Friday 31 August 2007

Friday Chat; Is the UK a Democracy?

I see at Iain's much speculation that Broon will go for an October election. This would seem to hamstring the Tories in the middle of a policy review, get the Lib Dims whilst they still have a poor leader, exploit the Broon bounce and allow an election to replace a referendum on Europe.

All in all, it would be a very clever tactic by the Labour party, much as the money to sponsor it would put them in hock to the Unions for ever.

My take though; this is not very democratic or fair is it?

Manchester United don't say we will only play Arsenal on rainy Monday nights when their fans cant' get to Old Trafford, do they?

Having this system mean we are open to abuse by the ruling party, which probably explains why we rarely change government and only do so when things are a disaster. I think Broon knows that soon the economy will be in trouble and the sooner he goes the better he does.

This is not democracy, with the will of the people being paramount. It is the scheming of those in power to keep it, always having the upper hand over the opposition.

I think fixed term limits are seriously needed to rebalance the system. (Along with a federal republic and a fully elected second house, but these are for another day).



Nick Drew said...

Fair & democratic ?? Not, I think, a high priority with McBroon ... gentlemen vs players again, CU !

Sticking strictly to squalid and unprincipled electoral arithmetic: he may feel he has the jump on the Tories and LibDems - but what about the ScotNats ?

Old BE said...

The "will of the people" is certainly not reflected in our system, not even close. We have only had populist governments about twice since the war (Atlee and Thatch) in my humble opinion.

I don't think shorter term limits are the answer, I think a more radical settlement is needed. A directly elected leader (president or PM whatever you want to call it) and Parliament to hold him/her to account. Then a quarter of Parliament elected each year so each seat lasts four years but an annual test of public opinion.

Steven_L said...

I'd prefer the US system of 2 terms only.

I actually quite fancy q whip around to get George W over here when our Yankee cousins are finsihed with him.

We could get him to talk to us about the 'axis of evil'. 'the terrorists and their sympathisers' and their 'ideology of darkness' etc. We could get him to wind up UK liberal-lefties for us.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Fixed terms, elected second house, totally agreed.

Pls explain "federal republic" what's wrong with having a King or Queen? And how do you mean "federal" does that mean E, S NI and W will be treated equally? If so, good.

Old BE said...

Mark, I think CU is referring to a system with a directly elected leader, separate from parliament. If that is what he's talking about then where would the Crown fit in?

Old BE said...

SL he winds up the lefties anyway! Perhaps we could just encourage him to come and live in London after he's done Stateside. Not sure I would want him in charge of the UK, London would suit me though.

S said...

Funnily enough whenever a new party gets in government they never seem quite so keen on changing the perk the incumbent government gets on when to call an election.

Mountjoy said...

I agree it is definitely not democratic, but then Brown is the man who :

1. stopped a Leadership election for the Labour Party, so he did not have the inconvenience of a vote;

2. wouldn't make Harriet Harman, elected as his Deputy Leader, the Deputy PM due to Brown's spite. Nice way to treat a lady;

3. made sure there was no leadership election for the Scottish Labour Party; and

4. may yet be kamikaze enough to announce a 'snap poll' on Tuesday, then watch as his opinion poll "lead" evaporates due to regional variations, differential turnout etc, and he loses scores of Labour MPs; allows the Tories to virtually wipe the Lib Dems out; and probably faces a hung parliament or such like.

That's what Brown gets for his disregard of democracy, and his party's inability to deliver on policy it promised in its manifestoes in '97, '01 and '05 :-)

CityUnslicker said...

I am a staunch Republican and would pack the Queen and her ilk off to Canada or wherever wants them.

We will never have an aspirational and democratic society as long as we have this relic of feudalism at the top of the Government.

We could then have a president with very limited powers, a strong house of commons which was set purely on population numbers and a directly elected 2nd chamber.

The 2nd chamber could then have a large federal element to it, in the sense of various regions and nations of the UK all getting equal amounts of seats.

In addition Scotland and Wals should be able to send their (well, some of) assembly members and Scottish parliament members directly to the second chamber.

Sackerson said...

