This was the first US election I paid any real attention to. Being a ‘bad weather’ Manchester United supporter, I do enjoy cliff-hangers and fight-backs.
The electoral college system the US used to elected the president, is almost identical to the qualified majority voting in the EU where bigger economic players like the UK and Germany get more votes. I now think this system could be used to elect the House of Lords, in a very British way.
As we saw in the AV vote last year most people in Britain prefer the first-past-the-post system to proportional representation. What if instead of PR everyone in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland voted for a party list on the basis of first-past-the-post and the party that won the most votes in each province would get a qualified number of seats in the House of Lords made up of everyone on that party’s list?
A second chamber made up solely of elected party political peers on its own would not work however, as it would challenge the legitimacy of the House of Commons. That is, until we have a Parliament in each nation to replace the Commons. So maybe this electoral college could appoint 50% of the House of Lords and the other 50% could be cross-benchers, appointed on the basis of merit and not party patronage?
It was really interesting to read David Williamson’s comments on the formation of a “Celtic Parliament” (August 23).
For some time I have spoken of the need to create a British Council of Ministers to implement laws that would otherwise have to be duplicated in each British nation under “Devo-Max” or independence, such as European Union directives.
The idea of a central legislature, composed of all the members of the national legislatures, is an interesting one. However, it may end up being divided on party lines like the European Parliament, rather than the more important national interest like with the European Council of Ministers.
Westminster has recently debated House of Lords reform. Might it not be better to abolish the House of Commons and replace it with this central legislature, made up of the members of national parliaments like the Senedd as once happened with the European Parliament? The House of Lords could then become a “statutory consultee” like the “Committee of the Regions” in Europe, which would be able to make non-binding “Opinions” as the European Court of Justice does.
Its members could be solely made up of cross-benchers, appointed on merit and not by party patronage nor through hegemonic direct election as with the Commons at present.
When Dr Kim Howells was my local MP I would regularly write to him about Houses of Lords reform. The provisional consensus was that the House of Lords should be independently elected through professional bodies.
The reason I held this view is the same reason I am proposing what I propose now. That is that the revising chamber should not be made up of people elected but of those who have achieved excellence and have a lot of knowledge and experience to contribute. There is no point in an elected House of Lords, as it would inevitably challenge the democratic legitimacy of the House of Commons. So some form of independent appointment is needed, to avoid the election of ‘commoners’, who we plebs have to vote for, because of the inescapable party political system in this country. The last thing we need is another house of Commoners who act like the MPs do at Prime Ministers Question Time, which describing it as ‘childish’ would do no justice to young people, who are more ordered, even if they have emotional and behaviour conditions.
I therefore think there should be created a ‘House of Uncommons’ – people who have actually achieved something and not just talked about doing things, like most councillors and other politicians I know of.
The House of Uncommons would be open for anyone in the following categories to become part of following the normal checks by the Public Appointments committee in place of the House of Lords Appointments Commission:
- Anyone with a knighthood, MBE, or other honour from the Monarch, including the Victoria Cross, etc.
- Anyone with the highest honorary rank in their privy council registered professional body (e.g. Distinguished Fellow of BCS)
- Anyone with a higher doctorate (e.g. DSc, LLD)
- Anyone who is a member of the Privy Council (e.g. Rt Hon, Rt Rev)
This Commission would still as the House of Lords Appointment Commission does present be able to appoint people of merit who might not have been assessed on one of the ways above.
These people could then attend the House of Uncommons on an adhoc basis, whenever something of interest within their competence comes up to be debated.
In might be that in order to combat unicameralism that with a resolution of a third of the members of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, or Northern Ireland Assembly that the ‘House of Uncommons’ could convene a meeting of experts to provide a non-judicial recommendation on this issue where there is concern. This may mean that even if the ‘Balkanisation’ of Britain described by Kim Howells ever happened, then the ‘Union’ could be held together by these nations/countries sharing ‘House of Uncommons’ making non-binding ‘Opinions’ and maybe also share the Supreme Court, which can make binding ‘Decisions’ – as with the Courts of Justice of the EU.
