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Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Our Watchdogs of Democracy are not working

Of our two guardians of the minutiae of democracy, the Boundary Commission and the Electoral Commission, the EC is held in the lowest regard. Both have, to an extent, failed in their objectives, but the failures of the EC are by far the most egregious. I do not believe this is as a result of wilful conspiracy but of institutional inertia. Their faults lie in their evolution into institutions defending a monochrome political establishment rather than defending our democratic processes; their Commissioners and senior managers are not so much Common Purpose shills as unimaginative and semi-capable public servants utterly unable to understand the world in which they now function. Both are well past their sell-by date and are now in urgent need of reform.

Looking through the EC's website at its written Election guidance one is struck by its high quality. Clear, cogent, succinct, well written and helpfully presented and indexed; no manual of how to conduct fair elections could be better. Our teams of dedicated junior Town Hall officials who conduct the polling stations, counts and checks, who guard the ballots and facilitate candidates and their own teams openly inspecting every stage of the process cannot be faulted. We can have full confidence that the processes are tight enough to prevent the sort of abuses endemic in lesser nations.

Yet at the top level, their perceived bias against Leave-supporting political movements, a bias that culminated in their 'raiding' the Brexit Party's offices practically on the eve of the election whilst seemingly ignoring the most blatant breaches of electoral law by a Remain campaigner, as exposed by Guido, has destroyed any remaining faith that millions of voters had in the EC's impartiality.

Their reluctance to implement ID checks at polling stations is also seen as pandering to the Labour Party - who have long defended corrupt electoral practices in the big conurbations that favour their candidates. One cannot pick up a packet from the local Post Office sorting office on a Saturday morning without showing a passport or driving licence, so why resist this simple check for elections, which may happen only every two years? The Commissioners show an alarming bias to political partiality - for the most part, they are retreads from the Commons or local government of no great distinction who fit Betz and Smith's description
Here are different kinds of political ice cream for sale, but when licked they all turn out to have roughly the same unpalatable taste: a bland, socially progressive, anti-traditionalist, globalist, corporatist flavour.
The EC are also unable to get their collective heads around technological change. Our election rules were created in an age of 'push' media, when newspapers had circulations in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands and the TV audiences of our three channels could reach over ten million. We've moved to an era of 'pull' media, when the audience decide individually on their own news, information and entertainment sources, timings and formats. The EC have proved incapable of adapting the existing rules and are unwilling to move. No, I don't think our electoral processes have so far been corrupted by external interference but clearly foreign powers have been experimenting in how to use technology and social media to disrupt democracy - and we must protect against it.

Political funding and its abuse are also once again under our scrutiny. Whether it's the buying of political influence by the mega-wealthy global corporates, Russian oligarchs or the abuse of Trade Union block funding, we cannot allow our democratic systems to be bought and sold. Recent attempts at funding reform by Hayden Phillips and Christopher Kelly failed because they were establishment solutions aimed at institutionalising the then-existing 2.1/2 parties into quasi-constitutional bodies - all in the name of  'stability', i.e. of preventing the sort of shake-up that millions of voters are now demanding.

This catalogue of failure, of serial incompetence, of second-rate actors not up to the job and of a complacent patrician elite with no interest in correcting these failures must end. We must have institutions that defend our democracy that have probity, integrity, transparency and the ability to protect and defend our most fundamental and hard-won rights at a time of profound change.


James Higham said...

“The EC are also unable to get their collective heads around technological change.”

They simply do not perceive it as being in their best interests.

Stephen J said...

I would argue that they are doing the job they were set up for....

Denial of democracy is the name of the game, and they play it beautifully, if increasingly desperately.

DiscoveredJoys said...

And the next 2.5 parties could be the Brexit Party, the LibDems and the Greens... but I expect that the 'establishment' would find that a challenge too. And as for the make up of the House of Lords...

I was always disappointed by Cameron's Bonfire of the QUANGOs. It never happened. Yet unless sweeping changes at this level are driven through there will always be a huge resistance to change built into Public Life.

The last 40 years or so of the neo-liberal consensus have lasted more than many peoples' careers. Those in the establishment cannot conceive of anything else. We must help them into the new millennium - the world is different now.

Anonymous said...

A quite excellent polemic R, and you make it hard to add to it, unless to say that, I do particularly reserve a black loathing for a Kommissariat (the electoral commission) which panders only to its masters in Berlin and their proxies in Brussels. The EC in egregious continuance to champion the bent, the iniquities of the bloc postal vote, therein sticks up the middle finger to the British electorate, democratic obligation and niceties, plus not least honesty and fair play.

John Brown said...

We need :

- Voter recall to prevent MPs voting entirely differently to the manifesto they were originally elected upon.

- Equally sized constituencies because some are double the size of others.

- Voter ID with checks made between all constituencies to stop both impersonation and multiple voting.

- The end of postal voting except in proven exceptional circumstances to stop one person voting for the whole street.

Sackerson said...

As I said on FB this morning:

If MPs are our representatives, why were they surprised by the Referendum result?

Cheerful Edward said...

Is there no end, to this pathetic victimhood-claiming from the ultra-reactionaries?

Dearie Lord.

Plantman said...

Quis custodiet Ipsos custodes? - it's not a new problem

Dave_G said...

Cheerful - this from the very type of people that are whinging about the Brexit result???

You fucking hypocrite.

Cheerful Edward said...

How many times do I have to repeat myself? I think that the UK should LEAVE the EU, but have a sensible arrangement with it post exit.

Macron is correct. There is arguably no place any longer for the UK in the EU.

Thanks to the nutters though, the choice will now be between revoke and no deal, which probably means revoke.

Mark said...

@Cheerful Edward,

A sensible arrangement post exit is what we neanderthal, knuckle dragging nazis have always wanted (and I very strongly suspect, sensible people in European countries want too).

Is the Euro imperial fanatics who simply cannot tolerate anything other than absolute prostration from what they see as their satrapies. And it is the euro fanatics in this country who, by an absolute refusal to even consider realistic negotiation, have got us into this position.

How many times do we have to say this?

No deal (given treason May's million fold excitable "deal" being what they will accept) or revoke? Do you not think this was their intention all along?

Well, smart and sophisticated "european" running rings round stupid peasants, look where that has got you.

Span Ows said...

@John Brown, 09:05

Exactly right on all counts.

@Cheerful Edward, 09:38

LOL. Such blatant projection has become the norm. I am sure you simply do not see the funny side of you complaining about the exact thing Rmainers have been doing for 3 years.

Cheerful Edward said...

THIS is why the likes of Johnson and Rees-Mogg are so keen, that the UK should evade EU measures to combat globalist tax-evasion.

Oh, the irony.

Span Ows said...

Yep Ed, terrible, God forbid we get as bad as the Netherlands (2 x UK) or mighty Luxembourg (UK + 80%). I know a couple Luxembourgers; I understand some are importnat in the EU.

Cheerful Edward said...

You can't understand plain language, Span. The UK, through its dependencies, is far worse than any other nation.

Yes, other European countries are at it too, but at least there are EU moves to address this.

Cascadian said...

Cannot help but think that the "watchdogs of democracy" should be everyday citizens with a gun at home.

That would smarten up the patricians, presstitutes and might even bring the crown estate parasites into line.

Not expounding violence, just a healthy respect against pushing the populists too far-as in ignoring legally binding referenda.