The fish is rotting from the head down

To paraphrase two characters in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, Hamlet himself and Marcellus, the United Kingdom is “an unweeded garden” of “things rank and gross in nature” and that “something is rotten in the state of the United Kingdom”.

If the opinion polls are to be believed and there were a general election today, Ed Miliband would be Prime Minister and Ed Balls would be Chancellor of the Exchequer. These two politicians are both culpable when we consider the dire financial straits in which the United Kingdom was left after their terms in government; the former through “collective cabinet responsibility” and the latter as the architect of much of what went wrong.

In his post of yesterday Richard North, EUReferendum, stated a consensus is building in that the House of Commons is a flawed institution – which it undoubted is because while the members of the House are supposed to constrain the executive, now the executive constrains the members; yet another deficit of representative democracy.

Consider the two politicians previously mentioned, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls – two politicians who, to be blunt, caused havoc for our country; the former in his position of Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and the latter with his economic theories, aiding and abetting his Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. While they are not alone, as there are others just as culpable, these three men were re-elected to Parliament and paid no price for their wrongdoing. 

Political parties and their politicians lie to the public in promising one thing in their manifesto and enacting something different – and it is not just the previous government that is open to that accusation, the present Coalition government is also guilty. It can be argued that manifestos are ‘designed’ by the party leader and those within his ‘coterie’ and that they alone are responsible for manifesto promises not kept; but are not also their fellow MPs, their backbenchers, just as guilty for trooping through the lobbies supporting a policy that was not in their manifesto? Should they also be able to be re-elected without paying a price?

At present the only recourse an electorate has of punishing an MP for his past actions is, where said actions have been sufficient to cause outright rage, to grit their teeth and vote for someone else whose political creed they may not support. Those of us attending the ‘Harrogate Meet’ have much to consider and no doubt one of the demands may well be, if not stated in as many words, a requirement for an unfettered re-call system for an MP. Much has also been forthcoming, not only from our politicians, but also from political commentators in the media about the need to ‘clean up’ politics; for the need of politicians to rediscover those attributes of principle and honour.

When considering the fact that politicians pay no price for their misdemeanours, some comments have been made on my blog that politicians should pay a financial ‘retribution’ for their wrongful decisions – a reasonable and sensible idea, but one that would be difficult to put in place. However, it is possible to devise a system whereby such politicians who have palpably ‘cost’ the country or who have lied – whether by word or deed – can be ‘hit through their pockets’.

Whatever system of democracy is suggested by those attending the ‘Harrogate Meet’, in order to hold politicians to account; to ensure that principle and honour are not only practiced but seen to be practiced; that politicians do not lie to us; that politicians can never again bankrupt the country; that politicians can never again undermine our right to self-governance – why do we not ban them from holding office ever again and also cut their pensionable entitlements?

Just an idea……….


7 Responses

  1. Tedioustantrums says:

    If people have a vested interest in what they do they become far more accountable.

    If someone has to live beside the people who are affected by their decisions the decisions they make are much better.

    Accountability is all. The whip robs us of our democracy. The party leaders rob us of what we actually voted for.

    Oxford, Canbridge and the private schools rob us of differentiation in political view whilst foisting experimental or trendy policies on us whilst they do not have to live with the consequences.

    It’s not just the political system or the democratic system which requires change its the whole Westminster setup and the way it is manipulated and abused.

    So much to do. Perhaps change is on the wind, let’s hope it blows hard enough to rid us of the dead wood.

  2. john says:

    Power corrupts.
    All that would be done by “reform” is to elect another lot of corruptibles.
    Not much point in having new leaders with the system rotten at its core.

  3. Edward Spalton says:

    WfW, I think it was in an earlier post where you complained about being deprived of effective representation because your MP was in the government and actually Prime Minister. I have been trying to find a reference for this without success but I believe there was a custom that an MP should stand down and offer himself for re-election, if he was invited to join the government. According to what I heard but have been unable to substantiate, this wholesome custom faded out during the 1914-18 war. Of course, governments are now so large that a great number of constituencies are (to misuse a word) disrepresented in this way.

    Tedioustantrums, You are right that people are affected by the opinions of their neighbours. During the era of strikes in the Seventies, miners were generally immune from public disapproval because they mostly lived in their own, almost hermetically sealed, communities. Electricity workers, on the other hand, lived amongst the people who were affected when they went on strike. I saw quite a few cases where strikers and their wives were taken to task by neighbours for the inconvenience/unemployment they were causing. Their strikes tended to be less “solid” than the miners.

