Tag Archive: Democracy

Intent – or bluster?

With the election of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza in Greece, a little noticed news report from Reuters (at least from what I have seen) informs us that Tsipras rubbed a few noses in the dirt on his first day as prime minister

Apparently his first act was to visit the war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944. Next, he ‘received’ the Russian ambassador before meeting any other foreign official; followed by the announcement that radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, who once likened German austerity policies to “fiscal waterboarding”, would be taking over as Greek finance minister. A short while later, Tsipras delivered another blow, criticising an EU statement that warned Moscow of new sanctions.

When one adds into the mix that just days before polling day Tsipras informed a crowd that: On Monday, our national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad, while in the background  loudspeakers blared lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin; and it is logical to assume the European Union is in for a rocky ride.

When it is realised that the Greek people are averse to leaving the euro zone and Tsipras wishes to remain in the EU, he gives the impression of bluster – or is it?

He will be attending the EU Council Heads of State meeting on 12th/13th February and whether Tsipras is all buster or not should become apparent when the Heads of State post-meeting press conferences take place.

There are those in the blogosphere who believe that Tsipras is but indulging in what they term ‘ritual chest-beating’ prior to ‘knuckling under’. While one can but agree with the view that the EU will not let the euro or their project be damaged in any way, it should be remembered that no-one can predict the actions of a maverick – and mavericks tend to have a card up their sleeve.

It may be there is trouble – or even a rouble – that has yet to appear over the horizon? We can but watch and wait.


Down the Greece(y) pole?


Following the results of the Greek general election, there is speculation that Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, could herald the break-up of the European Union, by threatening not to pay his debts and exiting the eurozone, with his hard-line approach to negate austerity.

The idea that Greece with but a miniscule GDP, under $250 billion and not even one percent of the eurozone, is able to ‘out-gun’ the EU must be considered far-fetched indeed. That Tsipras, for all his rhetoric, could ‘bring down’ what must be ‘the’ policy of the EU, namely that of having a single currency, can but be laughable.

As Bruno Waterfield (Telegraph) reports, Angela Merkel echoes the fear that is obvious to the EU; namely that if voters in Spain and Italy, both countries where elections are expected this year, see that Syriza is able to win major concessions then Europe’s growing populist revolt will become unstoppable – and that just ain’t gonna happen. Waterfield’s article contains quotes by some of the ‘great and good’ within the EU; and Open Europe has others – all of which leads one to believe that Tsipras, instead of getting the haircut he seeks, now has a headache.

Today has seen the ‘Ukip faithful’ taking to the twittersphere proclaiming a similarity twixt Syriza and Ukip in that what Syriza has done in Greece, Ukip can do in the United Kingdom. When considering any similarity twixt Syriza and Ukip, unfortunately one can only come to one conclusion.

The electorates in Greece and the United Kingdom are each being duped by two men who have not thought through that which they propose, consequently having no idea how to bring about that which they seek.

In summary: both have committed the cardinal sin of having no credible exit plan.


Another Matthew Elliot ‘oops’

It has just come to my attention that Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of Business for Britain, produces a daily email: EU Briefing who’s up and who’s down. From today’s edition we read:

UP: Road tolls, as EU Commissioner floats EU-wide road pricing 
The woman in charge of transport at the EU Commission, Violeta Bulc, has called for the introduction of a standardised European-wide road pricing system. The idea is in part a reaction to German proposals for a road toll that would be in effect be paid only by foreign drivers using Germany’s Autobahn motorways from 2016. But the idea of EU-wide road tolls levied by the Commission will spark a significant reaction in the UK where proposals for road tolls, given the high levels of taxes on drivers, have always been controversial. It suggests there is either significant political naivety in the Commission or a simple unwillingness to interfere less in the affairs of member states. 

In respect of the last sentence of the above, there is no such suggestion. Having linked to the EurActiv report, had he read it properly, which he obviously had not, he would have seen that what Violeta Bulc also said was:

There are many options – a fee could be obligatory but it’s also possible to make it optional i.e. that countries decide themselves whether and on which roads they want to levy a road use charge based on kilometres driven. (Emphasis mine)

Had Elliott bothered to follow the last link in the EurActiv report he would also have seen that this proposal is not new and that the last Commission ceased pursuing the idea due to the complexity of the problems that surfaced, including the question of subsidiarity – coupled with the fact that the original proposals were intended to also be non-binding on member states.

