Monday, December 9, 2013

Members of Parliament - so what's new? Now they want a big pay increase!

In the 15th century publication "Mum and the Soothsegger"  MPs were described as follows:

"Some members slumbered and slept and said very little.   Some mumbled and stammered and did not know what they meant to say.   Some were hired men and would not take any step for fear of their masters.   Some were so pompous and dull-witted that they got hopelessly muddled before they reached the close of their speeches".

Monday, November 11, 2013

Roman Britain to Magna Carta - 1215

Roman Britain to Magna Carta - 1215 (see page above) will be published in instalments on a weekly basis.   Latest update 3rd March 2014. The effect of Magna Carta.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Definition of Democracy

Have a look at the "Introduction" page to see the definition of "democracy".

Monday, July 29, 2013


             In Switzerland citizens have a right to call a referendum on any issue they like, so long as they gather enough signatures.   Indeed any new law brought before the Swiss Parliament can be challenged by the voters before it is enacted.   If 1% of the population sign up to a proposal within an 18-month period, the public can vote on it and if passed, it becomes law.   This is direct democracy in action.  Suppose we were to require a 5% threshold that would require nearly 2 million people to sign up – an exacting demand, but by no means a prohibitive one.   Once an action had been voted on there would have to be a minimum period before it could be brought up again to prevent a yo yo effect on contentious issues.

The people should have the right to have a referendum on any issue where 5% of the electorate have signed a petition calling for one.   If passed it should become law.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Right of Recall

One of the weaknesses of our electoral system is that once a representative has been elected they cannot be dismissed until the next election.   This diminishes accountability.   Voters should have a right to recall, effectively dismiss an elected representative if they were dissatisfied with the representative’s performance or record.   This would enable voters to have some say over how representatives carry out their duties between elections.   The electorate is quite capable of distinguishing between a representative and a delegate and would use this right sparingly, nevertheless it would make an MP think twice before voting against the electorate's wishes.
The procedure would be that a specified percentage of voters would have to sign a legal petition calling for a referendum on the simple question “should ……… be recalled – yes/no”.   A majority vote would prevail.

Voters should have the right to recall and/or effectively dismiss their elected representative.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Qualifications to Vote


 All British citizens, Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the Irish Republic who are resident in the United Kingdom and over the age of eighteen are eligible to vote.   In addition citizens of those countries which are members of the European Union and are over the age of eighteen are eligible to vote in local government elections and elections to the European Parliament.   All voters have to be registered and their name appears on the Register of Electors.
In 1948 Eire declared itself a Republic and left the Commonwealth.   British reaction to the setting up of the Republic and the challenge to British sovereignty in Ulster took the form of a political initiative.   British nationality laws were altered; and although the Republic had left the Commonwealth and her citizens were no longer British, they were not classed as foreigners.   As Herbert Morrison humorously assured Parliament: “Indeed the Republic of Ireland does not want to be in the Commonwealth but it does not want to be foreign.   It is, as far as I know, quite sincere on both points.”
There are over 400,000 citizens of the Republic of Ireland registered in the United Kingdom that have the right to vote in a General Election.    They are not evenly spread over all the constituencies.   There are concentrations of Irish voters in Liverpool, Glasgow and Camden Town in London.   Where there are concentrations they can clearly influence the decision of the electorate.   This cannot be right.

It is one of the extraordinary anomalies of democracy in the United Kingdom that the citizens of a foreign country, that have no allegiance to the United Kingdom are allowed to vote in elections in the United Kingdom and in so doing determine who shall govern the United Kingdom. 

Only United Kingdom citizens should be allowed to vote in United Kingdom Parliamentary elections.    

