Sunday, 29 July 2012

Harrogate Conference - Direct Democracy

The most recent item from Harrogate presented by Richard North is the issue of Direct Democracy, and here I diverge from the recommendations to come out of Harrogate. The matter was comprehensively explored by Helena Kennedy's 'Power' enquiry; there is clear public support for mechanisms such as referenda, citizens' initiative referenda and participatory budgeting, but the findings of the Power panels recognised that elected representatives often had access to expert information, resources, and a broader view - and on all but the biggest issues, the final decision should be left to elected representatives. Frankly, to put every parliamentary Bill up for a popular referendum would both devalue the participatory process and make a nonsense of representative democracy. 

Rather, to have a mechanism such as a million-signature petition that would trigger a referendum on an Act on which the public felt parliament had made the wrong decision would both preserve citizens' sovereignty and empower participatory democracy. 

I think if we achieve a true measure of Localism, leaving parliament with defence, the civil and criminal justice framework, and matters of international treaties and relations - matters that simply cannot be devolved downwards - then the increase in participation in most other matters will come at local level anyway, there being little need to obtain national approval for most measures. 

I think it's important to recognise that MPs are representatives, not delegates; the people can be sovereign through a parliament of independently-minded MPs free of party ties and the Whip and subject to recall.

6 comments:

Anon 2 said...

Raedwald, I was with you until here: I think if we achieve a true measure of Localism, leaving parliament with defence, the civil and criminal justice framework, and matters of international treaties and relations.

Surely all our problems have arisen purely because the government no longer represents us? As we stand: to suit the goals of our enemy, they have destroyed our military expertise, subverted our justice framework and common law, made a laughing stock of our international relations, and signed treaties that donate everything we are and have to the enemy. They didn't tell us they would do these things, or announce outright that they'd done them. Everything has happened 'under cover of darkness' why they pursued their winding ways on the misty foreign moors. This is what we have to prevent... their ability to carry on in this secret way.

I utterly agree that disempowering the parties and whips is a move towards that end. However, we also must demand further means of controlling their potential for damaging us... I'm not sure that 'recall' will be enough... ?

Anon 2 said...

PS: Sorry, I missed of a bit while quoting you... If I understand rightly, you suggest that increased localism could control the problems listed. My fear about too much local power is that it would lead to fragmentation and tribal strife.

This bit stands to be very tricky, so I think we have to be very careful of simple demands that we initially take to the table. At the same time, it will pay us to be fully cognisant of the problems that might ensue as people hammer out their re-constituted rights.

Anon 2 said...

PS: Sorry, I missed of a bit while quoting you... If I understand rightly, you suggest that increased localism could control the problems listed. My fear about too much local power is that it would lead to fragmentation and tribal strife.

This bit stands to be very tricky, so I think we have to be very careful of simple demands that we initially take to the table. At the same time, it will pay us to be fully cognisant of the problems that might ensue as people hammer out their re-constituted rights.

Tarka the Rotter said...

I think every bill and measure introduced by politicians to change,modify or re-define the constitution should be submitted to the people...no ifs or buts. The constitution belongs to us and should not be twisted in order to advantage any political party whatsoever.

Ancient+Tattered Airman said...

If 'the powers that be' study the Swiss example without too much input from the non-elected Mandarins I think we should all be better placed.

Nigel Sedgwick said...

Just in case it is of interest, I have posted a sceptical comment about direct democracy on the appropriate forum of Richard North's blog.

Best regards