Saturday, 5 November 2016

Parliamentary democracy is an obsolete throwback


Isn't it interesting that politicians are now concerned with parliamentary sovereignty? For decades they have shown zero interest in what is done in our name by the EU, they have signed away powers without hesitation or scrutiny. Now when it comes to taking those powers back our MPs are in a full blown panic.

Twitter is ablaze with the great and the good telling us earnestly that "we live in a parliamentary democracy". The subtext is that "we MPs have power over you and we want it to stay that way". And this is really what this is all about.

This dispute is not a dispute about Brexit. It is a dispute about power. Power is at the centre of it. The EU has power, the people want it back and MPs do not want us to have that power. The entire system is there to prevent people having power. Councils are tied by Westminster, Westminster is tied by Brussels, and the commission and the ECJ sits atop of it all.

Democracy means people have power. If that power is then in the hands of MPs who use that power against us then we do not have democracy. That power has been confiscated. Elections are merely the means by which we surrender that power to an overlord.

If we had a functioning parliamentary democracy the role of MPs should be to safeguard that power. They should be custodians of it. It is not theirs to give away. They are supposed to act as defenders - goalkeepers if you like, to prevent authority overstepping its bounds.

How ironic that the only time they have shown any interest in demanding their "sovereignty" in relation to the EU is to ensure that power remains out of the hands of the people.

The fact is that "parliamentary democracy" is not democracy. The system is an ancient one evolved from a time when barons and landowners made the rules. The introduction of elaborate voting rituals does not make it democracy. It just means we have the opportunity to replace our dictators every five years.

In the years between elections MPs have the power to pretty much do as they please and due to the decrepit nature of our voting system many have safe seats whereby they need not ever consult the public.

And this is why measures like proportional representation ultimately make no difference. It is still a system where the power does not reside with the people. Voting reform is tinkering at best. It is procedural and it does not fundamentally alter the nature of power. It is interesting that Chuka Umunna is spearheading the charge for PR. This is not a man who believes in democracy. All the proponents of PR see it as a means to thwart democracy and a back door to putting power in the hands of their ideological bedfellows.

They talk about "restoring trust in the system" but this really misses the point. The system cannot function on trust. Trust is when you admit you do not have power and somebody wields it on your behalf. Trust is making yourself vulnerable to authority. I d not seek that vulnerability. Authority will always be abused. Any system therefore should be built on the basis that authority should not be trusted and that people have ultimate sovereignty over that authority.

This is what makes Brexit such a fundamental necessity in that the people have no means of halting that authority and no line of defence against it. We have MEPs who are powerless and structurally outnumbered.

The debate about democracy is corrupted because the media, the people and the politicians themselves do not have a functioning definition of democracy. They mistake the voting rituals and processes as democracy as though 650 MPs talking amongst themselves and deciding how we should live the the exercise of people power.

When it takes a certain personality type to navigate the selection and election process the system can never be remotely representative - and when highly paid and privileged people congregate in London it forms a bubble dynamic where their reality is much different to our own.

To speak of democracy you must first understand that we are talking about power and who has it. Right now decisions that should be our decisions are made by people elected on very broad and slender mandates who cannot possibly represent the diversity of the thousands they notionally speak for in their constituencies. That system is wholly inadequate.

From Hinkley Point through to HS2, extraordinarily expensive decisions are taken with no reference to the public. These vanity projects go ahead virtually unchallenged. The only means the people have is the court system which is only really available to those who can afford it. A system whereby judges are invited to give their opinion - which is viewed as superior to the decision of the people.

Just recently Lancashire was overruled by Westminster saying that fracking can go ahead. I happen to disagree with the opposition to fracking but the fact there are no constitutional constraints to stop Westminster overruling a sovereign decision tells you that the people are not sovereign, their votes don't matter.

The lack of a proper written constitution means that there is sufficient ambiguity for those with the power to pretty much do as they please and make the rules up as they go. We need a constitution that clearly states our rights and values but also clear definitions of the constraints of power and those circumstances where constraints do not apply. Ultimately we must have decision making by proper consent where the final authority belongs to the people at the most local level. The EU is the antithesis of this. But if it goes for Brussels then the same can be said of London.

This is why Brexit alone is insufficient. This isn't a battle for parliamentary sovereignty. Whether its the official in Brussels or the elected tyrants in Westminster, I do not want the power in the hands of a remote few. Not by any measure can we consider it democracy. 

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