The ‘EU-outers’ continually complain when those of the ‘EU-inners’ try to spin that which is not – and it does not help ‘EU-outers’ when one of them (supposedly) erroneously tries to out-spin the spinners.

If one is to précis a news item, it helps if said précis is factually correct?




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Blinkered vision (again)

Tuesday January 20th was Democracy Day on the BBC across radio, TV and online, looking at democracy past, present, and future. The idea behind this was that 2015 marks the 750th anniversary of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster and it also sees the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In conjunction with the BBC’s event a research paper for the BBC’s Democracy day was produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

This paper attempts to set out what needs to be done with a view to negating the ever widening gap between politicians and the people they govern. It makes some important points (page 28: the UK political market is falling; it is out of sync; the system is not working) without any attempt to suggest possible cures to the faults it identifies. The gravest error the paper makes is that it never defines what is democracy and like so many assumes that representative democracy is the only form available. (Intelligence Unit? Really?)

Presumably by coincidence, two articles appeared on January 21st, one by Rafael Behr (Guardian) and the other by Paul Collier (Financial Times); both of whom also take it for granted that representative democracy is the only form available. Behr is of the opinion that while the next parliament is likely to be fractious and unmanageable.,that doesn’t worry him as much as the prospect of a campaign that works as a catalyst for all the forces of fragmentation and volatility. He is also of the opinion that Westminster is not a rancid den of corruption, nor a conspiracy against decent people; that Parliament is flawed but not wicked.

Collier on the other hand, plays a ‘suppose’ game resulting in him believing that the status quo is indefensible; that in forging a new constitutional settlement, the key is to match power to identity; that political authority should be distributed to geographic entities in correspondence to the strength of people’s attachment to them – the result of which is the creation of an English parliament, incorporating a federal system, to redress the obvious imbalances that devolution ‘a la political class’ have caused.

Readers who do refer to the three links above will all realise that the commonality between them is blinkered thought, encapsulating an inability to think ‘outside the box’. When will anyone in the media take the obvious step of considering all the forms of democracy, apply them to the United Kingdom and consider which, if any, would solve the problems about that which they write?

Hell, if amateurs can do it and arrive at a solution, why not professionals?

Afterthought: In selecting The Economist, Rafael Behr and Paul Collier for criticism it would be criminal to not mention this person who, bearing in mind Behr’s closing comment to his article, one might be forgiven thinking she really is from another planet.



A Sad Sunday

It is a sad Sunday for politics and democracy in this country – although one could argue that any other day is – when one looks at the news today and articles by the ‘commentariat’. Dominating political news, it seems, is the defection of Amjad Bashir to the Conservative Party from Ukip, amid allegations and counter-allegations.

Early as it is, where consideration of ‘events Bashir’ are concerned, what seems apparent is that all  news and comment so far appears to be ignoring what are the underlying problems in both our politics and democracy.

Bashir has an article in the Mail which contains a repeat of well-worn statements by those who have fallen out with Farage. Complaining that all Farage wants is power for himself can be countered by the accusation that that appears to be all that any politician wants – why else does a politician seek and accept higher and higher office in their attempts to climb the political ladder?

In another article, this time a report in the Telegraph, Bashir claims Ukip is a party of ruthless self-interest, to which once again the same accusation can be made against any other political party — do we not see this on a daily basis as each party scrambles for power, or to retain power? 

To accuse Farage of treating Ukip as a vanity project for his own dictatorial aims is laughable – is this not what happens every time a new party leader assumes that position? Farage is no more guilty of this than was Blair; or is Cameron and Miliband. Witness how this country has been directed down different and conflicting paths based on the ideology of the party leader in question (see Janet Daley’s column in today’s Sunday Telegraph). All prime ministers, of whatever hue, assume what may be termed dictatorial powers – and they are able to so do because (a) they surround themselves with those who may not necessarily agree with all the prevailing ideology of the time, but who perceive a path to further their own careers; and, (b) they do so knowing that there is squat diddly those they govern can do to counter decisions taken in their name, for a number of years.

Every time there is a defection of a politician from one party to another it creates a frenzy of words, both in the MSM and on social media – and for what purpose while politics and our democracy retain their status quo? Because of this, generally the actual effect of a political defection is akin to tossing a stone into an ocean – the ripple effect is minimal where governance of our country is concerned.

