Tag Archive: Mail

Opt out – what opt out?

The Mail today reports that Chris Grayling is angry about a document produced by the European Commission suggesting that the Charter of Fundamental Rights should apply in all member states, the newspaper having informed us earlier in the article that the UK opted out of this charter in 1998.

It is disingenuous of the Mail to infer that the UK has an opt-out from this charter when no such opt-out exists – what the UK does have is a Protocol, Protocol 30. That the UK does not have an opt-out was confirmed by the last government when it wrote to the European Scrutiny Committee six years ago – Paragraph 57 of this document confirms that fact. 

Protocol or no protocol, it is a matter of fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights does apply here, but only when a court is dealing with something involving EU law. It can also be seen that as new EU laws are enacted an increasing number of matters will gradually come within the scope of EU law.

The Mail continues by quoting remarks made by Mr. Justice Mostyn of a case in which he was giving judgement. That which the Mail quotes is but one of selectivity, because what Mostyn actually said is contained in paragraph 10 of his judgement. Where the Charter of Fundamental Rights is concerned viz-a-viz the European Convention on Human Rights, it is also worth reading paragraph 12 of his judgement.

It must be borne in mind that a great deal of what has been written about this Charter stems from the Assises de la Justice conference held on 21/22 November this year, especially talk about removing some or all of the limitations of article 51 of the charter. Opinion on this has come from, for example, Hungary; and which can be read here.

What we have here is another non-story involving old information being presented as news – and incorrectly at that. But then, in respect of the last part of the preceding sentence, why are we not surprised.

My acknowledgement to Carl Gardner (Head of Legal) whose reasoned opinion can be found here.


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2013
12/27

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David's Musings

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Racial Programming (2)

Following on from the preceding post, I am drawn to an article in the Mail, one which quotes the words of Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

When considering the article linked to above, one is forced to query how it differs from another, one admirably commented upon, but a few months ago, by Richard North about ‘L’affaire Raquel Rolnik‘ – an article which originates from the same source of ‘news’ as does this latest article.

Don’t you just love – and does it not tug at your heart-strings – the phrase: undermine the longer-term prospects for integration of such persons and prove detrimental to social cohesion? How 1984-esque can one get where thought control is concerned? One has to ask once more: is it not the intention of ‘those in power’ – the majority of whom we do not elect; and when we do elect them we seem to forget insisting that they do that which we wish – to eradicate the nation state, to ‘kill’ any sense of national pride, any sense of ‘belonging’?

I have to apologise to readers in that I made a serious error in the preceding post when I referred to conditioning of the people. In view of an article brought to my attention by Ian Parker Joseph, I should of course have referred to ‘control of the people’.

People, you need to recognise – and quickly – that there are ‘dark forces’ at work; that unless you ‘stand up’ and fight those forces, your lives will no longer be yours.

The choice is yours – I suggest you do not waste that choice!

 

 

 

 


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2013
09/15

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David's Musings

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The Mail ‘plants’ its foot in its mouth (again)

I spotted this article in the Mail earlier but having been continuing the decorating of my flat all day I have only just got round to putting fingers to keyboard. Once again great minds think alike, consequently I note that Richard North, EUReferendum, has written about the background to this latest Brussels scare.

From the European Commission (Agriculture and Rural Development) we learn about live plants and floriculture products include live trees, shrubs and bushes and other goods commonly supplied by nursery gardeners or florists for planting or ornamental use. The sector is integrated in the single Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets.

A system for the protection of plant variety rights has been established by Community legislation. The system allows intellectual property rights, valid throughout the Community, to be granted for plant varieties and the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) implements and applies this scheme. From their website we can access the press release, a Citizens Summary and the draft Regulation.

The EU proposal to which the Mail writes is in fact called: The Plant Reproductive Material Law – and do note that it will be a Regulation, not a Directive, which means that it will have to be introduced into our National law without any alterations, goldplating, etc – and a handy Q&A paper has been produced by our Masters in Brussels.

Where the Mail article is concerned, Valerie Elliott would seem to be attempting to whip up a storm; and in this regard I would refer readers to point 9 of the aforementioned Q&A document, from which I quote:

Of course the requirements for the registration of traditional varieties are much more flexible, meaning that such varieties will not have to be tested for being “DUS” (distinct, uniform and stable). Their registration will be possible on the mere basis of a description indicating their characteristics (“officially recognised description” based on e.g.; historical data or practical knowledge) and against reduced fees. Such a provision will ensure official recording and maintenance of those varieties, with very low costs or administrative burdens.

Added to which it is worth noting point 11:

Material marketed in small quantities by non-professionals or by micro-enterprises (‘niche market material’) will be exempted from the registration obligation. This exemption concerns in principle the marketing of traditional varieties or any other type of material at a small scale, and it is a proportionate requirement for small scale business.

