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Monday 17 December 2018

Democratic robbery

The UK has the worst level of democratic representation in the developed world. I've just checked again our lowest level of democratic representation; we have 45m voters and 21,000 local councillors. That's 2,143 voters for each lowest tier elected politician. In France it's 100, Germany 250, Italy 400 and Spain 600. Here in Austria our gemeinde of 2,500 souls has its own Council, Burgermeister and Town Hall - with eight full-time officers delivering waste, refuse, street cleansing, street lighting, snow clearance, water, sewerage, parking, building control, planning, registrar, business licencing and regulation and so on.

The problem is compounded by our own ignorance - every idiot who cries "no more bloody politicians!" is cutting-off his or her own foot. Instead of politicians we get unelected officials, little jobsworths and prodnoses who can't be kicked out at the next election, can't be harangued at public meetings and in many cases don't even live in the same community as we do. I'm even more astonished about those who have spent the last decade fighting the unelected officials in Brussels who then resist more robust representative democracy in their own communities. The truth is that the 1974 local government reorganisation is now unfit for purpose, past its sell-by date and in urgent need of reform, but every government in recent history has been unwilling to touch it. There are no votes in LG reform - but it's something that's desperately needed. 

We can't leave it up to Whitehall. Their sole instinct is to centralise control and weaken local democracy; they would halve the number of councils (and councillors) on the grounds that it would save money. It's not something one can expect folk to come out on the streets for, but the truth is that we need far greater local control - over both tax and spend. Switzerland splits tax-authority three ways; the central government taxes about a third for national institutions and infrastructure - the army, air traffic control and so on. The Cantons tax another third, and the local municipalities the final third. In the UK, 95% of our tax-take is decided, rationed and distributed solely by central government.  

Of more fundamental concern is that the establishment have turned their attention to our most fundamental democratic rights. I made the meme above in the week after the 2016 referendum result, and I am now scared at just how prophetic it was. Intended as a joke, we've instead been hearing for the past two years proposals to reform our democratic systems from those who really, truly believe that the parodies above constitute responsible public policy. 

The usual suspects the Electoral Reform Society have been punting alternatives to the FPTP system to which I've always said I'm opposed. I was one of the 4m who voted for UKIP in the GE, without a single MP resulting. On the face of it it seemed grossly unfair - now less so with the passage of time. Imagine a Parliament in which Gerard Batten and his Muslim-baiters shared opposition benches with the Antifa Party and the Muslim League. No, the AV system and PR is loved by the little radical parties of the far right and far left but isn't good for British political stability. 

More worrying are efforts by respectable bodies such as the RSA that in effect act to undermine those most fundamental rights, the secret ballot and universal suffrage. They're proposing something called 'Deliberative Democracy' designed to prevent 'stupid' people from majority voting; under it, a special citizens' panel would be lectured first by 'experts' on the subject under vote, then deliberate collaboratively to reach an outcome amenable to the facilitators. Various versions of this are being punted by academic institutions, think tanks and other establishment dag-clumps, all designed to prevent, as my poor joke had it, the 'wrong people' from using democracy. 

Direct democracy also has a place in our system, but not so great a place as some radicals from the far right and far left would wish. Representative democracy provides the best default outcomes, at both national and local levels, but there will, from time to time, be decisions at both micro and macro level to be taken that cross all boundaries - such as the 2016 referendum. Direct democracy is in such circumstances can be the most appropriate tool. But for normal, routine governance and administration, plenaries of elected representatives have proven themselves most capable. Polls should also be available, as in Switzerland, for matters raised by the public - but with a correspondingly high bar. 

But one strength, one freedom of which we should never lose sight, never relax our grasp is the protection we get from our system of universal suffrage, the right to associate and to form political parties and above all the right of  every adult man and woman in the Isles to cast a secret ballot.  

Deliberative democracy and the notion of Sortition had an outing on R4 Today in the context of a way in which a new referendum question could be decided. I told you they were serious. The problem is of course that the one thing a truly representative citizens' panel set up to decide the Referendum Question couldn't conclude is that, erm, there shouldn't be a second referendum. 

The Irish establishment have used this method to get both gay marriage and abortion through the referenda process - I don't disagree with the outcomes, but for a critical response to the 'means' rather than the 'end' see Dr Mathew Wall's blog entry here 


DeeDee99 said...