On the matter of Bashir’s defection it seems unclear at the moment whether he will stand for re-election, with one comment on twitter that he will not. If he does not it can be argued that those who voted for him and his party last May are now technically disenfranchised as they no longer have someone to represent them. As a further aside, it could be said that Carswell and Reckless followed an honourable course of action following their defection in the opposite direction – albeit, allowing for the adverse publicity that Ukip will now undoubtedly receive, a course of action that could be held as being a tad ‘reckless’. In respect of Bashir, if he does not stand for re-election, a question: should those that voted for him now withhold any taxation that is bound for the EU on the basis of no taxation without representation? Couple all that with the assertion Bashir has been a member of Conservative, then Ukip and has now reverted to Conservative leads one to assume he is but a personal and political opportunist.

What we are witnessing with the ‘Bashir Pantomime’, coupled with the views of our politicians and the ‘commentariat’ on this, is the fact it is all about the advantages and disadvantages of/to both parties; and not one mention of the electorate and how it affects them – who. to their discredit, seem content to go along with being herded like sheep by the political class and the media, but consequently do no more than bleat when they voice complaint.

We are told that we all have our price - and where politics and democracy is concerned it would appear that, in general, the price of the electorate in this country is pretty low.







‘British’ Influence?

One of the supposed ‘hallmarks’ of British character is that we are told he/she always ‘plays by the rules’ or ‘plays with a straight bat’ (to use two cricketing analogies). Extending that further, in my opinion that also means that Britishers can be considered decent and trustworthy – thus always telling the truth. It then follows that in attempting to influence another person, someone British will do so using fact.

Bearing the foregoing in mind, the supposed ‘think-tank’ British Influence is most definitely misnamed.

First, we had David Hannay, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, former UK ambassador to the EU and UN, posing rhetorical questions on the website of British Influence that have already been answered, coupled with the fact that his answers to his own questions were economical with the actualité, to say the least. Lo and behold, also published by British Influence, is a speech by Oona King given at British Influence’s event Britain in Europe, 2015: Leading or leaving? As with Hannay’s article, so with King as this too contains so many examples of being economical with the actualité as to be laughable; and both are being passed off as ‘gospel’ – and so done with a ‘straight face’.

Purely my view, but I believe both are a disgrace to the idea of ‘Britishness’ where any idea of fair play and truthfulness is concerned – even perhaps their passports should be seized under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, as soon as it becomes law. After all, is not part of a nation’s security, its sovereignty – and are they not suggesting that that should be undermined?




When is a lie just an untruth?

A short but interesting article appears on the website of Prospect Magazine by A.C. Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities, the title of which is: Should it be illegal to tell lies in parliament? – and, by inference, whether such an act should be punishable in a court of law.

In differentiating twixt an untruth and a lie, Grayling maintains that a lie is a deliberate, conscious untruth, the intention of which is to mislead and manipulate; and in the case of the highest court in the land, the court of parliament; and that deliberate and intentional misleading of fellow legislators and the public at large is a profoundly serious matter.

Grayling poses two questions/examples when it may be necessary/acceptable to lie in Parliament:

One clear case might be when matters of national security are genuinely at stake, in such sensitive circumstances that even parliament cannot yet be told what is happening. Suppose an opposition MP asks a question directly relevant to those circumstances, and in reply a minister tells a conscious and deliberate lie. It might be that the lie is never discovered until government papers are opened to inspection decades later. Is this justifiable? In these circumstances the answer might well be Yes.

A second clear case is when ministers wish to do something that they know will meet serious opposition unless they tell a conscious lie that persuades others to give way. If what they wish to do is a matter of policy, choice or preference, rather than something justifiable on the kind of grounds just envisaged, then the lie is obviously unacceptable, and is the type of case where questions about sanctions arise.

For the sake of what follows, perhaps we can assume an untruth results in misleading the audience to which it is given and is due to a lack of knowledge about the subject matter; whereas a lie results in misleading the audience to which it is given, done knowingly – and invariably done for personal or political gain.

In his article Grayling states that there have been egregious examples of, what he terms, untruths told to parliament in recent times and in so doing citing the Iraq war. Others that immediately spring to mind are: Ted Heath (there will be no loss of sovereignty in our joining what was the EEC); the distortion of truth, or lie, contained in the Coalitions ‘manifesto’ about the recall of MPs; more recently Cameron’s distortion of truth on the matter of Norway being ‘governed by fax’.

