newspaper? Yet this person now runs a department with 20,000 staff and a budget of £14bn.

The problem must start when the local constituencies select their prospective member of parliament. What criteria do they use to determine who to select, is it because their face fits, they are mates with the constituency chairman, a determined party ‘activist’ or some other banal reason? Once elected, they could end up in a junior government post, or even in the cabinet. So how does the prime minister decide who is going to get which post? Experience suggests, that more often than not, the ‘plum’ posts are offered as a reward, rather than based on experience.

Yes I accept, that ministers heading government departments will receive advice and guidance from experienced civil servants, but surely that is not the point? Members of Parliament, if they are being paid to run a department, need to add value. Lets face it, when they talk at the public, they do so as if they are experts in their field and how many of us actually question their qualifications and ability to judge the issues they are covering?

No system is perfect, but surely we can do better than this? Surely the public have a right to know what level and type of experience our members of parliament have? Why do so many MP’s rarely publish their pre-politics careers, are they worried that the public may be concerned at their relative lack of experience? None of us would be able to secure a job without a CV. Why shouldn’t MP’s, that work for the public, be compelled to publish a detailed account of their past experience, which is then open to the public. Then, perhaps, when they make a statement, we can make a judgement as to whether they are properly qualified to make such a statement or if they are just acting as a mouthpiece for some faceless civil servants.

Yes, I am questioning the very basis on which our MP’s are selected and our government is run, but just because that is the way it has always been, does not mean that it should continue to be so. Progress requires and top to bottom review of systems, processes and protocols, if we determine that the current system is better than the alternatives, then so be it, if not, then we should seek to make changes. 

Perhaps if our members of parliament had not screwed us for more and more tax, then squandered so much of this income, or they had not attempted to turn this country into a police state by eroding our civil liberties, we would be less inclined to ask such impertinent questions, such as are they qualified for the job? But they do, they have and they are.

John Demitriou, on his excellent blog Boatang & Demitriou offers a noteworthy and thought provoking series of suggestions to the problems that we are facing, specifically Politic’s isn’t working and I couldn’t agree more.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (2)

A UK recession and economic competence

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A UK recession and economic competence


For the past eleven years we have heard nothing else but, how Gordon Brown was going to put an end to “boom and bust”, how he was an iron chancellor, and how New Labour were beyond reproach in terms of economic competence. How does this correlate with a UK recession that, by all accounts, only those outside government could see coming?

How could so many British people be so naive as to believe that a government that increased taxes and borrowing during a period of significant growth and wealth creation could sustain this? Why did we allow a government to dupe us in terms of its true financial position, with the off-balance sheet PFI initiatives that leave us owing some £170bn, which must be paid off between now and 2032? Government pension deficits of £790bn and so on? All of this on top of the “official” debt figure of a tad under £500bn.

Gordon Brown and his government have been caught out in the lie that has become the legacy of their time in office. They have left this country vulnerable, with high taxes, high debt, long term financial commitment and, above all, lacking leadership. New Labour has become synonymous with spin and its ability to consistently dupe the public and manipulate the press. Inevitably, we will all have to pay for their incompetence. Tony Blair was a prime architect and whilst he may be basking in the fruits of his former position of PM, giving lectures and writing books, he shares responsibility with Gordon Brown. Alistair Darling is just cannot fodder, he knows it, we know it, he is just the fall guy for Gordon Brown.

True leaders show their ability it times of crisis, not the good times and as this government moves from crisis to crisis, relying on a sticking plaster to fix things, it is just going to get worse. True leaders know when their time is up and those with integrity and pride, will step aside and let someone else in. However, there are two large problems here, firstly, a new leader of the Labour Party will not make any difference, given they are clearly a spent force, who have substituted the so called Tory sleaze, with a programme of lies and inept ministers. The second problem is where do we go from here?

David Cameron’s conservative party has still not told us what it is they stand for, what their policies are and what they are about. Yes, Cameron has come up with some quaint new soundbites, such as a ‘broken society’, but so far, it is just rhetoric. This is not backed up by new ideas, proposals, policies or answers. So we still have no idea what they would do if they were in government, so why would the electorate entertain such a party? We could simply be going from the frying pan, into the fire. As for the LibDems, well do we know who they are? Clegg says some sensible things, but this is a party that a year or so ago proposed higher taxes, how many governments have been voted in with a promise of higher taxes? Vince Cable is very knowledgeable, but the party sidelined him, because they felt he was too old, so what does that say about them?

The future does not look so bright! There is no obvious choice, unless Cameron can start to convince us that his party has original ideas and, above all, people that are capable of delivering on them. The main parties have 550 or so MP’s between them, but how many of us could name more than 10 or 20? What does that say about the way the political party’s are run. Even if we can name them, how many would we trust, if any, to lead us through this mess and do we know what they stand for?

As we enter this uncertain time, perhaps it is also a period for reflection, we need to consider whether our political system is truly representative. For example, how many ordinary people have a realistic opportunity to get elected as an MP, if they are not already aligned with one of the principal parties? The Labour and the Conservative party select their candidates based on many things, which often includes, but is not limited to, race, gender and loyalty. Why shouldn’t they advertise to get the best candidate? Yes this is simplistic, but the best ideas often are, surely the electorate is entitled to the best man or woman for the job, not those that are already part of the ‘club’ that is party politics right now?

Over the past 11 years, we have witnessed an obsession with government control, from the 4.2m CCTV cameras, through to the right to detain for up to 42 days without charge. We have been told that we must have ID cards to help protect us from the threat of terrorism, yet the government are trying to include so much biometric data that it is difficult to comprehend the true justification. It is claimed that the UK government and its agencies have more access to our private details than virtually any other country including Russia and China. This obsession with state control is worrying in isolation, but when this is coupled with a dishonest government, self-obsessed ministers, weak members of parliament and a virtually non-existent alternative party, we must start to worry.

There is no sense in kidding ourselves that we have choice or that we live in a democracy, if our choice of ‘elected’ representative is limited to the whim of party leaders. This country was quick to criticise China for primarily limiting their choice to existing members of National Peoples Congress. What is the difference, surely it is only scale?

We need change in this country, we need to review our whole political system and above all, we need to look at the way much of the news media sets the agenda. British Politics expands on this argument.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (12)

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