A New Settlement ?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
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.
As 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.