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Analysis

"All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

There must be

A Better Way to Govern


Why Britain’s “Mother of all Parliaments”

...and one time envy of the world

– has failed us all

Parliament

  1. In Britain today, Parlement’, or Parliament, is comprised of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, as the State’s supreme legislative body. But it was not always so.
  2. Until Cromwell, British Sovereigns were supreme rulers of Britain, albeit counselled on important matters of the day by subservient land owning regional Lords.
  3. Enjoying great wealth and power gifted or licensed to them by the Sovereign, it was in the interests of these ‘Privy Counsellors’ to support and often agree with the Sovereign to retain their positions.
  4. Until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain, it’s Bishop Prince’s held similar sway, although their loyalties were often split between Sovereign and Pope.
  5. Although the ‘Commons’ came into being to notionally represent the voice of the people via Parliament, members’ positions were themselves broadly subservient to local Lords & Barons.
  6. Cromwell’s Commonwealth owed more to the conflict between Puritanism and ‘Popery’, than it did to the interests of the Levellers and ‘common’ people, many of whom sailed to new lives in America.
  7. Persuaded to become ‘Lord Protector’ of a kingless state, he effectively became supreme ruler until his death allowed reintroduction of a Monarch as leader.
  8. Thus in Britain the gaining of power and influence remained linked to supporting the status quo, with such linkage also conferring prestige, wealth and position.
  9. The challenges for anyone wishing to usurp this situation have been first how to gain access to the ‘Club’, second how to win power and influence within this, and third how to retain it lest it should slip back to status quo ante.

The Seeds of Corruption

  1. Although the Commons has progressively won Parliamentary powers away from the Sovereign and latterly the Lords, over many years Britain’s system of political representation may therefore be seen as having held the seeds of inherent corruption.
  2. For many years the checks and balances exercised by the triumvirate of Sovereign, Lords and Commons contained this. But as the Commons became supreme, so these seeds began to sprout.
  3. This was exacerbated by the ability to use modern communication media & tools to ‘spin’ confusion over where power and authority are drawn from and create the illusion that the electorate had gained Sovereign powers.
  4. Whereas initially these had been devolved from the Sovereign acting notionally in the State’s, and hence the Citizens’, interests via first appointed and then elected representatives, progressively these representatives became driven by their own interests.
  5. Early on monetary bribes were used to win Citizens votes, creating ‘Rotten Boroughs’
  6. After system reform, electoral candidates began to use electoral promises to replace financial bribes.

Parties, Power & 'Persuasion'

  1. To facilitate easy identification from other electoral candidates, many grouped themselves into ‘Parties’ of people making similar promises in other electoral districts. .
  2. These ‘Parties’ vied with one another to gain the greatest number of people elected under their ‘Party Banner’, purporting to the Sovereign that this gave them the greatest claim to represent all of those Citizens entitled to vote.
  3. Generally the ‘Parties’ devised ‘promises’ that would secure votes to keep (or put) them in ‘Power’.
  4. This included progressively giving more and more people the right to vote, extending this from men to women and then to lower age groups.
  5. As power became concentrate in the hands of those who led, or possibly more correctly ‘ran’, the parties, so the interests of the parties replaced the true interests of Citizens.
  6. The power and techniques of modern advertising were used to persuade the electorate that what would place or keep a party in power was also in their interests.
  7. To protect their party political interests (now effectively those of the leaders or party managers), and ensure that only the ‘right’ people got elected (i.e. those who would steadfastly support the ‘party line’) Citizens had to be ‘selected’ by one or other of the parties.
  8. Allocation of the use of public (radio & TV) media for electoral promotional (advertising) purposes was determined by the major parties, generally to the effective exclusion of wider interests.

Party Politicians

  1. Citizens wishing to represent their local area became only able to do so if they ‘stood’ for one of the major parties.
  2. To secure a chance of being elected, candidates competed with one another to secure the best possible constituency ‘seats’, wherever these might be in the country.
  3. In this way, first many local party organisations, then candidates, and then elected members of Parliament increasingly represented the ‘party line’, rather than the Citizen electorates that they purported to represent.
  4. When, where and if the Citizens’ interests were considered, these were moulded to suit the elected representative’s party’s interests.
  5. Having selected, canvassed for, promoted and secured the election of their chosen candidate, the parties protected their sizeable investments in these people by encouraging them to treat politics as a ‘lifetime career’.

A Political Class of Career Politicians

  1. This further separated Members of Parliament from ordinary Citizens and created a ‘political class’ of careerist politicians whose interests then were to keep their jobs and the ‘lifestyles’ that this afforded them. .
  2. As with most other jobs, it became not uncommon for them to seek ways to maximise their incomes, lessen their work burdens, and generally protect their positions of status, power and influence.

