Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, Saturday 14 July, 2012

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.


Durotrigan said...

Some excellent suggestions. I trust that your reference to avoiding public indebtedness also encompasses the mind-bogglingly inefficient PFI schemes? These were, and remain, a terrible concept.

anvil71 said...

I concur with the sentiment in that... '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'...

Denial of a right not so sure about that, I mean how would you sell that? Or is it rather a choice of wording. Perhaps the word qualification would be a better choice here rather than denial.

So in order to qualify to vote people would be given a straight choice in participating within the democratic process. Example for one kind of qualification would be to be a tax payer (but what happens when you lose your job etc, through no fault of your own?), or volunteer work within your community (but what if your not a volunteer?)

Another qualification (my preferred) could be by ticking a box on the electoral register form which asks if you wish to particiapte in the dmeocratic processes for that year, then you answer(Y/N), this merely(formalising the process of non returns by respondents.) Indeed non returns ought ot be treated as you not wishing to participate.

Any of the above could then be coupled with a further qualification, where if your are in receipt of benefits of any kind, & have been on said benefits for a given amount time, you therefore no longer qualify to vote until such time as you are no longer in receipt of such benefits. Of course that means all benefits of all kinds no exemptions.

Indeed whilst we're at it perhaps we ought to state that working within the public sector (including politicians) means you no longer qualify to vote. After all their wages are the expropriated wealth from the tax payer after all. Just thinking out loud.

William Gruff said...

Durotrigan: PFI, and/or PPP, is simply a risk free investment scam for corporate spivs. A future parliament must make the cancellation of such schemes, without compensation, a priority.

anvil71: We agree on the principle. For me the qualification would require a demonstrable understanding of constitutional and political issues, not just a wish to participate.

I would point out that I used 'denied' in connection with those, such as foreigners, who have lived here lawfully for years and contributed accordingly yet cannot participate. They should have a vote of some sort, even if not the full voting rights of citizens.

The long-term unemployed should lose all voting rights, partly as an incentive to find work, as should criminals, however, the issue of public sector workers is not so clear. How would you regard those who do essential work such as healthcare professionals, the armed forces, fire and ambulance services and so on? There is definitely an argument in favour of forbidding public sector workers from standing for elected office in local and central government but the scope of those organisations must be considerably reduced before voting restrictions can be placed on those employed by them.