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Saturday, 29 December 2018

Power Inquiry re-visited

One of the most seminal documents in the formation of my political outlook - which I guess one could describe as democratic libertarian conservative - was the Power Inquiry, from the earliest years of this century, cross-party and chaired by Helena Kennedy QC. The launch of the report in 2004 at the QE conference centre in Westminster was my first encounter in the flesh with a young politician with whom I was impressed - David Cameron. Alas, his commitment to all the good things he espoused back then soon disappeared, and he's since departed into history as one of Britain's most dilettante PMs. 

One has to remember we were in those days pre-Facebook and Twitter, and blogs were just emerging. People weren't used to exercising democratic opinion and even power online. Politicians regarded the Internet as just another 'push' medium, for their use and benefit in broadcasting their messages. They certainly weren't used to people answering back, responding as equals on platforms to which they had equal access, with no cost barriers to keep the young, the poor or the regional away. Cameron, like May, was one of the old school; it was his job to speak, and our duty to listen. He would transmit wisdom, we would receive it. The poor dears have had a dreadful shock in the intervening fourteen years and their world has been turned quite upside down. But how well has the Power Inquiry itself endured?

It's available online for anyone interested, and in the days leading up to the Meaningful Vote I'll try to look at the recommendations, starting with 'Rebalancing Power'. The report found:-
- The Executive has become more powerful at the expense of MPs in the House of Commons. In particular, the Prime Minister’s Office and whoever the PM decides to gather around him or her, has become the most powerful political institution in British politics.

- Central government departments have also become more powerful at the expense of local government over the last two to three decades.
 
- Appointed authorities – quangos – have gained extra powers, particularly at the expense of local councillors. 

- Supranational bodies and processes of international negotiation such as the European Union have gained extra powers and influence at the expense of nationally and locally elected representatives.
Well, the first two are as true as they were. The third is much worse than it was then; now called NDPBs rather than Quangos, there is a gradual melding between a growing number of these semi-detached Agencies and government funded fake charities, none of which are under direct democratic control and all of which are exercising even more anti-democratic power. As for the fourth, well, we are dealing with the EU. Just the UN and the rest of them to go. 

One final comment. Back in the days when I burnt the midnight oil taking a part-time Masters, we enjoyed a lecture given by a respected economist. He took a question from one of my colleagues that contained the word 'power'. 'Power' he responded 'is not an economic concept. We leave that sort of thing to the sociologists'. It was a neat put-down, and understandable given the efforts of economists to convince us that they are scientists, or at least more scientific than sociologists. But untrue. Understanding power is the point of understanding economic behaviour.

28 comments:

right-writes said...

You are right about power Raedwald.

All of the wrongs that you pick out from the Power Inquiry, would remain theories, if none of those had the ability to arbitrarily raise taxes to pay for them.

Cowperthwaite was not operating in a democracy, so he had a hard time ensuring that his co-workers did not go above his head, or their pay grade, but he was a rare talent.

In a direct democracy, if say, as an ideal, overall tax/excise was set at 15%, it would be impossible to change this, since nobody actually votes for a rise in taxes, not even libdums would do that!

Back to reality and regarding your four identified findings though:

I would think that the executive is not yet more powerful than parliament, but together they do seem to be more powerful than the people that are supposed to be sovereign.

If May's deal goes through, parliament will prove itself to be useless and toothless, and it will join the Lords as subordinate to the EU. The executive will maintain its position for the time being as the tool of Brussels.

Numbers two and three have been so for a very long time, but especially so since Thatcher, who though I consider to be one of the better PM's in our recent history of dreadfulness, was a very determined centraliser, she took this route as a quick and efficient way to destroy the likes of Ken Livingstone, David Blunkett and Derek Whateverhisnamewas.... aka the militant tendency.

She succeeded in that but created a monster in Whitehall, with the willing assistance of Brussels, a process which began with the outset of WW2, was bolstered by the fool Attlee, and then became self serving, as it is today.

We need a revolution, we really need to trim the wings of the government machine. The trouble is, it seems that there is no simple way to do it. There are very few that really seem to get it... And certainly nobody has the power to push it through.

DeeDee99 said...

