Harrogate (vi)

Richard North, EUReferendum, has posted the third part of his views on the aspect of Direct Democracy and the effect it should have on the governance of our country. In this post Richard North mentions that there are 14,000 treaties into which this country has entered and that all have been agreed by the government of the day with no recourse to the people for their assent.

Richard North links to the ‘Ponsonby Rule’ which, in effect, allows the government of the day, were a vote to be called, to rely on any treaty – or any other ‘measure’ – receiving assent from Parliament by means of ‘whipping’ their MPs accordingly and relying on the underlying wish of MPs to support their party in the hope of personal advancement within government – a system which cannot in any way be described as democratic and is but another illustration of what I have termed ‘democratized dictatorship’.

On the question of ‘treaties’ Richard North writes that whether it is appropriate for all, he is not certain as he states some are just ‘tidying-up’ and thus ‘administrative ‘fixes’. This of course begs the question that if treaties, or some treaties – and who decides which are important – demand the assent of the people, then does not the same principle demand that any treaty, or supplement to a treaty, also demand the assent of the people? Come to that, does the principle of public assent not apply to any decision politicians wish to make/agree/sign -be that national or local – that ‘bind’ the people?

As previously stated, if agreement that the people are sovereign and that,ultimately, anything that affects them must be their decision at the end of the day, then where ‘assent of the people’ is concerned it is an ‘all or nothing’ questions – one cannot start setting degrees of assent. The principle of ‘assent of the people’ works in Switzerland, so why cannot it work in this country?

Back in November 2011 I posted that there was a better way, to which Richard North responded with a ‘critque‘ – to which I replied. In his ‘critique’ Richard North responded that what we need is restraint, a system which makes government physically difficult, keeping externally-imposed rules to the minimum, and forcing people to deal with and settle their own problems – as far as is possible – without external interference. I have to ask: is that not the function of direct democracy?

If it is accepted that the power of a political class needs restraint then there is only one cure – and that is the adoption of direct democracy whereby the people are the final arbitrator on any matter that affects them; there is no other way.

Of course, if anyone knows different…………………..?


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13 Responses

  1. Stuart says:

    I believe that we simply allow others to act on our behalf because we do not have the time to decide the myriad aspects of government but also because there are too many of us to sit in parliament to decide every law and if we allow people to sepcialise in this aspect, they might become good at it.

    But the important issue is they act for us. If they are not to be trusted with our money or acting in our interests, I see nothing wrong with stepping in and doing the job oursleves for specific points if we feel strongly enough about their proposed solutions.They govern our country and us, but not rule us.

    • WitteringsfromWitney says:

      Yes we do need people to manage our country for us but that is all they should do, manage. I can never accept any [‘governing’ my thoughts or actions.

      We will decide what is wanted and we will decide when political policy has gone too far.

      By those simple statements will politicians continue to exist.

  2. Stuart says:

    I return again to the letter I wrote my MP back in 2003:

    The recent Conservative vote of no confidence struck a chord with me.
    Twenty-five signatures or letters were sent to the 1922 committee, triggering the referendum of confidence in their leader.

    Having thought about it, I believe what is good enough for the Conservative party must be good enough for the British electorate. A mechanism for a specified number of British people to trigger a full referendum on a particular matter of Governance or even a confidence vote in the Government itself if it gets completely out of touch with the electorate.

    His reply:

    While I understand your argument, I do not agree with it. The referendums you refer to have been agreed by Parliament, and the Conservative Party is arguing that Parliament should authorise a referendum on the new EU Constitution. If we are returned at a General Election, that is what will happen.
    You want a referendum that is not authorised by Parliament – indeed one that may overturn something that Parliament has done. I think it very difficult to reconcile that with our system of Parliamentary sovereignty.

    Me again. You see parliament has to authorise us to make our own decisions. We need to change from parliamentary sovereignty to demo sovereignty. We need to change from being ruled to be governed.

    • [Reposted, as did not appear yesterday at ~20:35]

      Stuart wrote:

      (i) “I return again to the letter I wrote my MP back in 2003:”

      (ii) “The recent Conservative vote of no confidence struck a chord with me. Twenty-five signatures or letters were sent to the 1922 committee, triggering the referendum of confidence in their leader.”

      (iii) “Having thought about it, I believe what is good enough for the Conservative party must be good enough for the British electorate. A mechanism for a specified number of British people to trigger a full referendum on a particular matter of Governance or even a confidence vote in the Government itself if it gets completely out of touch with the electorate.”

      Presumably, his MP was actually responding to (ii), given the means and timestamp if (i).