It is also worth noting point 14 in this Q&A paper which I will not quote due to its length.

As an aside, I am not surprised to note that it is managed to get in a plug for climate change in point 16 – but I digress.

Turning to the Draft Regulation, while it is written in such a manner (as they all are) as to cause confusion, there are so many ‘caveats’ in respect of what may be termed ‘native plants’ that methinks Valerie Elliott and the Mail have not the slightest idea of the difference twixt homogeneous and heterogeneous – but again I digress.

Of course this Draft Regulation is but part of the European Union’s implementation of the Single Market and providing a level playing field for all – and, needless to say, having already legislated in this area, it is now an EU Competence – and so the continuing loss of sovereignty continues.

While it is welcome that our media bring to our attention ‘matters EU’ it is a matter of regret that they seem to go for ‘shock/horror’ stories that actually do not present the actualité. As one, among many, who will not accept the interference by the EU in our way of life and pursuits, it is a great pity that Valerie Elliott and the Mail – and the ‘great and the good’ to whom she quotes – appear to not know about that which they pontificate. Such ‘half-arsed’ articles and comments do not further the anti-EU case and, in fact, by presenting ‘skewed’ information only lend yet more ammunition to our opponents.

Just saying………

 

 

 

 

 


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Obfuscation, par exellence, by Carswell and Farage

As Richard North notes, the Telegraph and Mail have  ”gone big” on the story that the EU is advertising vacancies in the UK and that UK firms can receive payments for each such worker from the EU that they hire. What is not surprising is that, as Richard North notes, this is not news as it has been on-going for some time.

What should be cause for concern is not that the Press has just picked-up on this matter, nor that they have not done their research – but that those who wish to govern us either do not know the facts themselves or, maybe more likely, do know but don’t wish us to know.

Instead we have a Government Minister, Nigel Farage and even Douglas Carswell, all ignoring the EU legislation involved – but then what would one expect from any member of the Rent-A-Quote-Mob whose only interest, it would seem, is to get their name in print.

It is extremely sad, perplexing, while being extremely discourteous to those whose votes he seeks, that the the Leader of the only party promising to cease this country’s membership of the EU does not – or cannot – be open and honest. One has to ask if that Leader cannot be open and honest about this matter, what else has he not been open and honest about. He is quoted on his party’s website saying:

“The UK Government keep passing the buck, making false promises and essentially lying to the British people. They should hang their heads in shame. I am utterly astonished and above all utterly disgusted.”

Mr. Farage; you too should hang your head in shame and we too are utterly astonished and above all utterly disgusted with your response.

If making false promises and lying to the British people is an inherent characteristic of a politician, one also has to ask how then can we trust Farage’s promises? As far as I am concerned Farage has lost all credibility – if he had any in the first place. The people I truly feel sorry for are those who have placed their trust in Nigel Farage and who hang on his every word.

Perhaps, like Hannan and Carsell, Nigel Farage is a Judas Goat?


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Wanda Maddocks

I notice that Richard North, EUReferendum, has posted on the story involving this lady, Wanda Maddocks, following an article by Autonomous Mind some hours earlier. The fact that there is no link to the original article, especially from one who believes that “linkage” is an important element in blogging, is a tad worrying – but I digress.

“Secret courts” are nothing new, especially where child protection cases are concerned, as Christopher Booker invariably reports in his regular Sunday Telegraph column. It is not unusual in such courts that parents are unable to question the “evidence” produced by local authorities and reporting restrictions on such courts are commonplace.

And all this is enacted by our “representatives” without any recourse to what we think should happen is but an example of why representative democracy is “shot to hell”.

Just saying……………….


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The mad led by the mad

There are two articles in today’s papers worth reading; one by Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph and the other by Christopher Booker in the Mail.

Charles Moore makes the point that everything has changed, yet we still have the same old politicians in place. Were politics like a commercial enterprise these politicians would have been made redundant for reasons of incompetence – and as a reference is usually required when applying for a job, their chances of one from us, their previous employer, would logically be zilch. One has only to read Christopher Booker’s Saturday Essay to wonder at the mentality of those who would impose on the rest of us such a stupid ideology as that of environmentalism and the eye-watering costs that it imposes on us.

So why do we, who are becoming increasingly annoyed, continue to employ those who are seemingly short of a brain cell or two?

Just asking……………..

 

 


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2013
03/03

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David's Musings

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Tories/Spotify

Douglas Carswell has an article in the Mail today, one to which he links on a post which appears on his blog.

Currently, with our present system of democracy and politics, political parties fight for territory of a land which is not theirs, in order to rule it – and one has only to view the first picture in the Mail article to view two people obviously so pleased with themselves that they have “conquered” one small section of that land.

