In a way this post is linked to the recent event held at Harrogate, in that the posts to which I link are all related to the heading to this post, which is what Harrogate was all about. In passing and for the avoidance of doubt it had not been my intention to comment on Harrogate until such time as Richard North has done so, however now that he has I can incorporate into my post, ‘events Harrogate’.
First though, let us consider articles by the following that have appeared in the Saturday and Sunday editions of the Telegraph: 1 - Janet Daley – 2. Liam Fox – 3. Iain Martin – 4. Matthew d’Ancona – 5. Charles Moore. Five articles which all contain either something that was obvious to anyone outside the ‘political bubble'; or something intended to ‘mislead’ us, or throw us off the scent; or finally, is pure bull – or,actually, all three.
Janet Daley has, it would appear, suddenly come to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy by the political class against the electorate; that the Coalition was formed not in the interests of ‘The Country’ but in the interests of two political parties; one of whom could not face ruling us as a minority government and the other who saw a way in which to gain power even though they had been resoundingly defeated at the polls. Daley continues, maintaining that the public do not like to see political conflict and that in so doing they fail to understand that differences of opinion between political parties is the basis of democracy. Liam Fox is of the opinion that government doesn’t just happen, that it needs to be driven. Iain Martin is of the opinion that what is wanted is a Tory leader with Tory values, quoting Norman Tebbit who believes that Cameron does not much like Conservatives. He cites the ‘rebellion’ by Tory backbenchers over Lords reform as a resentment over the trashing of a British institution. Matthew d’Ancona, in what is another puerile piece of journalism, believes that rule one of maintenance of the Coalition should be to remember Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford – a divorce that took place in 1995 and about which those of us more concerned with matters political than celebrity tittle-tattle did not bother to read. Charles Moore (who knows what Charles Moore believes – but I digress) writes that if leaders are motivated by fear, they are unable to inspire confidence.
In attempting to analyze the ills that befall our political system and politicians, not one of these ‘enlightened’ commentators has thought to mention the real problem that exists today in our present system of representative democracy – there is no separation of Executive and Legislature. Not one of them appears to realize that what is needed is a Codified Constitution, one that cannot be changed by the political class without the agreement of the people.
Janet Daley may well bemoan the fact that the public are unable to accept political conflict, but fails to take her argument to the next level by suggesting that were the political class listening to the people and implementing that which the people wanted, there would be no political conflict. Neither does she appear to realize that political conflict is but the means by which one party attempts to impose its ideology on the masses – in other words to dictate.
Liam Fox, in his assertion,that “governments must be driven” is also, by association, party to the belief that ‘government’ must dictate – yet where does the word ‘dictate’ appear in any definition of ‘democracy’?
Iain Martin may well report that Tory dissenters to Lords reform consider it an attack on a British institution – but fails to point out that EU involvement in the governance of this country is also an attack on a British institution, namely that of the belief in self-government – and that Tory dissenters appear to be ignoring that point.
Matthew d’Ancona criticizes Cameron because he doesn’t believe there is a group within the Tory party to ‘twist arms'; to ‘brief’ the media – in other words d’Ancona is content for political parties to rule as a dictatorship, ‘forming’ public opinion, moulding minds.
Charles Moore writes that leaders do not inspire confidence if they are motivated by fear, but fails to mention the more important ill that bests our nation: namely that leadership should not bring privileges but duties.
Another important point, when considering democracy per se, is that not one of these enlightened ‘commentators’ seems to comment on the contradictions of our political class, where their actions are concerned. For example, the political class loudly proclaim the freedom of the individual, yet appear to spend an inordinate amount of time restricting that freedom. Not one of these ‘media experts’ appears to realize that the more ‘organization’ from above,the more constraints imposed on people, the less chance for any attempt at demonstrating initiative. Is it not by people showing initiative that nations become more prosperous and that communities ‘come together’?
To turn to ‘matters Harrogate’ and the inability of the attendees at that meeting to formulate 6 ‘demands’, that failure – and it is but a personal observation – is that the majority of attendees came with ‘personal baggage’, aspects of the deficit in our democracy that they felt important; and in so doing became too involved in their discussions with the ‘detail’ of how their ‘pet aversions’ could be solved, instead of attempting to focus on the main problems. That aspect is illustrated by Richard North’s comment that: “Furthermore, although some great points were raised, not all got to the heart of the issue. Not all precisely fingered the areas where transfer of powers, the restructuring, and improvement might have best effect”. While most syndicates wanted, for example, separation of Executive from Legislature and a codified constitution, it seemed to me that not all were able to justify either requirement or truly understood the need for each. None had given thought to, when the ‘demands’ were made known, the obvious question that the public would then ask: why are those demands important to me?
More importantly, while it was felt that ‘democracy’ as presently practiced was ‘found wanting’ and acknowledging that democracy was and should be based on ‘people power’, the majority failed to investigate exactly how ‘people power’ could be achieved – in other words what system of democracy would provide that one basic requirement. A few of the attendees did realize and raised what is a basic point, unfortunately their voices were not heard. Had those raising this point been heard, it may well have produced a consensus for a basis of demands, or at least 3/4 of the desired 6.
I would close with a question to all attendees at Harrogate. If it is accepted that people power is an important and necessary factor in any democracy, then is not the ‘legislature’ the people? If we are proposing that a separation of the executive from the legislature of the political class is necessary, are we not suggesting that we are content to subsume ourselves to a political elite and thus remain content to remain ‘ruled’? Either we have ‘people power’, or we do not. How can we discuss a codified constitution until we have decided whether ‘people power’ is, or is not, to be the basis of said constitution?
As is my usual wont, just asking……….