      I respond, stealing (I hope not offensively): “while I understand your argument, I do not agree with it.” But this is in respect of (iii). And I fully agree with Stuart, that he has the better of it on (ii) WRT his MP’s response.

      By way of background, from today (and, on my side at least, 4 days ago), I have been in blog-wise frank discussion with Richard North on this very subject – on his forum, which is a good (even the best) place for discussing the Harrogate Agenda. See the link here as a goodish starting point for that background: http://www.eureferendum.com/forum/yaf_postsm1210_The-Harrogate-Agenda—direct-democracy–part-I.aspx#post1210

      Returning to Stuart’s point (iii), he is equating (perhaps confusing) Richard North’s terminology of public negative approval (by calling for a referendum) of an act of parliament (ie policy) with the negative view of an elected person’s performance, the latter as in a proposed election recall notice or a tabled vote of no confidence.

      Now, as I have tried to explain in the above-mentioned link, I am more agreed as to the desirability of the electorate’s view of personal non-performance (or its converse) of their elected person (to whatever post) than I am of their easily obtained ability to decide on some parliamentary policy, including all the detailed aspects of that policy.

      Next on Stuart’s point, there is the issue of competence of the electorate in their recall notice or their call for a motion of no confidence. IIRC, all Tory MPs can vote on a 1922 matter; there are typically around 300 of them and they are, in the vast majority, something that one might call well educated and informed persons on the issues on which they are to judge (ie who leads them). Much as I love and respect (in that role) my fellow British electors (all 45+ million of them), I believe that, without a lot further preparation, they cannot overall be reliably labelled as “well educated and informed persons on the issues on which they are to judge: namely and differently from the 1922 members, a political policy” (the latter being distinct from the reliability and/or other desirability of an elected representative that they previously, as a collective, did elect).

      I’m sorry if all this seems a bit complicated. However, IMHO, it does matter that the people (the electorate) are more competent in judging people (their elected representatives) than they are in deciding complicated government policy, overall and especially in the detail. This is even though, unavoidably, they have difficulties with both – as doubtless do members of the 1922 Club.

      Best regards

  3. Robin says:

    I agree with as much direct democracy as practical , together with localism and elected judiciary and police chiefs ( which draws fire but very weak arguments against ) .
    But I think we must ,like shareholders to company management , delegate responsibilities .This is to the politicians ,and unfurtunately to senior civil servants and FCO .
    Like the directors and management of a company though , these equivalents dont have a set of rules to keep them putting our intersts before their own or some other outside bodies interests , or even ideology .
    I know you think that a set of constitutional rules laid out before on another thread may be hard to prove in a court of law , but it does start as a template for how the civil servants are supposed to act , concentrates their minds a little , and makes them concious of when they are breaching the rules , even if they think they can get away with it .

    BTW,
    Why not have a set of six demands or whatever which are basic ,easy to the eye , popular , then reams of rules ,small print , to enforce them ?

    • david says:

      I understand the point you make, however see my response to Stuart, above re managing, not governing.

      There is one simple rule – and only one that they have to understand and follow. It may well mean that, initially, we have a lot of referenda but eventually politicians and bureaucrats will get the message: talk to the people, not your pet charities and pressure groups, when formulating policy.

      • Robin says:

        A realisation must be made that the bureaucrats dont act as one with the politicians . In fact they operate to their own agenda , inveigleing in the politicians as co conspirators against us .
        Even after multiple referenda and elections , it all comes to naught if Gramscis , the indolent and the selfserving hold the levers of power , operating in purdah and untouchable for their actions .

  4. Stuart says:

    I agree with Robin’s last point. We cannot convey our demands with simple one line statements. Have them yes, as a bullet point. Below, expand the detail out.

  5. blingmun says:

    How about referenda on bills be triggered by petition? So if (say) 100,000 sign up then the entire country votes on it. Interested parties would need to go out and make the case that it’s too important to be left to MPs. For trivial stuff we’d let our elected representatives get on with it.

  6. david says:

    That is the idea – that once a Bill has been proposed by Parliament a period of say 3, possibly 6 months, has to elapse before it can become law. In that period if sufficient people sign for a referendum, then it will be the people that decide – they can accept, reject or possibly amend.

    There can be no ‘trivial stuff’ – anything that politicians propose should be viewed with suspicion!

    • Robin says:

      Are only polticians to be viewed with suspicion ?
      What about others who make up the Powers That Be ?

      • david says:

        You are ‘running’ the same discussion on two posts – naughty, naughty….

        I have answered this in another of your queries.

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