In his article and extrapolated on his blog, Carswell likens his party – and how that party could win the hearts and minds of the populace – with Spotify. He would like his party to become like Spotify. If only – at least with Spotify we can ignore it completely if we wish to; something which, unfortunately, we cannot do with his party or any other party.

Carswell makes the point that on Spotify one can select that which they want, they don’t have to buy the whole package, ie the cd. Now were that true of party politics – how many of us would have opted into funding Overseas Aid I wonder, had we not been forced to.

With this idea, what Carswell is attempting to do is conflate representative democracy with the principles of direct democracy – and as I have said many times, you cannot mix oil and water. Of course, what you can do is add an emulsifier to the mixture and thus create something different, which is what is achieved by the introduction of The Harrogate Agenda with its idea of  combining direct democracy with referism.

Later, in his post, Carswell lists suggestions whereby it might be possible to “Spotify” his party – but note how often the word “allow” occurs. Why should we be forced to use a political party to bring about change? Why cannot we do that for ourselves? Why should only one class of membership be allowed to determine party policy? More importantly, why should we be subjected to the policy of any party? Immediately Carswell demonstrates that he wishes to maintain control of the agenda – the less people that can have a say, the more control he and his political colleagues have.

Like many, on first sight of Carswell and Cameron, I was hopeful of change – and like many, too soon I noticed the similarity in their initials. Like a leopard, which never changes its spots and is renowned for looking for an  easy kill, politicians adhering to this outdated form of representative democracy are looking for an easy kill – and we, the people, are that easy kill.

If we have the ability to cage leopards, surely we can cage politicians and limit the ground over which they may roam?

Just asking……..

 


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A very British coup?

I wonder how many readers of this article in the Mail by Simon Walters actually thought beyond that which they read. Whether the story is based on fact as alleged, or Walters has taken up writing fiction, matters not.

When one takes into account the supposed “charisma” of party leaders – and at this point I digress slightly to remind readers that we get opinion polls showing which party leader is best trusted to lead the country – it is possible to see that a “presidential element” enters any general election. This immediately begs the question that if the public are to be asked who they consider to be the most trusted leader, then should the public not elect that person?

Let us look at how David Cameron and Ed Miliband achieved the position of leaders of their respective parties. Cameron was chosen by party members and his own MPs; Miliband was chosen by party members, his MPs and trade unionists. In the case of Miliband, being a believer in wealth distribution is no doubt why the trade union votes swung the election in his favour.

The present occupier of the office of prime minister, David Cameron, gained office on the back of 33,973 votes in the 2010 general election; all those votes being cast in his constituency of Witney, which has a total of electorate of 78,220. Achieving the support of 43.4 percent of the Witney electorate, Mr Cameron did not even achieve a majority in his own locality. The same can be said of the person next hoping to attain the office of prime minister, namely Ed Miliband. He achieved 19,673 votes in the constituency of Doncaster North from a total electorate of 72,000+, of which only 41,483 (57%) bothered to turn out. Consequently, as can be seen, neither did Ed Miliband achieve a majority in his own locality. Consider also that Cameron holds office based on just 10,703,654 Conservative votes, from an electorate of 45,844,691, representing only 36% of the votes cast and less than a quarter (23%) of the electorate – a set of statistics, I would suggest, that will not differ much from those achieved by Miliband if he should be successful at the 2015 general election.

Bearing in mind that the electorate only get to choose their “government” once every five years; that once chosen we have no further power over them during their tenure of office; and that during that period and for the reason stated, said “government” and leader can do very much whatever the hell they want, did not Cameron exercise a coup? Are not Miliband and Johnson, each in their own way, attempting a similar coup?

So, as we can see, someone gets themselves elected to the position of party leader. gets elected as an MP and thus becomes prime minister, without at any stage in the process gaining a majority not just in the country but even in his/her own locality. That cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called democracy – it is far more akin, bearing in mind the content of the preceding paragraph, to a dictatorial coup.

One of the greatest deficits in representative democracy is the fact that there is no separation twixt that of the legislature and the executive. Consider: members of the ministerial team – the core of the executive – are appointed either from MPs in the House of Commons, from the Lords, or, not uncommonly, are appointed to the Lords for the purpose of making them ministers. The use of the Commons as the recruitment source for most of the ministers has a highly corrosive effect on the institution. Although the main functions of parliament should be scrutiny of the executive and a check on its power, all MPs who have ministerial or secretarial positions hold dual roles as members of the executive and the legislature; a situation which promptly means that there is a conflict of interest. Typically, there are around 140 ministers, whips and other office-holders in theCommons. . known as the “payroll vote” – people who are forced to support the government in divisions or suffer loss of “office”, who will therefore defend its policies and actions. But the problem is far worse than this because we can then add the Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) and the “political ladder climbers” who have hopes of advancement but have not yet been promoted, whereupon the number climbs to 200 or so on the government benches who have no intention of holding the government to account.

