…………as Winston Churchill put it, democracy is a political system for all, created by everyone together and by each person individually.
The same is true of direct democracy in Switzerland. It is not something that is given, or that just fell out of the sky. It is a very precious and important achievement, which requires daily care and attention, and the more people take part in democratic processes, the better for society as a whole.
…….democracy is all around us……….
…….democracy is a privilege that comes with duties and responsibilities.
Let us look briefly at the, admittedly selectoral, quotes above:
- democracy is a political system for all, that is agreed. Where representative democracy is concerned it was not created by everyone together, neither was it created by each person individually.
- democracy is all around us and it is a very precious and important achievement, which requires daily care and attention, and the more people take part in democratic processes, the better for society as a whole. Unfortunately too few of the electorate realise this.
- the possession of true democracy is a privilege that most certainly does come with duties and responsiblities; and again, too few of the electorate realise this either.
On 10th March John Redwood made a speech in the House of Commons (video here – Hansard here col:527 at 5:28pm – Redwood’s blog version here). An email correspondent is of the opinion that Redwood’s speech was ‘most excellent’, while lamenting that ‘it is the empty seats which are the most eloquent – telling everybody that most MPs are either very happy as EU puppets or just could not give a damn’.
Needless to say I disagree with my correspondent; this was a typical Redwood speech on democracy by a man who seems to not have the faintest idea of what democracy is, nor its meaning/derivation. Why should we trust a House of Commons for up to five years to legislate and govern on our behalf unless we have a right to call a halt to a particular policy which the majority may well be against? Yes, Redwood is correct when he states we should be safe in the knowledge that those displeased with a government can dismiss it at the following general election; that a new group of people can be elected who can change all that that was not liked about the laws and conduct of the Government whom they have just removed – but in the intervening period? Even A.V.Dicey acknowledged the glaring defect in representative democracy that the the possibility exists, which no-one can dispute, of a fundamental change passing into law which the mass of the nation do not desire.
There is so much wrong with Redwood’s reasoning, exhibiting an apparent lack of knowledge where the actualité of matters EU are concerned. He wants negotiation now on, for example, borders; something which encapsulates one of the fundamental pillars of the EU, ie free movement of people – but have not many EU ‘figures’ informed us, in no uncertain terms, that free movement is not for negotiation?
In common with other Members of Parliament Redwood talks about democracy – or at least his version of it, aka representative democracy and he talks about sovereignty where his country and parliament are concerned. I have a sneaking suspicion that this speech is but an example of MPs suddenly realising that the grapes they have been feasting on are in fact sour, as the penny has now dropped that instead of being the ‘lords of their manor’ and thus able to strut the land deciding who among us can do and say what, they have realised they are now redundant as they and their predecessors ceded their jobs elsewhere. Further, it then follows that this mantra about sovereignty and democracy has little to do with we, the people, but is purely 650 of them trying to reclaim their right to continue as ‘home-grown’ elected dictators.
Redwood, among other Members of Parliament, talks about the HoC voting to reflect the will of the people, yet invariably when such a vote is taken it does anything but, with the final legislation either bearing no comparison to the initial proposal or having been ‘tweaked’ a tad to provide the same outcome. In any event any vote is meaningless when MPs exercise their conscience or have been whipped to vote against their conscience – and on this subject; having seen the results of the Expenses Scandal or the touting by MPs for consultancies, please don’t talk to me about MPs having a conscience.
Last year, the people of Switzerland voted on a total of 12 matters, ranging from the provision of abortion and matters affecting their rail network through to a minimum wage rate and the purchase of new fighter aircraft. Were we consulted on either a minimum wage, our rail network, or the purchase of military hardware? No – Parliament made these decisions, but did they ‘reflect’ the will of the people? No – and in regard to rail, or any other form of transport, Parliament has, in effect, been gagged.
Why must everything which affects our lives be decided by central government, invariably on a one-size-fits-all basis? As an aside the latest ‘Durham News’, issued by Durham County Council, announces that they have agreed their latest Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan for 2015/2016. They estimate they will have, by 2019, to reduce spending by £250million as a result of the ‘austerity cuts’, while also estimating that by 2019 government grants will be 60% less than the level they were in 2011.
Their answer to the problem is what they term: ‘The Durham Ask‘ which involves urging communities to ensure the future of assets like libraries, leisure centres and play areas by offering to help maintain or run them, or by taking them over. The benefits of this, so we are informed by Durham County Council is, that as individuals or groups, access to funding will be available for which the County Council is ineligible. After attempting three phone calls to ascertain the source(s) of such I am, at the time of writing, still waiting for a call back.
While the argument can be made that communities and groups should take an interest in the provision of services they want, this idea of ‘asset transfers’ by local authorities smacks a tad of buck-passing, or even doing a ‘Pontius Pilate’. Perhaps if funding of such local issues was purely the responsibility of local authorities and their respective electorate were informed that to keep a certain number of libraries, leisure centres and play areas open, it would cost £x on local rates (or income tax) some of the electorate may just begin to question the local authority about staffing levels, salary costs, maintenance costs, heating costs, opening hours, operating procedures, etc; and it may then result in a local authority being able to cut those costs substantially.
Where ever you look, be that the governance of this country nationally, or on a local level; the UK’s membership of the European Union, the derivation of ‘law’ and/or ‘standards’; democracy or sovereignty; this country is being led up the ‘proverbial garden path’ by those with vested interests be they politicians, think tanks and those at their head, or journalists – as I have intimated previously.
When this country is ‘so far up the creek without a paddle’ and the cry goes up among the people of why no-one warned them – a few of us will be able to respond: but we did.
Paraphrasing Matthew 15:14: when the blind allow themselves to be led by the blind, both fall into the ditch – so how long will it be before it is realised (if it ever is) that there is much wrong in this country?