Sorry, CU, but I am the very opposite of a staunch Republican. We did have a very good arrangement - the Crown in Parliament, the Bill of Rights and all that. What we have seen is the capture of power by democratic means, and the subsequent subversion of democracy, by a small political elite that is far more absolutist than the English monarchy. Remember that it was the Scottish style of kingship, with belief in divine and autocratic right, that sparked the Civil War, and the fear of its return led to the Glorious Revolution.

Our weakness was that we thought Parilamentary custom and tradition would restrain our PMs as effectively as our monarchs. But a Republic? Imagine Tony Blair as President-for-life. Napoleon, Stalin and Mao ended by making themselves emperors, with or without the title.

The first thing we need to do is restore the primacy of our Parliament. It is folly to think that destroying what you have will make something better appear in its place. The very last thing we need is Bakunin.

I blame the media - they assiduously promote sentimental, fuzzy-headed groupthink. I've just been listening to Giddins and Steve Bell talking highfalutin' bollocks on Any Questions, so I can understand how people these days can be misled by what they think are intellectuals. They'd be torn to shreds in a college tutorial.

Anonymous said...

I agree with fixed terms. Elections should only be called early due to a political crisis, not because it suits the governing party.

Wolfie said...

"I am a staunch Republican and would pack the Queen and her ilk off to Canada or wherever wants them."

Careful what you wish for, you may yet live to see your nightmare.

CityUnslicker said...

Sackerson - I see the president of many countries as an inspirational figure.

What you don't addres by keeping the status quo is the fixed system of class in our country. No one can be Queen or King except those born to it. Many titles are the same. The French had the right idea in the revolution.

I don't mean to sweep away all our constituion by any means; but recent Governments have dangeroulsy unbalanced our governmental system to such an extent that I don't think we live in a democracy anymore.

CityUnslicker said...

Wolfie - Let's hope so. Freeing us of feudal bondage is no nightmare.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I'm with you on fixed terms: it is ridiculous that a PM can just call an election when it suits him / her. Also with you on the Lords.

Anonymous said...

"We have only had populist governments about twice since the war (Atlee and Thatch) in my humble opinion."

Yes, it is interesting that we are always presented with a fait accompli - the choice between a supposed "star" and a washout. One might think we would get the difficult choice between two outstanding individuals carefully chosen by their parties, the media unable to decide which to plump for and with voting being extremely close. In reality there is either apathy leading to no change or a total landslide. So in the end there is no democracy.

Maybe we should ask Putin to become PM, before the deranged child molesting psychopath decides to blow old Blighty to bits on an off day.

Anonymous said...

I'm not bothered at all about the Queen - at least I know where she is, what she gets up to and where she got her money from.

I'm not sure I can say the same about Philip Green and Abromovich.

Sackerson said...

CU: ... and now the French don't have a class system??!!

Dr Johnson said that if you put two men in one room for 15 minutes, by the end of that time one would have established his superiority over the other. The best we can hope for is to restrain the most powerful, which the 1688 settlement achieved, until the invention and abuse of media power and information technology.

Don't fall for Maoist distractions - after the monarchy, they'd need another victim, and another. What democracy have we ever had? No-one I ever voted for became my MP; the only vote that matters is with your personal property, at least you are still allowed to keep a little of that and decide how to use it or invest it. As for the rest, the less power the government has, the better, and after that it doesn't matter whether it's a government of the Left or Right - but it's the Left that really wants to crank up its power.

Anonymous said...

More than thirty years ago, Quentin Hogg (remember him?) gave a stunning (Dimbleby?) lecture which he called "The Elective Dictatorship", and in which he made many of these points.

I particularly remember him saying "at the centre of the web sits the Prime Minister", as a prelude to focussing on the timing of dissolutions as being a major anti-democratic issue.

Plus ca change...

Anonymous said...

No we are not a democracy, nor are we supposed to be. We are a constitutional monarchy.

The Monarch disolves parliament and issues warrants for an election.

She doesn't have to listen to ministerial advice and she has the army and police (who swear loyalty to the crown, not the government) to back her up.

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