I would venture the suggestion also that a reasonable number of those who enter Parliament have no real interest other than pursuing the career they have chosen – all they wish to do is climb up the ladder in order to achieve more and more power over their fellow man, with an eye on future lucrative earnings once they tire of parliamentary life.

If we are to correct that deficit in our democracy then it must follow that a member of the executive cannot be a member of the legislature. If we are to have true democracy, the person hoping to become prime minister must stand for election not just in his/her constituency, but nationwide. If we are to have true democracy, those wishing to stand for parliament must first be selected as a candidate by all the voters of the constituency in which they wish to stand; thus to form a “pool” from which an MP can be chosen.

The foregoing is but a brief outline behind the reasoning of Demand #3 of the Harrogate Agenda. Lets face it; if we are going to have democracy then let us have it – and not that which passes as such under the misnomer of representative democracy.

 


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Local authority government – what government?

Richard North, EUReferendum, links to an article in the Mail, one apparently co-authored by him, which deals with the reported cuts being suffered by local authorities which contrasts with the fact that spending by said authorities has increased.

Richard North also links to the 6 Demands of the Harrogate Agenda; consequently it is worth expanding on how those Demands would effect the shambles that presently we know as local government. On the basis that it is the first demand of the Harrogate Agenda that it is the people that are sovereign it is not just local government that is being discussed here, but democracy per se. The vast majority of that which follows is taken from a pamphlet “still in the making”.

In Britain, the very idea that we have local democracy is a fiction. We do not. What we do have is a local government system comprised of central government agencies, the tasks of which are to administer centrally-defined law at a local level. Local government units have no independent existence or powers. They are defined through the medium of Acts of Parliament. They owe their existence,
their boundaries and their powers to the diktats of central government. They are
funded primarily from the centre and the nature of monies which are collected
locally are directed by the centre, as well as the amounts and terms of
collection.

This, by any definition, is a top-down society, and one which has become
increasingly so over time. Therefore, local elections are little more than
extended opinion polls on the performance of central government. There is no
point in getting excited over the election of local officials when almost the
entire extent of their powers is determined by national law. Understandably, therefore, “reform” of local government becomes necessary, although the very idea is unrealistic. How can you reform something you do not have? We need to build from scratch, from the ground up, replacing the centrally dominated agencies with structures, which are truly local. We need structures, which can be considered government in the proper sense of the word, under the proper democratic control of their people.

To that effect, the aim must be no less than to reverse the entire structure of the British state. Instead of the top-down construct, we need to focus locally and create structures from the bottom-up. This is not “localism” in the sense proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, or anything like “The Plan” offered by Conservatives Daniel Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP. Those options simple allow for a small amount of power to be handed down, or shared, without changing anything fundamental. The idea of central government condescending to hand down some tiny fraction of its power, under carefully controlled conditions, ready to claw it back at a moment’s notice is not a transfer of power – it is simply the granting of a conditional license.

What is bring proposed, therefore, is nothing short of a bloodless revolution. The fundamental building blocks of our democracy become independent local government units which owe their existence not to central government but to
the people who live within their boundaries. To achieve this, the fundamental status of local government must change. Instead of being statutory bodies – i.e., defined by statute, from which they derive their powers, under the control of central government – they become constitutional entities. Their existence, powers and revenue-raising capabilities are defined by the people via the medium of a constitution, approved by a referendum.

The idea is that these local authorities – which could be counties, cities or the
former county boroughs – become legislatures is their own right, making laws
to cover the areas within their competence, applicable within their boundaries.
As local councils once made by-laws, our county units would be able to make
laws in their own right.

Some might think that such local authorities are too small to become
legislatures, but size should not be an issue. Few people realise, for instance,
how small Iceland is, in population terms. With 313,000 souls, it boasts fewer
people than the London Borough of Croydon (363,000) and very substantially
less than the Metropolitan District of Bradford (501,000). Yet Iceland is a sovereign nation. It has its own government, its own parliament, its own laws, its police and even its own fishing policy and navy to enforce it. Despite its small size, the country does tolerably well, with a GDP of $12.57 billion (146th in the world) and a GDP per capita of $38,500, the 24th highest in the global league (higher than the UK’s $36,600, the 33rd highest). It also has its own local government, with 59 local municipalities The idea then that much larger units of population in the UK need a beneficent central government to create all their laws, to control virtually everything they are permitted to do, to fund them and even define their boundaries and their very existence is, frankly, absurd. Furthermore, we tolerate this situation, and even call it democracy. That is even more absurd.