The rise of so-called populist parties across the continent is directly related to their PR voting systems. But it wouldn't have happened without the failures of the Established Parties and those of the EU: in particular Merkel's disgraceful decision to allow millions of economic migrants to flood into Europe, tramping over countries which she didn't rule, and then expecting other countries to take what she considered to be "their fair share."

In the UK, FPTP will be doomed if the Establishment Parties continue to try and impose their world-view on the people they claim to represent, instead of actually representing them. The stitch-up which is the candidate selection processes must be changed so that the candidate is not chosen by a select few at Central Office (Cons.) or militant local activists (Lab) but by the community as a whole. Dan Hannan has proposed a Primary System to choose local candidates to address this issue.

And then there must be a robust system of Recall if an MP "behaves disgracefully." And behaving disgracefully would include failing to represent the majority view in his Constituency following a Referendum. fails to represent his Co

Raedwald said...

DeeDee - thanks for the prod - I forgot the right of recall and it's really important. I would tend to set the bar at 'an MP who has lost the confidence of the constituency in his/her capacity to adequately represent their interests in Parliament' - that way you shift the debate from a guilty / innocent process to a simple one of whether voters have confidence in their MP.

And I agree strongly that local, independent candidates should not be suffocated by the 2 big parties; Helena Kennedy's 'Power' inquiry had the answer, I think, in a proposal for local candidates to attract funding based on their level of support - not linked to a vote. So an elector at poll time could vote tactically for the Tory candidate but choose UKIP to receive £3 a year of tax money.

John Brown said...

I agree with DeeDee99 above and Mr. Hannan.

Far too many candidates, certainly Conservative candidates where the issue of remaining or leaving the EU is concerned, do not represent their constituents and even pretend to be the opposite of how they are actually voting.

I would therefore like to see MPs voting records being made more visible to their constituents, such as being forced to declare on their websites how they have voted in Parliament.

Stephen J said...

Sorry Raedwald, we have far too many know-nothing politicians with vested interests already. I regard the fact that we have the lowest level of "democratic representation" as a good thing.

I think we already have enough barrels of pork flooding the system for any of us to bear more.

The only problem that Switzerland has is that it is surrounded on all sides by a bunch of gangsters, representing globalism. Otherwise, their co-operative direct democracy model, is proven to work at every level of government, and has stood the test of time.

As a modern example, they have the most secure and private internet, they don't have Google's spy cameras on the streets. They are also the richest democracy on the planet, just about, despite the relentless attacks on their privacy by the EU mafiosi.

They co-operate with each other, and if a corrupt unelected officer is operating somewhere, s/he will be rooted out tout suite.

When I joined UKIP, direct democracy was number two on its list of political priorities, when I left, we had a crooked Batten, who had assumed the leadership following the "Bolton effect", who himself was a product of their own seedy version of representative democracy... the NEC. Up to that point, Batten had not had a sniff at real power, despite being one of the founders, because those that knew him, knew he was not a leader. Similarly with the first leader Sked, who despite the story he telss, was really removed because he started spending UKIP funds on a personal vendetta. Nigel had such a hard time fighting the NEC that he resigned as leader twice, and then a few weeks back, finally called it a day.

If we in UKIP and the country as a whole had been operating direct democracy, we would never have had Theresa May, we would not have allowed globalism, and we would never have seen Gerard Batten anywhere near the levers of power.

And we certainly would not still be in the EU, or UN.

DiscoveredJoys said...

I think you may well be right that the "1974 local government reorganisation is now unfit for purpose". You can also argue that the EU is no longer fit for purpose or even that the NHS is no longer fit for purpose. Times change and what seemed necessary at one point in time is corrupted into a means of resisting change by those people who benefit from continuity.

Perhaps public organisations should have a root and branch review built in at their founding? There are people who argue that history repeats itself in cycles of about 50 years (two generations) or so - the Yellow Jacket riots in France are so 1968.

We have already decided that the EU is no longer fit for purpose and we shall leave it... and if it destroys/reforms some local political parties in the process, well they have been going an overly long time too.

Raedwald said...

RW - UKIP's commitment to direct democracy came from a single-issue party with no great interest in formulating how to function at local government level - it was a cop-out, an avoidance (quite rightly) of issues that distracted from the main aim of a single-campaign party. As such I wouldn't take it too seriously. A moment's thought would tell you it was unworkable; A normal council takes 20 / 30 key decisions a month. Citizens asked to vote this frequently in referenda on planning applications, buying a new computer system for the parks department or approving revised school admission arrangements for St Hilda's would soon stop participating. The only alternative to allowing unelected officials to decide unaccountably is, erm, the old system of representative democracy.