Friday, June 14, 2013

Three Member Seats at Westminster

Prior to 1884 all constituencies consisted of two or three MPs.   We could have 150 constituencies each with three MPs.   This would have a number of advantages.
        To those MPs with a strong feeling for tradition we could go back to the electoral system prior to single member constituencies.   For six hundred years constituencies consisted of two, three, or even four member seats.   If we were to opt for three member seats throughout the United Kingdom this would introduce an element of proportionality into our electoral system.   Electors would be able to split their votes between different parties.   This would introduce an element of competition between members of the same party.   It would give voters a real choice.   It would also reduce the power of the parties.   It was in order to strengthen the power of the parties which led to the single member constituencies in the first place.   It is time for the pendulum to swing back the other way.
        There is a general recognition that as a result of legislation now being produced by the European Union and other legislation devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales there are too many MPs at Westminster.   The number should be reduced to 450.   If this reduction were to take place there would be a golden opportunity to reform the whole system at the same time.
                Why is it that in a world where people are used to shopping around, telephones and electricity have been made competitive, there was still a single supplier of representative services.   In an environment where consumer choice is the dominant force, and people increasingly look at politics as consumers, why not have multi-member constituencies?
                Competition and choice improve standards. Lazy MPs, or those who did not represent the views of their constituents properly, would face internal competition, and there would be fewer barriers to new talent and new ideas coming forward.   Almost certainly there would be an increase in the number of women in Parliament.   If electors could choose from different candidates from within a political Party Parliament would become more representative of the people.   The system would be more proportional.

                The House of Commons should consist of 150 three member constituencies. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Proportional Representation

In the General Election of 2005 the Labour Party with 35.2% of the votes got 55% of the seats in Parliament.   Conservatives with 32.3% had 30.5% and the Liberal Democrats with 22.0% of the votes cast had 9.6% of the seats.   In other words it took 26,858 votes to elect each Labour MP, 44,241 votes each Conservative MP and a massive 98,484 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP.   The Labour Party’s 35.2% of the vote gave them a majority of 66 seats.   Only 22% of the electorate voted for the Labour Party.   In England the Tories got 50,000 more votes than the Labour Party but ended up with 193 seats against Labour’s 285.   With these results it cannot be said that Parliament is representative of the people.   18 million people who were entitled to vote did not vote in the 2005 General Election.
In recent elections we have seen the growth of smaller parties.   In the 2005 General Election parties and candidates other than the three main parties won more than 10% of the vote.   In comparison in 1979 the share of the vote was less than 6% and in 1955 less than 2%.
Political Parties know that General Elections conducted on a First Past the Post basis will be decided by what happens in marginal constituencies which are usually less than 10% of the total.   It is the “Swing” or “Floating” voters in those constituencies – generally less than 10%, who determine who will win the seat.   The election battle is therefore over less than 10% of the votes in less than 10% of the seats – less than 1% of the electorate.   It is more important to win 100 votes in a marginal seat than 5,000 votes in a safe seat under this system.   In the 2005 General Election the average number of telephone/doorstep contacts in “safe” seats was less than 18% of the average in the most marginal seats.
 With a proportional system every vote counts.   The Conservative elector in a Labour safe seat and the Labour supporter in a Conservative heartland both have an incentive to vote.   Supporters of small Parties have more reason for voting.
 A form of Proportional Representation (excluding the closed list system) should be used for all elections in the United Kingdom, whilst retaining the constituency/ward base.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Church of England should be disestablished

The establishment of the Church of England is upheld on the grounds that it is a national church, but it is a national church, at most, only in England.   It is a Church based on the gratification of King Henry VIII’s carnal lust.   It is entangled with the United Kingdom Parliament.   A Church Commissioner sits in the House of Commons.   Twenty-six of its bishops sit by right in the House of Lords.   The Prime Minister retains residual rights over appointing its bishops.   Its endowments and even its doctrine are nominally under the control of parliament.   Its status as a national church of only one of the four parts of the United Kingdom, even though it is by far the largest part, cannot justify these entanglements.   The entanglements between the Church of England and the state have endured for hundreds of years; they are at best anomalous, and at worst insulting to the people of the other three nations of the United Kingdom, as well as to many of the large non-Anglican population in England.
                The really extraordinary thing about the present constitutional establishment of the Church of England is not its absurdity but that nobody really believes it any longer.   The tight links between parliament and the Church’s general synod seem to both sides a mysterious encumbrance.   Parliament is no longer solely a Christian Parliament.   There is no reason for Parliament to be able to veto the synod’s legislation, as it presently can, and no reason why the Church of England should regulate its own affairs by legislation, as it presently must.   If the Church were no longer established, then those ties would quietly be seen as serving no practical purpose.   Neither the Monarch nor the Prime Minister would have a role in appointments.   Nor is it clear why bishops should sit in the House of Lords.   Breaking those constitutional links, which is what is usually meant by disestablishment, is a simple sensible reform.
                In 1988 Tony Benn tried to disestablish the Church of England.   Conservative MPs saved it, but for how much longer?
                The Church of England should be dis-established.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Religious discrimination!