What is needed are units with populations in the order of 3-500,000, making up
between 150-200 primary areas in the UK. Each should be responsible for most
of their own government, with their own constitutions, legislatures, laws and
revenues. Thus, it is proposed our local governments structures should assume
many of the duties currently undertaken by the state. Those might include such
things as the determination and payment of social security and unemployment
benefits – the provision of health services currently administered by the NHS.
It follows that all national laws covering subjects which would then fall within
the remit of local government should become local laws. The local legislatures
should be able to re-enact them if so desired, or they can be repealed or revised.
Left to central government would be foreign policy and relations, including the
framing of international law and making treaties with other nations. We would
see central government take a hand in making maritime law and deal with
matters of national security and defence. In what would effectively become a
federal-style body, central government would also concern itself with cross-
county-border crime and serious, organised crime.

There then comes the inevitable question of who pays, and more particularly
how. Control of taxation is at the heart of true localism, to which effect it is proposed that those local governments should become the primary tax collection
bodies. It is also envisaged that they collect most if not all taxes from people
and enterprises within their borders. Instead of the system where only a fraction of their income is collected locally via Council Tax and charges, with the balance made up from subsidies from the centre, local authorities would collect all taxes. They would deduct their income from them, becoming financially self-sufficient. Thus, they would not only collect Council Tax, but income tax, sales taxes, corporation taxes and most other taxes currently collected by the centre. After they had taken what they needed to fund their own operations, they would remit the balances to central government.

By this means, rather than the centre subsidising local government, the
relationship would be reversed. Equity would be achieved by having poorer
authorities remitting less, per capita, to the centre, and the richer authorities,
like the City of London, would pay more. The funding would be managed on
the same basis as the precepts currently collected locally, from which are paid
the police, fire services and transport authorities. Only in extreme emergencies
would we expect any transfers of funds from centre to local authorities, such as
in the case of a major natural disaster.

When local taxation prevails, allied with local democracy, there is every
opportunity for variable rates and real tax-competition between local authority
areas. That in itself could result in something we have never had in this country
– a downward pressure on taxation. This is the “small government” which so many people profess to want, but even then – despite the local units being constitutional bodies – that does not guarantee freedom from central government interference. We see in the United States constant tension between federal and state governments, and the encroachment of the centre. Here, as always, the currency of power is money. The federal government, with its own vast income stream – far larger than state revenues – is able to bribe States with cash inducements or bludgeon them by withholding cash.

The answer, therefore, must be to control the flow of money. The centre should
have no (or very limited) taxation powers. Nor should it be allowed to borrow
to finance a deficit, except in very exceptional circumstances, and only with the
explicit permission of the people. It must not be able to bribe its way to power.
Taking in for the moment the idea of Referism (about which more follows later in this post), we then see budgets at local and central levels controlled by annual
referendums, firmly limiting the expansionary tendencies of all governments.
What is more, there is an important side-effect: Westminster MPs become even
less important than they are now, while democratic representation at local level
becomes more important. In some respects, this also solves some of problems we have with MPs. One might expect seats to be apportioned on a county basis, with approximately one per 120,000 head of population. The boundaries would be fixed. As population varied, so would the number of MPs, keeping constituencies wholly within the bounds of specific local authority areas.

The reckoning should be, incidentally, based on population rather than
electorate, as our MPs should be representing the interest of all of their
constituents, not just those who can vote. This ratio gives a House of Commons
roughly the same size as it is at present. Some might argue that, with a reduced workload, fewer MPs would be needed, with a ratio of perhaps 200,000 or more for each representative, possibly stretching to one per 500,000 head of population. Where the United States House of Representatives manages to make do with 435 voting members, our House of Commons might be able to reduce itself to less than 300, saving considerable expense. We might expect numbers in the House of Lords to be proportionately reduced – with perhaps only a hundred or so working members needed.

Details of how and under what conditions MPs (and members of the upper
house) are selected might be left to the electors of the county, embodied in each
local constitution and implemented by the local legislatures. After all, if we are
to have localism, then the terms and conditions governing the employment of
our representatives should be decided locally. We could also envisage a situation where MPs are no longer paid from central funds, but by their counties. It would be for the people of each county to decide how much their representatives were paid, how much should be allowed by way of expenses, and how they should be held accountable. If one area wanted to introduce a method of MP recall, that would be up to them. Thus do we see democracy closer to the people, with government – local and national – under the direct control of the people. When you think about it, anything else isn’t democracy at all.

Earlier the word “Referism” was mentioned and in this respect it brings to the fore Demand #5 of the Harrogate Agenda which stipulates that no taxes should be raised nor any money spent without authorization. Referism is a political philosophy which states that, in the relationship between the British people and their governments, the people should be in control. The state is the servant not the master. Control is primarily achieved by submitting annual state budgets to the people for approval, via referendums. The catch phrase is: “it’s our money and we decide”. Governments are thereby forced to refer to the people for their funding, hence the term “Referism”.