John in Cheshire said...

The Harrogate Agenda was produced several years ago to form the basis for such a redistribution of power from servants to masters; ie we, the people.

Unfortunately, it was largely ignored at the time and is now all but forgotten. But it's still a good, simple and easy to understand proposal.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes things can be too 'local'. An American doctor that I knew sold off part of the family farm and used the money to build a restaurant that, in later years, he let his son manage.
The son had a cash problem that he hadn't told his father about and was late on a mortgage payment. The 'local' bank foreclosed and sold the property to a 'local' man before the ink on the their letter was dry. A national bank, staffed by anonymous bureaucrats, would have spent months in sending out routine letters before putting such a property up for sale by public auction.
Local 'government' can be big fish in small ponds, equality before the law just a saying.

Stephen J said...

I am sorry Raedwald, you misunderstand, I hope not deliberately...?

The point of direct democracy is to govern... Government is only there to stop an engine spinning out of control. The folk that actually do the day to day grind are a mixture of appointed servants and elected representatives...

As in Switzerland, where the system has existed in one form or another since mediaeval times quite effectively. The only occasions that it has gone wrong were when Napoleon was around, when a number of revolutionary questions needed to be settled due to the effects of his destabilisation of France. I believe that this involved a very short cantonal skirmish.

I joined UKIP, which I think I have mentioned before, because of this element, so I understand how it was envisioned at the time... The single issue that you mention was a referendum over whether or not we remain members of the EU. Yes, a single issue, but if it had been executed without a bunch of crooked "representative tories" trying to do the opposite to which had been decided, would have repatriated executive power back to these islands, out of the hands of the globalists. The point being in order to govern in this way, first you need to as the tories say "take back control".

But then perhaps I am naive to think that representatives will never actually represent peoples' interests unless the people hold a big stick over their heads. Perhaps we should trust them!

Raedwald said...


Forgive me, I thought you were suggesting that direct democracy could replace local representative democracy

I think we agree then that DD can usefully *augment* both local and national representative democratic practice

Stephen J said...

@John Cheshire...

It is unfortunate that the Harrogate Agenda was misnamed.

If it had been named "The RichardNorth Agenda" right from the outset, it would never have attained what little traction that it eventually managed.

I confess that I took a little detour from UKIP during the period in question and was to be one of the original signatories to that agenda, so called because North's lackeys met at a hotel in Harrogate, I was too ill at the time and could not make it. I realised that my absence was serendipitous shortly afterwards, when North started to dictate how it was going to operate.

The world, according to North.

Stephen J said...

Raedwald thanks for your reply, however, I would dispute your contention that DD is an augmentation of representation...

The People are sovereign...

Representation and appointment, should be an augmentation of DD.

Mr Ecks said...

In what wise is Tony Harrison wrong Radders? Saying that Batten etc should not get votes is exactly the same as middle class Marxist trash saying the same of anyone not up socialisms or the EU's arse.

Without losing you cool--and the heat of your reply to TH strongly suggests that you have no real answer to the point--can you explain why keeping Batten etc out is somehow different to all of the Globo Elites plans you are--very correctly--decrying?

Raedwald said...

He's a Troll. He came from nowhere and tries - and often succeeds - in making every one of my posts, and the comments, about himself. He's utterly disruptive, wheedling, and puts off other genuine contributors from joining the debate. Well, he can piss off and troll someone else's blog. I don't need attention seekers playing about at this most critical time.

Read the post X not this Troll's spin - nowhere does it suggest folk should not vote for UKIP, and nowhere does it suggest UKIP should be excluded from any democratic processes. I defend absolutely the rights of ANY legitimate political party to freely associate and campaign for votes, and the rights of ANY elector to vote for them. In fact I say so. In fact this is the VERY BLOODY POINT OF THE POST - that we should defend these rights.

The reason this Troll will keep getting deleted is that he's introduced something completely at variance with the content of the post - and succeeded in getting both you and I to waste our time discussing it.

He's not interested in this stuff. His sole concern is using my blog to get himself noticed.

That's the end of it.

John Brown said...

Taking a leaf from the EU referendum where we have a Remain PM, a majority Remain cabinet and Parliament saying they will implement the referendum result whilst doing their best to delay or thwart it without looking like they are try to, why don’t we extend this concept to GEs and instruct the losing side to implement the winning side’s manifesto pledges ?