Bearing in mind my definition between an untruth and a lie, in my mind it is beyond doubt that all the examples offered in the preceding paragraph were deliberate lies.

Another question arises, following Graying’s article: what is the difference between a lie offered to Parliament and a lie offered to the British people? In any event, where the lie is immediately recognised by the people they can do nothing about it for anything between one and five years – and by the time the people do have the opportunity to hold the politician to account; (a) it will have more than likely to have been forgotten and (b) the political class will do their utmost to ensure it has been forgotten.

Politicians are quick to apologise to the house for things that have ‘gone wrong on their watch’, probably/possibly without their knowledge. So why has Cameron not apologised for lying to the people on the Norway ‘governed by fax’ matter, especially when the dossier I handed to him showed that he had. Would not the ‘stock’  of any politician rise with the public where he/she to return and apologise, especially were it shown that he/she had been mis-briefed? As an aside, it may be recalled that in my response to Cameron’s ‘non-reply’ to the charges I made in my dossier I reminded him that for a politician to be called a liar was, I admitted, a serious matter; and that if he felt his integrity had been called into question, then perhaps he may wish to institute court proceedings. Needless to say, to date, nothing further has been heard.

The relationship between the political class and the people must be one based on truth and that must also be one of the basis for democracy to work for the benefit of all. Politicians are in the position whereby they can decide what is the truth, aided and abetted by the mainstream media. If we are to take Cameron’s statement at face value, made on the steps of Downing Street when he ‘assumed’ office then we still have the position whereby the tail still wags the dog – another reason why our current system of democracy is not fit for purpose.


Conflict of interests?

Katie Ghose is Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, an independent campaigning organisation, whose stated objective is working to champion the rights of voters and build a better democracy in Britain.

At the same time Katie Ghose has a history of failed attempts to become a Labour Member of Parliament – having failed in Stoke-on-Trent North, Brighton Kemptown and Grimsby; and it appears, from Twitter, now trying for York:

Richard Bridge @richardbridge7

Interesting to see @katieghose put her name in for #York #Labour PPC – high profile for sure but unconvinced right profile for #York

10:27 AM – 20 Jan 2015

 Katie Ghose’s partner is Andrew Harrop, the General Secretary of the Fabian Society: which begs the question how can the Electoral Reform Society be an independent campaigning organisation when its Chief Executive is a Labour supporter and a wanna-be Labour Member of Parliament?

Just asking………..

Afterthought: Not just where the Electoral Reform Society is concerned, look around you – and then, to coin a phrase, you do the maths.



The complex minds of politicians

It is an eternal question asked: do politicians have complex minds – even: do politician’s have minds. This is illustrated by an article which appears on Conservative Home, one authored by Charlotte Leslie who is Conservative MP for Bristol Northwest. Her article, which in effect is about free speech, is headed: Immmigration, NHS. And all the other subjects we are not meant to talk about.

On the subject of free speech Leslie writes:

Nowhere is the Religion of ‘Not Saying’ stronger than in politics. For years, The priests of this religion decreed to their congregation, the politicians, that ‘Thou shalt not talk about Immigration’. So we didn’t. But the facts happened around us. Our silence did not change the reality we wished to ignore. But then other people did talk about it. Then UKIP was born. And we all now acknowledge we should have been talking about it, and acting on it, a lot, lot earlier.

If politicians who claim the right to govern us – and in so doing decide to dictate that which we can and cannot say or do, have ‘paid court’ to the priests of the religion of ‘don’t talk about this, that or the other (the Third Sector?); then what exactly is the point of having – and paying for – a group of people that are supposed to govern us?

Turning to the NHS, Leslie writes:

Now it is the NHS at the heart of our sacred taboos – and heaven forfend if you sin and are fool-hardy enough to point out that the Emperor has no clothes: that a system designed in post-war England simply is not equipped to deal with the explosion in population, rocketing costs in ever advancing treatment, and an exponentially expanding elderly population with complex co-morbidities, coupled with a much greater ability to rescue infants from death who would previously have died, together with a generation with ever increasing expectations of having what we want ‘here’ and ‘now’.

Just who is it that has not prepared – and/or ignored – matters such as an explosion in population, rocketing costs in ever advancing treatment and an expanding elderly population which understandably will be making more call on their health service, if not our political class? Who is it that has created an expectation of the desire for ‘here’ and ‘now’, if not our political class? Our political class are all guilty of considering the NHS has the same status as a cow in Hindu religion; but then our political class will do anything to not offend a religion – think Muslims? Unless of course it is those Christians that believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman?