There is no prohibition on a Catholic or a Jew becoming Prime Minister, but, as matters stand, it could create constitutional complications.   These relate to the Prime Minister’s role in advising the monarch on senior appointments in the Church of England.   The Catholic Relief Act of 1829, section 17, asserts that no Catholic can offer counsel to the monarch on ecclesiastical matters.   A provision in the Jews Relief Act of 1858, section 4, places the same restriction on followers of that faith.   But there is no prohibition in law for those of the world’s other major faiths, let alone individuals that have opted for some of the more obscure religions or bizarre cults.   It is perhaps significant to note that Tony Blair converted to Roman Catholicism after he ceased to be Prime Minister.
                There is no doubt that Prime Minister Tony Blair deferred his conversion to Roman Catholicism until he ceased to be Prime Minister because of the complications that were involved.
The provisions in the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 and the Jews Relief Act of 1858 preventing Catholics and Jews from advising the monarch on ecclesiastical matters should be repealed.
                As Cardinal Newman said “There are no religions in heaven”.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ballot on the Monarchy

               The Monarchy has many advantages.   It stops a career politician fulfilling the role of Head of State, although if the powers under the Royal prerogative were given to the House of Commons there would be little advantage to the politician.   There is always the danger of slipping towards a dictatorship as we saw with Cromwell.
                The monarchy is a unifying force, and in the case of a long serving Monarch builds up great experience.   Nevertheless the Monarch is the servant of the people and to ask for the endorsement of the people at the beginning of a reign would reinforce the Monarchy.   It is not too much to ask.
Such an approach would give legitimacy to the monarchy, thus strengthening it.
Within one month of the monarch’s death a ballot should be held of all the people to endorse the successor.   Should such endorsement not be given a ballot should be held on the successor’s eldest child becoming monarch.   Should endorsement once again not be forthcoming the monarchy would be abolished.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Defender of Faiths

The monarch is the Head of the Church of England and under the Act of Settlement has to be a Protestant.   This is religious discrimination writ large.   In a democracy it has no place.   The monarch’s eldest male heir succeeds to the throne.   This is sexual discrimination and in a democracy should have no place.
    The monarch should be the “Defender of faiths
                This course of action is favoured by the Prince of Wales.   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Quangos and Statutory Bodies

Various governments around the world have toyed with time-limited legislation; that is, laws that automatically lapse after a certain period unless explicitly reaffirmed.   Britain, too, has occasionally made use of the device, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, annually renewed throughout the 1970s and 1980s being the supreme example.
 Sunset clauses should apply to the creation and maintenance of statutory bodies
 The major Quangos should be required to justify their continued existence and applications for funding before the relevant parliamentary committee at a minimum of once every three years.
                       Appointment of the heads of Quangos should be scrutinised by a parliamentary committee with the power to reject the appointment.

Friday, January 18, 2013

State Funding - more points

In his book The Liberal Vision S. Ringen says

"Mega-expensive politics comes with very considerable benefits for a powerful coalition of actors.   It is to the benefit of people who have money to spend because it gives them the opportunity to buy political influence and glamour.   It is to the benefit of parties and politicians who are able to attract money because it eliminates the competition of those whom moneyed interests see as less worthy investments.   This benefit is tilted heavily in favour of the established parties and serving politicians, who are the ones who would have to take action against transgression.   And it is to the benefit of those who finally earn the money: advertisers, pollsters, advisors, consultants, professional fundraisers, influence peddlers and so on.   It will take a great deal to break this coalition". 

There should be a limit on the amount that a government can spend on political advisers.   An equivalent sum to their costs should be given to the opposition Parties.   This should replace the “Short” funding.   These monies should be properly accounted for. 
                      The “free” post at parliamentary elections should be abolished.
          Party Political Broadcasts (PPBs) should be abolished.
         The maximum amount that any Party can spend on a General Election should be capped at
         £15 million.