Saturday, April 25, 2009

Give MPs Something To Do

Douglas Carswell has proposed an excellent reform to further keep the executive in check...

Here's a simple idea.  Require every Whitehall department - and each associated quango - to have it's budget annually ratified by the relevant House of Commons select committee.  No approval, no money.

Now that really would be a fundamental shift in power. It would also bind the hands of the opposition parties more firmly, since their fingerprints would be over the governments spending plans, either in approval or disapproval. It would require opposition parties to have firm principles over public spending in the long term. However it could present an unfortunate side affect of binding parties to such an extent that HM Opposition could not present a radically divergent spending programme at the election because of this.

It would, though, fundamentally weaken the executive, forcing it to justify every £1 it taxes and spends. And it would help empower Parliament - changing the composition of Parliament would mean something.

It strikes me, however, that this reform would make most sense under a system where the executive is directly elected.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prisoners To Get The Vote

The news that 28,000 prisoners are to be given the right to vote in elections is outrageous. The Daily Mail reports with characteristic alarmism...

Rapists, paedophiles, burglars and muggers could be among 28,800 prisoners handed the right to vote, it emerged last night.

The Government is preparing to demolish 1,000 years of legal practice by proposing that inmates serving up to four years in jail will be allowed to help elect MPs and councillors.

Labour is implementing a verdict by the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled five years ago that it was unfair to stop convicts casting their vote.

The most sensible comment comes from Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, for one, who says...

'Civic rights go with civic responsibility, but these rights have been flagrantly violated by those who have committed imprisonable offences.

As the article also notes, it has long been established for over 1,000 years that convicted criminal are considered outlaws - outside the law and its privileges. That civic rights go hand in hand with civic responsibility is not only a moral position, but it is also a pragmatic one. Should those who have breeched the laws laid down by society be able to wield political influence?

One can quite imagine a situation where an entire prison population in one marginal constituency could hold the balance of power in that seat. The prospect of candidates canvassing for the votes of prisoners is bizarre - since the prisoners life would be very small and narrow, surely their interests would be very specific (probably more liberal attitudes to law breaking, more family visiting time, etc, etc). If we as a society send people to prison as punishment, then what when politicians rely on their support?

The whole affair simply highlights again the flawed European Convention on Human Rights, and all the muddles and conflict caused by competing positive rights. While the UK subscribed to the ECHR as a sovereign government, our EU membership ties us to it irrevocably. Therefore in order to withdraw from the ECHR and repeal our Human Rights Act, we would need to leave the European Union.

Is it really too much to ask that the British government and British legislature make British laws for British people, and that both are elected by British voters? Why should we have to put up with nonsense imposed upon us because our incompetent and ignorant politicians have signed us up to things of which they have little understanding and concept of the consequences, and which they quite probably did for political gain.

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