At the root of the dilemma of politicians like Charlotte Leslie is representative democracy – a system in which we are told politicians are elected to represent the views of their constituents. Why would any politician bother to represent the views of their constituents when the system is actually about their adhering to party policy at the insistence of their whips coupled with personal progression up the ‘ladder of power? I am not intimating that the wish to climb the ladder of power was the reason for her entering the world of the House of Commons, but surely she must understand my reasons for posing the question.

As an example of which let us consider another Member of Parliament who I have, in the past, criticised: Chloe Smith. From 2012:

Her voting record is 100 per cent loyal, and she doesn’t believe in creating artificial ideological divisions that she believes don’t really exist. “The government is going in the right direction, which means it gains my support and, crucially, that I’m proud to be both in government and a local MP. By supporting this government in the best interests of this country, I believe I’m also representing the best interests of my constituents and all those who voted Conservative. (Emphasis mine)

When did Chloe Smith ask her constituents whether, by supporting the government, she was actually representing her constituents? Who gave her permission to give ‘carte blanche’ to everything that the government proposed and did?

Aprpos my preceding article on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, in suppporting this Bill – which presumably Chloe Smith will do – is she representing the views of her constituency?

It is perhaps unfair to single out Chloe Smith, but unfortunately she is but endemic of our political class of all parties in that they will – with a few exceptions – toe the party line.

At the end of the day (to coin a phrase and with apologies to John Ward) either our political class – of which Charlotte Leslie is a member – stop weeping on our shoulder or ‘grow a pair’.

Until such time they do, perhaps they would do us all a favour and ‘zip it’!







NHS – No Hope Society?

As with freedom of speech – following events Charlie Hebdo – so the subject of the NHS has hardly failed to be discussed and written about; almost on a daily basis. (In fact Ed Miliband can’t stop himself talking and writing about it – together with mntion of ‘the few at the top’), Not to be outdone, we have Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer also joining in with his ‘take’ on the subject – countered somewhat with a different ‘take by Bill Cummings writing on the Spectator Coffee House blog.

This article by Rawnsley must be one of the most stupid, ill-thought-through pieces ever to appear in print. Of course the elderly may well use the health service more than any other section of our society – their bodies are reaching the end of their existence. Rawnsley would do well to remember that he too will eventually reach that stage and he too will no doubt be a ‘frequent user’. Blaming the elderly for the fact that our health service is in crisis leads one to question the number of elderly dealt with compared to the number of 18-24 year-olds who also use the same public service due to what may be called their childish wish to get ‘rat-arsed’ every Friday and Saturday night.

Neither is it fair of Rawnsley to lay the blame at the door of the elderly without apportioning blame to our political class who have known for decades that the elderly population has been steadily increasing – not forgetting of course that unlimited immigration has also placed additional requirements on not just the NHS but also other public services – and who appear not to have made provision for these factors.

The cynic in me says that if this piece is but a convoluted way to support Ed Miliband’s latest bandwagon of getting the young too vote, then all he need have written was: I support Ed Miliband’s ‘Get the young to vote’ campaign. This would have reduced the amount of crap we were required to read.

As cattle are considered sacred in world religions such as Hinduism, so with the Labour Party is the NHS considered sacred. We are reminded, ad infintum. that they invented it, but it is now, in its present form, well past its sell-by date and no longer fit for purpose. Of course, had politicians realised long ago that the NHS was to be an ever open hole into which public money would need to be poured, the NHS would not now be in the situation it is – and neither would we have to suffer the interminable political arguments about funding.

A simplistic view it may be but if every individual had to take out ‘health insurance’ it would have negated what can only be described as a mess today. As this informative piece by Civitas on the Swiss system of health provision shows; there is another way. I do not suggest that the Swiss system be ‘copied and pasted’ – it does have some negative aspects  – but even if it were we would not be in mess we are. Yes, it would take decades to filter through before public expenditure on our health service via taxation would fall, but for heavens sake: let us do ‘something’ now?

Reorganisation of our health service is but one matter that could and would be reformed by the adoption of The Harrogate Agenda – and until the latter is adopted it will mean, for sure, the NHS (No Hope Society) will be with us for eternity.







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