I rather object to the term "Meaningful vote" to describe the vote MPs will have on the Prime Minister's Surrender Agreement with the EU.

The meaningful vote was held in June 2016, when the people - under the simple majority system we use in this country - voted to LEAVE the EU. They did not vote for a deal; a partial withdrawal from the EU or an endless transition phase, during which we would still be subject to EU governance. The question was simple: Remain or Leave ..... and we voted LEAVE.

Parliament's vote is an attempt to overturn that result: as the Establishment and their front-woman Gina Miller always intended.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Remember 'Bonfire of the QUANGOs'? Whatever happened to that? Almost all continued under Cameron's Premiership, many with leftish chairpeople and board members.

Over on the Spectator Anthony Browne blogs that the problem with the EU (and they are to blame for risks of a no deal Brexit) are about the ideal of subsidiarity (pushing power down to the most suitable local level) being praised by the EU but ignored. You could argue also that the problems with UK politics is much the same, pulling all the power to the centre. Bureaucrats love rules - and people who choose to do something different are seen as rule-breakers. Horrors!

Think of all the centrally imposed rules, both of the EU and our own Government. Banning incandescent light bulbs. Paying for free plastic bags. All justifiable in principle... but if the decisions had been made at local council level we could more readily find out if people supported them or not (by shopping elsewhere) and get rid of elected officials who disappointed us.

I used to think that elected officials in the USA (sheriffs, judges etc) were at too low a level. Now? Not so much.

Edward Spalton said...

What a very stimulating article. It reminded me of a much earlier experience of being talked down to for my own ( and the coutry’s)
edification. It was at our Grain Trade Convention of 1972 ( I think) when a very young and enormously self-important John Selwyn Gummer addressed us. We, of course, were much more deferential in those days.

He told us that the days of empire were done ( as if we did not already know it) and that the Commonwealth countries, grown up and independent, could not wait to see the back of us ( which, in certain cases was simply not true). Roy Jenkins and others were singing from the same hymn sheet countrywide.

In our case, we knew that our firm’s New Zealand suppliers were far from delighted to be losing their best customers for milk powder to EEC producers. We also knew that they had to keep quiet and grin and bear it because they were 100 per cent dependent on HMG to negotiate with the EEC for a quota of agricultural produce which they would be permitted to continue to supply.

Gummer’s untruth decided for me that I would become what is now called a Eurosceptic. As an intelligent man, he must have known he was lying.

He went on to tell us that, once inside the EEC tariff barrier those continental chaps would be queuing up to buy our industrial products - like all those Austins, Rovers,Wolseleys, Hillmans etc instead of those funny- looking foreign cars. That did not turn out to be quite right but he may have believed it when he said it. We were very polite to the important young man who had come all the way from London to
Buxton to impart his wisdom. He could not stay for questions, as he went on his portentous way.

That was the way things were.

More recently I remember hearing Helena Kennedy on a radio programme reminiscing about a judge who told her “ Miss Kennedy.Whenever I hear you say “ Murrder” I always think there must be more than one body”.
I suppose that would be racist now!

right-writes said...
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right-writes said...

I rather think that DeeDee99 nails it here, we have had the most meaningful expression of our sovereignty more or less ignored by the folks that sit "Rodin stylee", cogitating on the perplexing problem of how to engage the public.

I have also scanned some of the "Power Inquiry" and it seems to me that there is not much of use there...

As an example, voting should be extended to sixteen year olds.... Pffft, it should actually go the other way, nobody should get to vote unless they have a lease, or better... a partial/full freehold.

Another would be the assertion by anti-brexiteer Kennedy, that more people should be permitted to engage with the political system since they were now better educated than in the past.

Everyone knows the difference between one biscuit and two, everyone can see when something is unfair, regardless of their own talent, or position in the world. Whether they admit that or not is another matter. It is already well proven that they will act unfairly if they can, and that is especially so of the better educated.

Forgive me, if I couldn't stomach more of the Inquiry today, so I don't know what the outcome is yet. What I do know is that nothing much will change all the while mortal men are opposed and trumped by corporate power.

Anonymous said...

Bertrand Russell's book on "Power", written in the 1930s, is well worth reading.

