Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wither Democracy

A good article in the Times on the withered and shriveled remnants of our Democracy...

If MPs cannot amend legislation, what are they there for? If Gordon Brown cannot regulate (or even bribe) the banks, what is he there for? If the Government cannot protect British jobs from European workers when necessary, then what is the point of it?

Indeed, if Government cannot govern because its hands are tied by supra-national legislation or agreements, whether EU or other, and Parliament similarly cannot legislate, then what is the use of the whole damn edifice?

On Monday, the Liberal Democrats led a debate on constitutional reform: “Parliament must be fundamentally reformed - Heath.” Amid much honourable waffle, one point stood out. John Redwood, the Tory MP, asked the following: “Is not another problem that the Government are afraid of proper accountability and probing? For example, they spend £37 billion on bank shares, yet none of us can ask them, ‘Why don't you do proper due diligence? How much are those banks going to lose? How much will they pay in bonuses?' There is no accountability.”

That £37 billion was passed in an hour and a half - £410 million a minute. The £50 billion for the second bank bailout bypassed the Commons altogether. Government has been hived off to bankers, accountants and officials, the taxpayer merely asked to keep signing the cheques.

Every time power is siphoned off to a new quango or another management consultant, the taxpayer is taken one step further away from democracy and Parliament shrivels a little more. Pace Mr Blair, everyone is in opposition now. They cannot do; they can only talk.

Indeed. When the executive has such enormous freedom to act without the need to seek Parliamentary approval, so the accountability of that Government diminishes. Democracy is not a mark on a ballot every 4 or 5 years, it is a continuous and systemic process.

We are in dire need of fundamental constitutional reform. Forget tinkering around the margins, and debating the merit (or serious lack thereof) of a Bill of Rights; what we need is a wholesale restructuring of the powers of each branch of our government. The Executive should be severely curtailed and weakened; Parliament should be emboldened with more power to control the passage of legislation and by obtaining royal prerogative powers; the Judiciary should be fully separated from Parliament and the Executive, and similarly emboldened with powers to strike down legislation found contradictory to a new codified constitution that enshrines the liberties of the people and limitations of the frontiers of the state.

This new constitutional settlement should finally be put to the people in a referendum, and the people should regain ownership of their government.


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