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A New Settlement ?

Here is a piece from our guest blogger today, Guthrum. He wrote this while I was in Cannes earlier in the week, but it provides convenient "cover" for me today, while I get steadily sozzled on my birthday. Over to you, G.

400pxwilliam_hogarth_032As Tom is enjoying the south of France, he has been kind enough to allow me to share some of my thoughts on the constitutional challenges we all face.


It has been nearly one hundred and seventy years since the great Reform Act of 1832. This Act was passed as a rational attempt to reorganise political life and to head off the revolutionary undercurrents of the 1820's and 1830'€™s, in the post Napoleonic period.


Rotten boroughs like Old Sarum that had eleven houses and could return two MP's in the gift of the local land owning aristocracy, were swept away. Once passed the defects in the Act were apparent - the vote was based on a property qualification, for example. However, the fact that the reasons and conditions that caused it to be passed are barely remembered is evidence of the Act's success. The stability that it engendered spared Britain the convulsions of the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848.


In modern business parlance the Management of Change had been effective. Looking at the modern political landscape, I can see no sign of even of a willingness to even acknowledge that change is happening, let alone needs to be managed.


The Whitehall village is happy and secure in its two/three party system. Yet  voters are voting with their feet away from the current system, therefore depriving the political system of its legitimacy. The House of Lords has been tainted as a house of "experts"€™ and turned into a place full of appointees who owe their place to the patronage of the Prime Minister of the day. The PM enjoys the rights of the Royal Prerogative, and can safely ignore the wishes of both Parliament and Country.


The Monarchy is to be passed to a man, who appears to think that his constitutional position is a soap box to influence public policy. Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Battenburg is not an elected politician and his views may be of interest to the readers of Hello magazine, but should have no more bearing on an elected government than those of any other citizen.

This Government has fought a war on the whim of one man, and is betraying the freedoms that have been fought for.


The political landscape needs to be managed. There needs to be an acknowledgement of our fundamental freedoms in the form of a written constitution with arrangements to strike down attempts to collect our personal data, correspondence and break into our homes.


Political power should be returned to the towns and cities of this country, with any position of real power being an elected one; police chiefs, Mayors etc. Unelected quangos should be declared unconstitutional if they handle public funds. Tax raising should be on a local level, with funds for national defence passed upwards, not taxation collected centrally then distributed downwards. Education should be on the basis of excellence and need. We need as many superb engineers as we need lawyers. This can only be done at local level. Education must stop being a political football.


The House of Commons should be reduced by about half, and instead of involving themselves like over paid social workers in the minutiae of our lives, MP's should restrict themselves to matters of state, foreign affairs and defence.


Personally I see no constitutional role for a hereditary Monarchy.


Unless the management of this constitutional crisis is addressed, the State will assume more and more power over our lives, simply to protect itself. It will be the end of any pretence of this country being a representative democracy, let alone a participatory democracy.



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j.random hack

The two current parties are like the old British Leyland...

What a superb image. Do you mind if I blatantly steal it and use it?


Once passed the defects in the Act were apparent - the vote was based on a property qualification, for example.

The idea of a property qualification seems so absurd to us today that we rarely question why it should have been thought justified. It is automatically assumed that it was intended to permit only the wealthy to vote but by the end of the century reductions in the entry level had introduced many more voters.

The basic principle was that only those who had contributed to the wealth of the country should have a right to determine policy. I'm going to play devil's advocate here and make a proposal:

One of the houses should be elected, as now, on a universal suffrage. This house would be allowed to control expenditure. The other house would be elected by citizens who make a net tax contribution. This house would be permitted to set taxation.

The logic would be that the first house would be constrained by the tax income set by the second. The two wolves and the sheep might well vote in the first house what to have for dinner but the sheep in the second would vote that lamb was not available.


I wouldn't disagree with much of that. There is a strong groundswell of opinion for reform - real reform.

The two current parties are like the old British Leyland - their sales have slumped, nobody likes their cars any more and yet they still insist on their right to maintain a pre-eminent market position, propped up by state subsidies and protected from competition. All the while, the MDs are deciding which combinations of body and upholstery colour and which engine options are manufactured, and which dealers in the towns and cities are sent which models to sell. They can't get their heads around a manufacturing system under which customers pick engines, colours and a host of other options and the factory puts them together.

The parties have two choices; respond and change, or wither away.

Colin Campbell

Very sound advice. I see the same kinds of trends here in Australia. I see even less reason for a constitutional monarchy here in Australia. I would think that would be back on the agenda if Labor is elected this year.

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