At the heart of power is always money. That is how parliament emerged as a
force in the land, going as far back as 1215 when the tenants-in-chief secured
the first draft of the Magna Carta from King John. But the concession that
more than anything else reduced the power of the king was the principle that the
king might not levy or collect any taxes (except the feudal taxes to which they
were hitherto accustomed), save with the consent of his royal council. He who
controls the money controls the King. Thus, the “Council” gradually developed
into a parliament and thence, in effect, became the King. The principle of financial control survives to this day. The executive (the former king) must refer to parliament each year for approval of its budget. Without that, it runs out of money. Our problem – and the nub of all our problems – is that this process has become an empty ritual. No parliament has rejected a budget in living memory, and none is likely to do so. Each year we see the government of the day pretending to ask parliament for money, and we have to watch the empty charade of approval being given – only then to see vast amounts being spent on things of which the majority of us do not approve. Overseas aid is a classic example, where public approval would doubtless be withheld. The ritual, therefore, must turn back into substance, with real control over the annual budget. The politicians cannot be trusted to discharge this duty. They have their fingers in the till and a vested interest in maintaining high levels of expenditure. The power must go to the people who pay the bills – us.

The means by which this must be achieved is through an annual referendum.
The budget must, each year, be submitted to the people for approval, coming
into force only once approved. The politicians must make their case, put their
arguments, and then ask us for money … and they have to say please. We, the
people, decide whether they get it. We, the people, have the power to say no.
In discussions about this process, however, the great fear most often expressed
is that people would simply vote themselves more money. However, the
limited experience that we have of referendums about taxation levels suggests
otherwise.

In February 2001, for instance, Labour-controlled Bristol City Council held a
referendum on its Council Tax, asking voters whether they preferred to increase
it by two, four or six percent, or to freeze it at then current levels. Much to the
chagrin of the Council, more than half the voters opted for a freeze. Sentiment
was such that, had a reduction been on offer, that would have been the preferred
choice. Of more than 115,000 people taking part in this referendum – the turnout
significantly higher than at local elections – 61,664 voted for no rise, 11,962 for
a two percent rise, 20,829 for a four and 19,841 for a six percent rise. Thus, the
total of those voting for raised taxation, at 51,732, was outnumbered by those
who wanted to freeze the budget.

Nor was Bristol on its own. The Council was just beaten to the punch by the
London Borough of Croydon, which on 14 February 2001 asked its 235,000
registered electors to decide whether Council Tax should be increased by two
percent (in real terms, an effective freeze), 3.5 percent, or five percent. Council
tenants also voted on whether their rents should be increased, against an offer of
improved services. Then, 56 percent of the voters opted for the lowest possible rise. A total of 80,383 voted, a 34.2 percent turnout. Thirty-two percent voted for the 3.5 percent increase and a mere five percent went for the five percent hike. Of the 4,190 council tenants responding to the rents referendum (24.1 percent turnout), just over 58 percent voted for a rent freeze, keeping average rents at £65 a week. On offer to the tenants had been a community patrol service, community grants, money advice and debt counselling services – all of which were rejected. Croydon was to repeat the experiment the following year, with 74 percent of the taxpayers who voted opting for the lowest rise on offer, at 3.65 percent, on a 35 percent turnout.

Interestingly, this experiment in direct democracy had started in 1999, devised
as a means of protecting Council Taxpayers in England from unwanted
excessive increases set by billing authorities. At the time, the Department for
Communities and Local Government acknowledged that this was taking power
away from central government and giving it to local people. Another participant was Milton Keynes, which put to its voters the choice of three levels of increase, ranging from five to 15 percent. Residents were able to vote by post or telephone for their chosen option. A 9.8 percent rise would keep core spending at the same level, while the five percent increase would have meant cuts in the core budget. A 15 percent increase would have provided extra revenue. Forty-six percent of those who voted opted for the 9.8 percent rise, thirty percent for the five percent increase and twenty-four percent for the 15 percent hike. The turnout was 45 percent. Council leader Kevin Wilson illustrated the point of the exercise with a
comment to the BBC, telling it that: “The referendum gave the people an
opportunity to be masters rather than servants”, declaring that the referendum
had succeeded in its aim of reconnecting people with local government and
giving public backing for council tax rises.

Buoyed by the result the following year, Bristol announced that the public
would get a chance to vote on their council tax levels, “under plans drawn up to
tackle voter apathy”. The scheme had the backing of government ministers and,
if the public had responded “positively”, the plan was to repeat referendums
across the country. Clearly, the response was not “positive” enough. At the
time, The Independent newspaper was to lament that, “in a victory for the
maxim that people vote with their wallets, the results showed few people in
favour of extra spending”. “Voters of Bristol pick school cuts over taxes”, it
headlined. The Bristol experiment was not repeated by Labour.