One of his points is that people want money because it gives you power. Power is fundamental to economics.

Don Cox

Billy Marlene said...

Your comment on Cameron is interesting and a true gauge of the times in which we live.

I had an impressionable moment of politicians influence myself. Aged eleven I sat, mesmerised in my school Hall, listening to Jo Grimond.

The last decent Liberal. Unsullied by drink, adultery, male prostitution, money, greed, naked ambition, duplicity, born-again pretences or the stomach churning leerings of a dirty old man.

I wonder what the next ‘leader’ of the mini-party will bring.

Cascadian said...


It would be a mistake to look backwards at studies to discern the ills that beset yUK.

All such studies will be couched in terms favourable to a mistrusted controller-class defined in Raedwalds comments. Specifically support of multi-culturism and global-warming will be prominent. The bureaucracy and political cliques hold these two items as absolute benefits to the economy, whilst any pleb can see they are a massive and continuing drain on the economy. Worse than that, a drain from earned pension savings, so that the contributors to society must suffer in their retirement years to fund these ridiculous concepts. Camoron was at the fore-front of this nonsense. Remove the funding for gimmegrants and subsidies for green-power and watch the economy grow.

If future politicians do not attack the major negative effects of these two issues then they should expect civil unrest such as the gilets jaune. It can be seen already in Sunderland, where arguably Brexit was most popular (against all predictions of the bureau-political know-all class) and will spread quickly once reported. The politico class call these honest working-class men and women “far-right” in the hope of marginalizing them .

The current crop of politicians, quangos, police commanders, city governments are playing a dangerous game with their ever-expanding and unnecessary controls. Every day it becomes more obvious they are not working for the common good but are directing tremendous resources to frivolities. The people are sovereign and remember the betrayals since 1945 when they were promised an undelivered more-equal society by desperate politicians.

Raedwald calls for a re-read of an ignored study, I fear that will not be adequate. If there is one unifying cause that explains most of the current unrest in Europe-Belgium, Italy, Spain, France, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland it is an inherent distrust of the political class who continually steal from the plebs, if they misread this anger I believe the people will rightfully TAKE WHAT IS OWED TO THEM and sweep the politicians from memory. The politicians are staring a Ceaucescu moment in the face.

jack ketch said...

He went on to tell us that, once inside the EEC tariff barrier those continental chaps would be queuing up to buy our industrial products - like all those Austins, Rovers,Wolseleys, Hillmans etc instead of those funny- looking foreign cars. Ed Spalton

Unfortunately a mirror image of that particular delusion seems to be overly prevalent among the Leavers and more so among the more frothy lipped No Dealers, according to whom ,once outside the EU the rest of the world will be beating a path to our well guarded front door to buy our "cheap tin trays and glass walking sticks" as an economic history teacher was in the habit of describing such things. But 'Free Trade' comes at a price and it isn't 'free' by any means.

Raedwald said...

Cascadian - and what would you have in place of democracy? An autocratic dictatorship of authoritarian bigots? No. You are writing nonsense.

Our system is in deep need of reform. Reform needs cool heads, cogent analysis, and in the British way - which I know you despise and resent for whatever reasons - a commitment to peace, tolerance and the long game. Violent revolution is neither in the interests of the British people or of our nation, and would serve only our enemies.

We will do this our own way - peacefully.

right-writes said...
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right-writes said...

I have just read for the first time, the real reason for the continuing "yellow vest" disturbances in France.

I don't speak French, but apparently, many of their flags and banners have the initials R.I.C. inscribed on them in some way.

This is French for "Citizen-Initialtive Referendums"... (Backward lot the French) :)

The demonstrations began because the mainly rural population thought that Macron's imposition of new fuel duties was not only based on vacuous, tenuous theory, it was highly damaging to the French economy and making life for them very difficult.

Micron thought that by rescinding his imposition that he was home and dry, but the demonstrators have decided that enough is enough... The time of the out of touch representative is passed, and they want to adopt the Swiss model. If they can get 700,000 signatures in favour, they should be able to hold a referendum on any such presidential decree. Presumably they can see a reversal of this abrogation in the offing.

Sounds good to me!

jack ketch said...

