Those attending the meeting organised by Richard North of EUReferendum, at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, will now be well into their afternoon session and I hope they feel they are working towards something useful in their efforts to frame a new charter with six contemporary demands.
Whatever the outcome, I offer my sixpenn'orth:
1 MPs to be accountable to their constituents.
Unprecedented technological advances, and the speed with which the benefits have been distributed throughout the general population, have made accountability and the representation it offers, easier to achieve than at any time in our history. There is no reason why, in this digital, on-line computer literate age MPs cannot have interactive web sites at which constituents can communicate ideas, make contact with others and create polls. It should be taken as read that MPs would have no control over or influence on the management of constituency web sites.
That however does not go far enough. To be truly accountable MPs must be absolutely under the thumb of those who pay them and accountable to their lash, as is the case for those of us who must work for our livings. MPs go to Westminster to represent us and do our bidding, not to vote on how thickly to line their pockets; an MP should be wholly dependent on his constituency for his salary, his staff, his office, additional accommodations, costs and allowances and parliament should have no part in the provision of any of those.
Constituents must have the power to dismiss a sitting MP at any time.
2 Government forbidden to borrow money.
On the principle that no government can be bound by its forerunners so our descendants canot be bound by obligations consequent upon current borrowing decisions.
3 Parliament to elect a 'Prime Minister'.
No system can ever eliminate corrupt, self-serving glory seekers from positions of power and authority. However one in which no one is able to manipulate and exploit party structures and public opinion to achieve the highest political office at least offers the possibility of more suitable candidates leading a government.
4 Abolition of The Royal Prerogative and Crown Immunity.
In principle, no one can be allowed to make a fateful decision such as going to war without consulting those who are going to be affected. In more humdrum matters, nobody is above the law and no one can interfere with the operation of the law.
5 Abolition of the Whip System.
The whip system merely makes an elective dictatorship of what is ostensibly a representative democracy. The political ambitions of an individual or group can never be allowed to override the wishes of the people. MPs must therefore be free to act in accordance with the wishes of their constituents.
6 Reform of the Franchise.
Universal suffrage has, arguably, led to the trivialisation of politics and it is not unreasonable to question whether those who have little or no understanding of or interest in the political process should have a right to vote. Further, it is not unreasonable to consider whether those who have made a decision to live out their lives at the expense of others, without contributing in any substantial or constructive way, should be able to vote while those who do contribute are denied that right because they are, for example, not citizens. Participation in the democratic process must be seen as a privilege possessed by those who show they understand the consequences of their decisions and can never be taken for granted as a basic human right.
Those are just six points; there are at least a dozen more I could have put down but six were sufficient for the original chartists, six are sufficient for the Old Swan chartists and so six are enough for me, for now.
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