No One Really Looks After Your Interests

  1. At national level at least, the interests of Citizens became secondary to securing and retaining political Power for the Party, thereby joining a self governing ‘Club’ that delivered unchallengeable privileges.
  2. As recently evidenced, even those finding the situation unpalatable after securing entry have been constrained not to ‘rock the boat’, and willingly or not have become party to the corruption.
  3. With this now exposed in both houses of Parliament and Government at all levels, the confusion over who governs, in whose name they govern, whose interests they represent, and the system under which they do so, is ripe for root & branch reform.

Reform

Some possible considerations for such reform to address include:-

  1. The extent to which Central Government is required and how its powers should be derived.
  2. How to best represent a seemingly growing list of stakeholders that includes industry & commerce, agriculture, fisheries, religion, environment, national resources, health & welfare, global issues and many other interests, as well as those of Citizens in general.
  3. Which parts of such representation should be devolved upwards from local and regional grass roots, or be determined nationally and imposed downwards from Central Government.
  4. Whether different strands of government should be separated out and have different lifetimes linked to the interest and stakeholders they represent.
  5. The extent to which local and regional authorities should control of their own finances & fortunes.
  6. Mechanisms for reinstating appropriate checks and balances on government at all levels
  7. How appropriate it is to allow the creation and perpetuation of party interests & organisations
  8. If a political class of careerist politicians is enabled, how their excesses can be contained.
  9. The setting of salaries and expenses (if any) for MP’s and ministers.
  10. Agreeing an overall system of equitable representation, method of election or appointment, and duration.

There will, of course be many more, but these give a flavour of the deep – and possibly lengthy - considerations rigorously required.

The Conundrum

And herein lies the conundrum “Who is untainted and able impartially to address such reform, let alone determine its resolution?”

  1. Present political leaders have the interests of their parties at heart.
  2. Ordinary members of parliament are committed to supporting these parties & leaders
  3. Many Lords are obliged to political patronage for their positions
  4. The Sovereign has long since ceased to exercise political influence with the electorate.
  5. Religious leaders are constrained by the status quo, religious dogma, or both.
  6. Trades Unions have vested interests in their long standing party links and influence
  7. The CBI and the like are coloured by industrial, financial and international influences.
  8. Academia is similarly distanced from the mass of the population.

Citizens Hold The Answer

The answer lies in the good commonsense of ordinary, hitherto unpoliticised citizens.

In clarifying the confusion over where real power lies, and how this should be exercised, ultimately it is the man and woman in the street who now have to take responsibility for this reform.

It cannot be left to members of our current political coterie. Their considerations, actions and interests will always be coloured by their need to maintain the status quo, whatever gloss of reform they may place on this.

A Peoples' Parliament

This leads to the proposition that, at this general election, British Citizens will be given the opportunity to elect a new, single issue ‘People’s Parliament’ whose objective will be to agree these reforms. It will remain in session without break, apart from weekends and public holidays, until the reforms have been agreed by at least 75% of members. Once resolved, parliament will be dissolved and the new system implemented.

Further issues, like investigation and reclaiming MP’s improper expenses, breach of covenant by the banks, outstanding business from the last parliament, and so on will be left for the next government to determine.

Since no other policies will be brought to, or Bills laid before Parliament, most day-to-day issues can safely be left to our highly professional Civil Service. However, the People’s Parliament will appoint a Prime Minister who will be free to call on and appoint such MP’s, Lords, and Citizens in permanent or occasional cabinet, as required.

MP’s salaries will be reduced to £40,000 p.a. and central London hotels requisitioned to provide accommodation for them during the People’s Parliament. Expenses for consulting their electorate on reform proposals will be paid directly by Government.

Where the votes will come from

From a peak turnout of 84% in 1950, only 59% of people cast their vote in 1997 and 2001. Although changes in the postal and proxy voting rules made it appear to rise slightly to 61% in 2005, in fact it probably fell by 2 to 3% to around the same level (Dunleavy, Gilson & Sanders 12 Mar 2010). An Ipsos/Mori poll recently projected that turnout in the 2010 election will fall further to around 53%

This means that around 40% of of those entitled to, don't bother to vote. And since the Labour Party was put in Government with only 35.3% of the votes, if half of them plus just 5% from each of the other main parties voted for "A Better Way to Govern", then it would have a majority in the House of Commons.

In fact according to a report on 11th March, there are over 12 million undecided voters in Britain. And, although there will be another 4 million young people who have just gained the vote, there has also been a huge increase in people over retirement age who have every reason, and the memories to support them, for wanting a Better Way to Govern Britain.

DEMOS Video: "Power"