R.I.C. inscribed on them in some way right-writes

I didn't know that either, thank you. It is indeed interesting.

jack ketch said...

Violent revolution is neither in the interests of the British people or of our nation, and would serve only our enemies.-Raed

https://i.postimg.cc/pTNLDsbC/Screenshot-2018-12-30-10-24-50.png

That screenshot is from the ZDF 19:00 Heute (News) coverage of the German President's Xmas speech, in which he lumps Brexit,the Yellow Vests, AfD and Trump in firmly with those he refers to as being 'unable to argue without froth on their lips' or with whom it is impossible to talk without 'fur flying' ('fetzen fliegen'- can't think of a better trans atm). He doesn't actually say it but no German watching/listening to his Xmas speech would be left in any doubt that he considers Brexit/yellow vests/Trump and Orban to be at best 'populist' (which means 'right wing' in Germany) or at worst straight forward goose stepping fascists.

That brain damaged idiot with his toy gallows helped remove the last bit of democratic credibility that UKIP et al had in EU eyes.

pen seive said...

"Our system is in deep need of reform." That is true, but it is not the 'British way' to demonstrate in the streets, violently or not, except for members of Antigua who consider it their, politically motivated, moral duty to do do.
Quite a few years ago, I wad a young soldier in Singapore during the Confrontation with Indonesia. The political situation led to uncertainty and, occasionally, riots. The government was headed by Lee Kwan Yew, who devised a political solution which had elements of both socialism and capitalism. He was sometimes described as a 'benevolent dictator' but, like Churchill, Lee was the man for the occasion. I feel our political leaders, current and those coming up behind them, could do worse than look at Lee's policies.

pen seive said...

"antifa", not Antigua. Bloody auto correct!

right-writes said...

@pen seive:

It is hard to argue with the success that Mr. Lee has made of his nation.

I was impressed by his anti-corruption methods that he used for his bureaucrats and politicians, but the corporal punishment thing was a bit weird.

Hopefully his legacy will last, and not be based completely on the power of his personality.

Cascadian said...

Raedwald-what you call nonsense, is reality for many of the previously-disenfranchised working-class who surprised yUK by voting for Brexit. That expression of disgust with the EU is being steadily pissed away by the non-negotiation tactics of DisMay and friends. Why should they not resort to street protest if their desire for freedom from the EU and control of yUK immigration is side-lined to appease IRA (and Bliar) sensibilities.

I understand your wish that a peaceful resolution may be found, that would also be mine, but please do not be confused by the British temperament. In times past; notably Cromwell, Cade, Kett, and Tyler used force to try to change the condition of the plebs. Only in recent times have the populace succumbed to endless promises of improvement to their condition and equality to the ruling-classes that never arrives. The ConMen are as guilty of this as Liebour.

If I may quote a section of your post......."They certainly weren't used to people answering back, responding as equals on platforms to which they had equal access, with no cost barriers to keep the young, the poor or the regional away. Cameron, like May, was one of the old school; it was his job to speak, and our duty to listen. He would transmit wisdom, we would receive it. The poor dears have had a dreadful shock in the intervening fourteen years and their world has been turned quite upside down." It seems that this trait is quite endemic amongst Conmen members also.

Cool heads and reasoned discussion, (some would call it kicking-the-can-down-the-road or avoiding necessary action) has been the hallmark of the last seventy to eighty years of yUK governance. World War ONE veterans were promised “a land fit for heroes”, after the shock of Dunkirk a panicked government suddenly realised “every effort must be made....to provide real equality of opportunity to the younger generation”-Harold Nicholson, a bribe to plebs so they would sign-up and protect the comfortable condition of the ruling-classes. The plebs are still awaiting those promises, some, such as you and I have given up on the endless unfulfilled promises, stolen pension funds and outright lies of improvement. We have escaped to foreign fields. Are we in a position to deny English men and women their natural-born right of protest, when patient subserviance while “cool heads., tolerance and a commitment to the long game” have so obviously failed on all previous occasions?

Raedwald said...