What the experiments showed, however, was that there was some enthusiasm
for voting on budgets – even though there seemed to have been very limited
local and national media exposure. And in Croydon, voters were not deterred by
votes in successive years – turnout increasing marginally on the second year.
The experiments also demonstrated that electorates are capable of dealing with
multi-choice votes, a capability that gives much more flexibility than having to
stick to a straight “yes-no” vote. Furthermore, there seems to be a willingness
amongst the voters to block expenditure. Thus, fears that the electorate will
necessarily vote for more spending might be overblown. Following the Labour defeat in the 2010 election, the issue was taken up by the Conservatives. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles declared that by 2012 he wanted people to be able to reject Council Tax levels “if they exceed a ceiling agreed annually by MPs”, by voting on them in referendums.

This was based on a promise made in 2007, whence Pickles called the plan a
“radical extension of direct democracy”. It was not. Instead, it was a
considerably watered-down version of the earlier referendums – which
themselves did not allow for outright vetoes. Nor was there any suggestion that
they should apply to central government spending. Pickles averred that he was
“in favour of local people making local decisions”, and also said he wanted to
reverse the presumption that central government knew best when it came to
deciding local priorities. “Let the people decide”, he went on to say – but only
on local issues. While this was a welcome development, Referism goes much further than a simple veto on any increase on Council Tax. Not only does it also apply nationally as well as locally, it gives voters the power to force down budgets, with the ultimate power of veto if the government does not come into line. It is also able to control spending. A weak block on a preset level of increase is merely a sop, and does nothing to redress the power deficit.

As for costs of the referendums, the Bristol events cost £120,000 each, while
Milton Keynes estimated £150,000. Tower Hamlets Council has estimated that a standalone referendum might cost up to £250,000 but, if combined with
council elections, the additional cost was estimated at around £70,000.
Translated nationally, the total cost of a referendum would be between £30-60
million.

However, it was the late Sandy Rham, an IT expert and founder of the EU
Referendum blog forum, who suggested that the software on current lottery
terminals could be adapted to allow their use as voting terminals. A system that
handles £6.5 billion in annual sales could very easily handle 40 million or so
votes in a referendum. Add an online facility and you have a quick, cheap
system of conducting referendums. Such a system is not only desirable but also
necessary to minimise costs and disruption. Furthermore, Swiss and Californian practises could be adopted, where – if need be – the voting on two of more referendums could be combined, perhaps to fall in the same period as the annual budget referendum. There is no reason why referendums should be time-consuming or expensive.

What then concerns doubters is that, should the people fully exert their power,
government might be deprived of funds altogether. But there is nothing to
prevent there being safeguards to prevent this – in the short-term, at least.
There should be no problem in having a fixed date for a referendum well before
the financial year for which each budget applied. If a budget was then rejected,
there should be enough time for governments to resubmit, and again seek
approval. If a budget was again rejected, and it was too late to resubmit before
the start of a financial year, there could – for example – be a system where
permitted income stood at eighty percent of the previous year’s figure, with
adjustments made once a budget was approved.

In the USA however, if Congress does not eventually approve the budget, the
administration can no longer pay its bills. That tends to concentrate minds. In
the case of Referism, the people could stop the money, giving them a
continuous power. By contrast, a one-off referendum, agreed (or not) by the
government, on a grace and favour basis for its own tactical advantage, is to
concede power to the government. We, the people, still have to ask the
government for a referendum. When there is an annual referendum as of right,
power resides with the people.

Without this power, it is hard to accept that we have anything that approaches
democracy. As it stands, both at local and central level, the politicians decide
how much they are going to spend, and how much we are to pay them. We are
never consulted, and have no means directly of affecting their decisions. The
way the system is supposed to work is that, if we disagree with the decisions
taken, we hold our elected representatives to account at elections – i.e., after the
event. But can anyone really assert that the election process is any barrier to the
ever-increasing government expenditure and control?

Reverting to the article by Christopher Booker – and having read the above – would you not agree that if we are to be “fleeced”, whether by national or local government matters not, we the people should be able to decide such?


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Sunday “Skewage”

Yet still there are those in the media who feel they have something to contribute to the aftermath of “that speech” – and still the same old, tired, arguments are aired which continue the process of misinforming the electorate. In today’s papers are articles by Janet Daley (Telegraph); Tony Blair (Mail); Andrew Rawnsley (Observer); John Rentoul (Independent); David Miliband (Telegraph); and Nigel Farage (Mail).

