Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How others see us?


Looking at the convoluted negotiations taking place with the European Union I am reminded of what Leo Tolstoy said in “War and Peace”:
Germans are self confident on the basis of an abstract notion  – science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth.
A Frenchman is self assured because he regards himself personally both in mind and body as irresistibly attractive to men and women.
An Englishman is self assured as being a citizen of the best organised state in the world, and therefore, as an Englishman, always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct.
An Italian is self assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people.
A Russian is self assured just because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe anything can be known.
The German’s self-assurance is the worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth – science- which he himself has invented but which for him is the absolute truth.


If only?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Which side of the fence do you sit on?

If you ever wondered what side of the fence you sit on, this is a good test!

If a Conservative supporter doesn't like guns, they don't buy one.
If a Labour supporter doesn't like guns, they want all guns outlawed.
If a Conservative is a vegetarian, they don't eat meat.
If a Labour is a vegetarian, they want all meat products banned for everyone.
If a Conservative is gay, they quietly lead their life.
If a Labour is gay, they demand legislated respect.
If a Conservative is down-and-out, they think about how to better their situation.
If a Labour is down and out they wonder who is going to take care of them.
If a Conservative doesn't like a talk show, they switch channels.
If a Labour doesn’t like a talk show they demand that those they don't like should be        banned.
If a Conservative is a non-believer, they don't go to church.
If a Labour is a non-believer they want any mention of God and religion silenced

If a Conservative reads this, they'll forward it so their friends can have a good laugh.
If a Labour reads this they will delete it because they're "offended."


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Devolution

The most widely discussed dilemma posed by devolution is the West Lothian question, named as such by Enoch Powell after the then constituency of Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP who argued against the 1970s devolution proposals.   This is about the anomaly created if a wide range of social and home affairs issues are devolved to a Scottish Parliament, but remain with the Westminster Parliament in England.   Consequently, Scottish MPs could vote in the Commons on such issues affecting England but not when it affects their own constituents north of the border.
The Government has tried to overcome this problem by having English Votes for English Laws.   What they have created is a bureaucratic nightmare with little if any accountability.   In order to overcome the West Lothian question England should have its own Parliament.   The total number of parliamentarians in England, Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland and Westminster (United Kingdom) should not exceed 600 including the devolved Parliaments.
            A Federal structure for the United Kingdom should be created with each country within the Kingdom having its own Parliament.
The Government White Paper on Scotland’s Parliament, published by the Scottish Office in July 1997, stated explicitly that “The UK Parliament is and will remain sovereign”.   The Scotland Act 1998 repeated the phrase.
The Scottish Parliament has legislative competence over matters that once were the responsibility of the Scottish Office, such as health, education, local government and law and order.   It also has tax-varying powers.   It can add up to 3p on the basic rate of income tax.
Having established a Federal structure each national parliament can then decide which powers are devolved and to what level.
There is a never-ending conflict between central government and local government.   Both claim to have a democratic mandate and both claim to know what is best for the people.   Local government wants to provide the relevant services for their locality and to prioritise them.   Central government wants to retain financial control and to ensure that national standards are met so how can this conflict be resolved?   Let the people decide!
The parliaments of each nation would set out enabling legislation showing what powers could be devolved to a local level.   A local constitutional convention could then be held to consider the constitution of the proposed authority and the particular powers to be transferred to it.   The convention would produce a proposal which would be subject to a referendum in all the local authority areas covered by the proposal.   The result of the referendum would be final.
Local government should be self-financing, itself raising the money that it spends.   In such a scenario there is a strong case for as much power as possible to be transferred from central government to local government and in order most closely to meet the wishes of the people that power should be devolved to the lowest level of local government as possible.   Democratic accountability would then ensure that those responsible for raising the moneys locally were also accountable for the way those monies were spent  By these measures the aims and objectives of both local and national government could be reconciled and their aims and objects clearly delineated.
All the expenditure of local government should be financed out of taxes raised by local government subject to an adjustment for special needs financed by central government.
Devolving power carries with it a greater responsibility on the citizen to participate, so when power is devolved:
Local citizens should be left in no doubt that their system of government is going to change.   The change will involve them taking greater responsibility for their environment and services.   They must be left with no excuses if they refuse to participate.   Localism tends to involve, most immediately and controversially, variations in local taxes.   Such variations concentrate the democratic mind.   That is the franchise biting.   That is what drives people to vote. “Big Bang Localism by Simon Jenkins
The methods chosen for elections at local level vary considerably, but in England they are based on the First Past the Post system of election.   This produces much distorted results.   In the 2006 local elections in the London Borough of Newham, Labour with 41.8% of the vote got 90% of the seats.   At a National level, in the 2002 local elections the Conservative Party got 72.2% of the seats with only 43.9% of the votes.   It is one of the scandals of local politics and no doubt contributes to the reason why turnout in local elections is so low.
            This is clearly wrong and produces wholly unrepresentative local government.   In future:
            Local government elections should be conducted under the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation with three members in each ward.
One final point, democracy in Northern Ireland is distorted by entrenching the rights of minorities and entrenching the sharing of power.   The Belfast Peace Agreement can however claim one major success – after many years of terrorism it brought some stability to Northern Ireland and drastically reduced the number of terrorist acts.   This was critical.   However the democratic fault lines are now becoming apparent.   Because of power sharing there is no way for the will of the people to be fully exercised.   Minorities have to be protected, but that protection has to be with the consent of the majority and there has to be some mechanism by which ultimately the majority can exercise their will.   By giving a minority effective control in particular areas, at some point, the majority will rise against what is being done.
            Over a period of time the blocking mechanisms in the Northern Ireland Assembly should be reduced, eventually to zero, to bring Northern Ireland into line with normal democracy.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Tectonic Plates are Shifting!

Sign the Parliamentary Petition to Make Votes Matter!
A parliamentary petition calling for Proportional Representation (PR) in the House of Commons already has over 97,000 signatures. If it gets over 100,000 we can demand a full Parliamentary debate - in which a growing number of MPs from all parties will be able to make the case for changing our outdated electoral system once and for all.
The petition can help us put PR right at the centre of the UK's political debate and ensure that the call for fair votes from the vast majority of the population cannot be ignored.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Vortigern's Mistake

For those students of history one area which does not get a great deal of coverage is the time between when the Romans left Britain and the Anglo-Saxon invasions.   My cousin Lynda Whiteley has just brought out a short book covering this period.   It is well worth reading.  Click on "Vortigern's Mistake" to go to her web site.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Second Reform Act to the end of the Century 1860 to 1900

Go to The Second Reform Act to see the latest update "1894 - Local Government Act - women have the vote" - updated 11th December 2017