Cascadian - we Brits have a remarkable ability to reform without violent revolution. That's why we still have a monarchy, why we got through the 1790s and 1848, why we emerged broke but unbowed in 1919 and 1946, why we have successfuly resisted both communist and fascist extremism. Our Parliament, democracy and unwritten constitution have actually held up rather well. Bit by bit we've won universal suffrage, the right to assemble and freely form political parties, the secret ballot and so on.

What we face now are a number of challenges and changes that have caused an imbalance. Our job now is to correct that imbalance in the least disruptive way possible - minimum necessary force, as it were.

It's not some great continuous class war struggle or opportunity for destruction. You clearly have problems with the UK - you sneer, snipe and disparage many things that many of us hold precious. Well, your problem. You're welcome to vent it here, but don't be surprised when I disagree.

Edward Spalton said...

Raedwald,
I pray that you may be right.

But, from observation over decades and having followed quite a bit of recent parliamentary proceedings, feel that the system and conventions which once worked are now probably decayed beyond recall . Government, ministers and parliament itself appear to have become dysfunctional. We could blame it all on the “ slow motion coup d’etat” of the EU in which they colluded or acquiesced over generations. But I think that is probably as much a symptom as a cause of the malaise which is moral and spiritual. Just read the Privy Council oath and compare it to the behaviour of ministers - or Article XXXVII of the Church of England’s 39 articles ,to which all beneficed clergy assent, with the behaviour and opinions of prominent “ progressive” bishops and vicars.

Institutions rot from the head down and. In our case the decay is very far advanced. We are not as special as we thought we were, or we would have combined to remedy the situation long ago.

right-writes said...

@Edward Spalton:

Unfortunately I suspect that Martin Durkin hit the N on the H in his "Brexit - The movie", when he identified the moment at the beginning of WW2 when the parliament and executive effectively handed their power to the unelected civil service for the duration.

Instead of relinquishing that grip in 1945 as they had more or less done in 1918, they tightened it as the vacuous (even if loyal) Attlee handed almost every area of business over to them, and then threw in "healthcare" for good measure under the communist NHS scheme.

The slow-mo coup d'etat that you refer to is an attempt at insurance, a hope that they will never be tumbled by the British people, since they can blame clerical heavy handedness on those Brussels Bureaucrats.

The reason that I am so disappointed by UKIP is that in their excitement at forcing the very first meaningful expression of direct democracy, they didn't push for the sort of thing that the Frenchies' are now pushing for with their yellow jacket campaign. Citizen-Initiative referendums. (RIC), they turned instead to racism, such a shame, and so easy to call out.

Edward Spalton said...

Hello Right Writes,

I broadly agree - except that Lord Kilmuir the Lord Chancellor advised Edward Heath in December 1960 that joining the EEC would be a far greater delegation of powers than had ever been contemplated even in wartime, that it would be “ irrevocable” in practice and that Parliament would have to get used to “ being a rubber stamp”. The advice was kept an official secret for thirty years. Heath, of course, told us that “no essential loss of sovereignty” was involved.. He later justified this deceit by saying that sovereignty was not lost but “ pooled”.

Even with their codified constitution Americans complain that their constitutional rights have been eroded by Washington as the result of wartime accretion of powers to the centre. - starting, of course, with the civil war. I recall one Southern historian saying “ Before the war people said “ The United States are”. Afterwards they said “ The United States is” and you could say that was what it was all about”. The EEC/EU was always unitary in concept, disguising its power by enforcement through the institutions of member states, rather than setting up federal institutions visible at local level.

Budgie said...

Right-writes said "[UKIP] turned instead to racism, such a shame, and so easy to call out".

No, UKIP has not turned to racism. Islam is not a race. In any case the vast majority of Muslims in the UK are from Pakistan and Bangladesh - people of exactly the same race as indigenous Brits, if that were important. What is true is that the statist Remain establishment call UKIP racist. But then they always did. You have a choice whether to believe them.

The people at the top of UKIP were indeed fools after the Referendum vote, squabbling over the imagined spoils of that victory. I include Nigel Farage in that - although his move was very understandable given he had exhausted himself getting us to the point of the Leave win.

Unfortunately, the electorate also believed the war was won because they turned away from UKIP post-Referendum, as demonstrated by polls, at the locals, and at the 2017 GE. The Remains have continued their relentless Remain propaganda - part of which first included portraying UKIP as irrelevant now that Leave had won.