Daley’s piece is a contrast twixt the messsages of Obama and Cameron – and as the outlook for this country is black enough without ploughing through her opinions on the problems America is currently experiencing, I propose we disregard those and concentrate on her opinion of Cameron and his speech. She is another who it appears has swallowed hook, line and sinker the Norway meme as she too is another who believes that Cameron’s speech was “eloquently argued, irresistibly persuasive to British ears, and logically faultless”. Logically faultless was it, Janet? One can only urge her to consult a dictionary on the meaning of those last two words. Writing that Cameron has a dream of the European Union as an open, flexible, freely diverse fellowship of nation states, each of them democratically accountable to its own electorate, and all of them able to cooperate in whatever ways suited their individual needs at any given time – which is what we all thought we would have, ie a common market – Daley continues:

“But does he not appreciate that this is the very antithesis of the founding principle of the EU? That its deliberate object was to curtail the power of its separate member states and the dangerous impulses of their volatile electorates, whose inclinations had a tendency to end in mass murder? It is not a travesty of the European project to say that it was a conspiracy of the European elites against their own peoples: it is the literal truth. Of course, the EU, with its unelected centralised governing bodies, overrides the democratic wishes of the nation states. That’s the whole point. This was a post-war French and German idea, devised to prevent any possibility of the hideous conflicts that devastated the continent during the last century. Its imperatives – the irreversible political integration of member states, a guarantee that national governments could never again go rogue, and the disempowering of electorates – arose directly from the 20th-century experience of criminal national leaders. The nation state, driven by the will of its own people, had been the demonic enemy of peace and the EU would put an end to it, once and for all.”

One might question the logic of the first part of that extract on two points: (a) were not the dangerous impulses of volatile electorates that had a tendency to end in mass murder not formed and directed by politicians; and (b) might not this time round the objects of said mass murder, rather than being the people, be the politicians? Leaving that aside, the remainder of Daley’s comments can only show that Cameron’s dream is totally unrealisable, As I and others have written, almost to the point of exhaustion, were one power to be returned to one member state it would start an avalanche of similar requests resulting in the end of the “project” – and those behind said “project” will never allow that to happen.

Readers will forgive me if I gloss over the offering of Tony Blair as it is what one would expect. Digressing again, someone wrote recently that Blair can never say or write something without forgetting that he is no longer addressing the House of Commons – very true that.

Andrew Rawnsley’s offering is long and while being a summary of what has already been said by others, does repeat one or two points worth consideration, but in castigating Cameron for a speech at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons, he writes:

“David Cameron has taken a great leap into the dark, which would not be so serious if he were not making his country jump with him.”

Er, when any Prime Minister of this country, because of the dictatorial aspects encapsulated in our present system of democracy, says jump, regardless of the subject, does not the country have to jump with them?

John Rentoul, in his offering, castigates MilibandE while praising Blair – which is hardly a surprise, Rentoul being one of the latter’s sycophants – explaining that Blair has nothing to fear about opinion polls nor that which he has previously said. No, the only thing Blair has to worry about is what those that can crown him President of the EU actually think of him.

David Miliband on the other hand (just love the picture) offers what may be termed a typical Europhile view; for example, maintaining that under the Lisbon Treaty national parliaments are more able to become “engaged” with the EU – yet forgets to mention that national parliaments are “handcuffed” in that EU law has primacy over national law, even national constitutional law. Reminding Cameron that any attempt to rewrite the commitment for “ever closer union” may as well be filed in the bin immediately, he continues with his own version of Euro-FUD by threatening that were the UK to cease EU membership we would be seen as a “fringe irritant” of Europe. Besides a tad of “spin” and thus informing us that EU membership only costs us £1 per week, each, MiilibandD then perpetuates Cameron’s lie about Norway but arguing from the point that we help write the rules of the single market – no, “we” don’t, but Norway does.

Finally we come to the offering by Nigel Farage – where to start? He also castigates MilibandE for not taking the opportunity of demanding the promised referendum now – no “ifs”, no “buts” and continues that he (Farage) considers this to be a political failure on Labour’s part and also a betrayal of their core voters. One can only counter by asking was Farage’s error not to criticise Cameron for his “Norway lie” a political failure and also a betrayal of his and his party’s core voters? Praising his party’s performances in Rotherham and Barnsley, Nigel Farage forget to mention that there were a lot of people who could not be bother to make their voices heard in the belief that all policial parties are the same. Suggesting that we need to sort out the bread and butter of UK politics, it is perhaps too much to expect a politician, especially one who considers himself a libertarian, to start with our system of representative democracy on which all political parties “feed”.

When considering the articles mentioned above – and those that have gone before – one can only ask when, oh when, will other journalists join Christopher Booker in providing us with reasoned, informative articles. When will the media, which is self-flagellating in order to prove that they are a free and fair press, be prepared to give air and paper time to those bloggers – and “the man in the street” – who disagree with “accepted opinion”? One can but repeat the question: how can the British people vote with any confidence and knowledge in what is a referendum about this country’s sovereignty and the right to self-government, the right of the people to decide their own future, when politicians and media lie to us?

As an afterthought, I leave it to readers if they wish to omit the letter “k” from the word “skewage” when considering the media output to which I refer.

 


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