    When the scandal about MPs’ expenses broke, it was frequently reported that MPs’ wives were taken aback by the tongue lashings they received when in the supermarket or on the school run. They had previously been accustomed to deference. Not a few of those MPs who called it a day at the time cited this base ingratitude and disrespect as the motive which decided their departure.

  4. Umbongo says:

    Edward Spalton: yes the system of MPs resigning and standing for re-election was abolished in 1957. The reason for the resignation/re-election process was the ban on MPs holding “an office of profit under the Crown”. Accordingly, today MPs “resign” by taking such an office (eg Chiltern Hundreds). However, I think that there were very few instances of such elections being lost by the ministers concerned. This goes into more detail.

  5. Umbongo says:

    “This” is
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  6. Andy Baxter says:

    I run a business, of course like any business owner I take legitimate commercial and sometimes personal risks commensurate with capital and experience and qualifications with the goal of legitimately maximising profits. No one goes into business to make a loss, show one who does and I’ll show you a fool, no its about making a profit and I believe I do so by being honest transparent and fair to myself and my clients who pay for my widgets and or whatever services I offer.

    As a business owener I take the captial risk and if my widgets, service or whatever it is I’m selling are competitively priced and are of merchantable quality i.e do what it says on the tin, I prosper and reap the rewards of my investment of capital (capital is not just money but investment in time effort and intellect and qualifications etc)Alas when I become profitable I then have no say in how much of my toil sweat tears and occassionaly blood I shed I get to keep after central, local and transactional taxes have taken tehir toll!

    If my widgets and service aint competitivley priced or are not fit for purpose I fail and lose my captial.

    Oh had but this principle of capitalism been allowed to find its true level re the banks! but I digress…

    If I’m downright dishonest opaque and seek to screw as much as I can from the punters with a ‘wham bang thank you mam’ then very quickly I won’t have a business and could end up with not only civil sanctions (being sued) but also criminal sanctions as well.

    bear with me here please!

    That MP’s have no accountabillity except to the ‘whips’ who have them over a barrel re dirty secrets or favours that can be called in is well known. As they (MP’s) take no capital risk and no sanctions (worth a spit) for what is blatant criminal activity (expenses scandal) means the immoral message “I can do what I want and get away with it” flourishes.

    We already have The Company Directors disqaulification Act 1986 with sanctions of not only disqualification but also imprisonment up to an including 6 months to 2 years and or fines up to statutory minumums for actions which are deemed gross misconduct, negligent and or criminal.

    how difficult would it be to extend its scope to cover lies deceit, dishonesty negligence(all actions that can disqualify a company director so why not an MP?) right on up to fraud, theft and gross misconduct which can bring criminal sanctions?

    just asking?

    I shall go on…..thank you David for forum and indulgence to do so.

    Now I’m not saying an MP should have a vested commercial interest in say being an MP other than a salary and reasonable expenses incurred wholly from public duties, in fact the opposite too many have fingers in too many commercial pies as non exec directors and on boards of companies that either directly or indirectly can profit from such political connections. What I’m saying is that a sufficiently well remunerated position such as an MP (salary is 2.5 times the national average plus THE MOST GENERPOUS PENSION PROVISION in the UK, which provides a 40th scheme which means even after just one fiver year term a useless pointless hardly ever in the chamber non-entity accrues 5/40ths of £65,7387 or in simple maths £8,217 gross p.a.pension rising in line with RPI FOR LIFE and they only pay a contribution gross of 13.75% thats £27,116 NET AFTER higher rate tax relief over five years!) coincidentally with an RPI rate of 3% thats a pension that rises to £14,840 p.a. Oh we private sector wealth creators can only dream over such a benefit.

    So if we are to have representative democracy and I believe delegation of powers to those in office to carry forward local and National interests is neccessary then they they need to be accountable open honest and fair and reasonably but fairly remunerated for such a role but with constituents having the power to bring them to heel where their decisions are against popular mandate (refersim for example) or where their actions are downright dishonest and fraudulent with the ultimate sanction of disqualification fines and or imprisonment.

    If one were considering running for office, then yes the remuneration and power of office to drive forward mandated policy could be attractive incentives but at the same time powerful sanctions for negligence and misconduct are then neccessary to temper the intoxicating effect power can have….

    just saying….

  7. Edward Spalton says:

    Thanks, Umbongo.


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