Now we know that far from winning the (non-military) war to leave the EU, we are on the cusp of defeat. I am afraid that Cascadian is right: unless the Remain establishment have a remarkable volte-face we are probably headed for civil unrest. Of course they will portray it as "racist" and "far right". It's what they do.

right-writes said...
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right-writes said...

You are being a bit technical Budgie, when I say racism it includes the institutional attack on Islam.... A daft proposition.

I left UKIP after 21 years, and so has everyone that I know...

It is just left to the racists now, and you can adopt whatever language you like.

I do not regard UKIP as far right, I do not understand that concept, merely another branch of socialism, which is obsessed with finding targets to hate and push around, be they rich, poor, the wrong colour, religion or culture... Pure socialists just made themselves feel good by restricting their hate to everyone but those of a different colour or religion, and they are apparently to the "far" right of them.

In essence, by adopting the Batten ideas, libertarianism and classical liberalism (the real right) has been jettisoned along with its advocates and supporters.

Budgie said...

Right-writes, Surely if Islam is a reprehensible ideology then shouldn't people say so? But perhaps you are right: it may not be. People attack Christianity. And I think they should. But you appear to think we should not highlight the nasty bits of Islam. Sorry, that's neither rational nor consistent. And doing so is not racism.

I found the Koran hard work, though readily comprehensible. I have read about half. It seems to me to be as nutty as Marxism, and just as dangerous. Islam cannot now be dismissed merely as "one of the world's great religions". It is being used by some as a recipe for power (eg: ISIS): conquest and the enslavement of infidels - not, as in Christianity added afterwards, but as fundamental to its ethos.

I would much prefer not to talk about Islam. But Labour is now an uneasy truce between Muslims and Remain prosecco socialists. Islamic power is growing in the UK. Gerard Batten has made a strategic blunder I agree - he should have concentrated on Leave only at the moment. But then UKIP used to be berated for being a one-trick pony. Nothing ever is perfect. You must make your own choices; I have made mine.

Cascadian said...

Raedwald- I have praised you in the past for your tolerance of opposing views, I do so again. Were your blog just another echo-chamber of conforming views it would be unworthy of our time.

Now, in response to your last missive:

Paragraph 1.

"we Brits have a remarkable ability to reform without violent revolution"- indeed, but has such passivity served the "common" man well. The common-day serf is worse off than that of the seventeenth century equivalent, they now work between three or five days a week for their "lord and master" compared to only one day a week in the 17th century. The reform is unequal, todays serf contributes far too much to support undemocratic government who distribute to non-contributors freely.
Boastfulness of a monarchy that resembles a soap-opera suggests a certain amount of gullibility.
Don't get me started about the "broke and unbowed" country of 1946, that was largely due to welching on debts due to the commonwealth and the patient acquiesance of the USA. Boastfulness about the unwritten constitution is a bit rich as the country bounces from one crisis to another, perhaps some written guidance about how government should work for all would be beneficial.

Paragraph 2

You talk as if the individual electors will be consulted about rebalancing the powers of multitudinous levels of government, you know this to be untrue as you have previously complained of the Conmen parties predeliction for ignoring the membership.

Paragraph 3

I must confess, with surprise, that the tone of my comments are those of a "class-warrior", whilst I usually avoid such comments they are nevertheless true and need to be said. In an effort to contain my comments to a reasonable length I have reduced any nuance, perhaps it reveals a lack of ability in my use of the language, I am after all the product of a secondary-modern education from much-despised Essex.
I plead guilty to contemptuous commentary especially as it relates to politicians, political parties, media content and a whole host of other "know-it-alls", primarily, the "university-educated" drones of recent times. If you hold these things dear then I have to assume you are clinging to a long-lost golden era.
As I have previously explained I use the term yUK for the dissipated country that presently exists, and continually has gotten worse due to abysmal governance and regal indifference from at least 1946.

You and others are of course free to disagree, I welcome that, it reveals we still have the last vestiges of a free country operating despite the worst depredations of "government" in recent times.

I wish you a healthy and prosperous new year.