The Co-operative Manifesto – Towards and investigation of the nature and cause of the wealth of communities (A UK Perspective)January 28th, 2011 by Jonathan Bishop
Once I’ve got my Doctorate, my qualifying law degree, and passed the bar exam, I think I would to write a book titled ”The Co-operative Manifesto: An Investigation into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Communities.”
The European Union says that the EU Community is a ‘representative democracy’. I take democracy to mean governance by the people, not necessarily the politicians. I take representative to mean that everyone has equal opportunity to represent their opinions. I would enshrine the principle of ‘respresentivity’ into law – meaning at anytime an individual citizen is affected by a proposed cause of action they would have to be involved in the decision making process.
My initial thoughts on what would be in it include a proposal for whole scale reform of the UK’s constitutional and administrative arrangements, to create my ‘utopia’. These would probably be dystopic to most on the left of the Labour Party and most on the right of the Tory Party, but progressives on the left of the Tories and right of Labour might support it.
Initial thoughts on what might be in my book are as follows:
There would be a social and economic system called ‘equatricism’ to replace capitalism and socialism. It is called ‘equatrical’, as it has three elements for achieving an equal society. It suggests that Knowledge, Education and Information; Law & Order and Accountability; and Trade and Co-operation are the foundations of a successful civilisation/society. These are referred to as ‘info-scientific’, ‘socio-legal’ and ‘economic’ respectively.
This society would have these constitutional and administrative elements:
- No privatisation, no nationalisation it makes no difference: Because of EU law it is the same people doing the same jobs under the same contracts. There should be no State-owned or run public service, no private owned or run services in the public good run for profit and after Part 2 below is in force the Government would make everyone in these services redundant if they haven’t taken up the opportunities in Part 2. Using Article 106 of the EU Treaty the UK Government should assume all the regulatory control of services that are in the public good and place all the regulatory and financial control over them into the hands of Parliaments in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
All the private utility infrastructures in Wales merged and demerged by resource (e.g. gas, electricity, etc), and all the shares, pensions, etc, go into a new private sector monopoly like BT, which franchises out to all the private sector suppliers that exist now, whether they owned by a Spanish company, such as Ibrodrola, who I own shares in and who own Scottish Power who I used tobe a customer of,other EU public limited company. So I would still own my shares in Ibrodrola, and they would still be my provider for gas and electricity when I get a house, but they would be accountable to Welsh Gas Plc and Welsh Electricity Plc (or the appropriate Welsh langauge name, like Dwr Cymru for Welsh Water).
Over the next decades, the public would be given the rights to take over the running of these franchises by forming co-operatives. They would be given the same powers to take over the running of State-run public services. Eventually, there would be a bonfire of these private sector monopolies, like there was the State Quangos, and the statutory powers they were found to have under Foster v British Gas would go to the Welsh Parliament, and the infrastructure would become not-for-profit like Welsh Water. I would still be able to get my gas and electricity from Ibrodrola SA, or I could get it from Tanwyddau Morgannwg Cymunedol Cyf (Glamorgan Community Fuels Ltd).
There would be a directly elected Executive that implements EU and international law, and exercises Royal Prerogative and control over the armed forces and secret services. The Executive, and these parliaments (except NI) would have to have their laws ratified by a House of Representatives which would be a merger of the House of Commons and House of Lords at Westminster to form a single scrutinising body.
- Instead of spending lots of money on government officials writing up laws, the money saved could be spent on Legal Aid for the public’s representatives to create the law in the judiciary based on precedent and principles rather than partisanism and prejudice as we see in politics.
- There would be a thriving private sector, free to innovate in areas outside the public good, providing outsourcing support, maintenance, building, etc to the community corporations. The government should then enable people working for the State or Private sector and other members of the public to take up control of the running of the services though co-operative corporations, Community Interest Companies, Charitable Incorporated Companies, or Charities. They would be financed through vouchers given to citizens to use those services under a market based system – they will be able to use any provider in the UK or EU, though they would be able to get dividends if they spent their vouchers at a provider in their local community corporation of which they are a member. There would be a statutory requirement that where the the market fails to meet the standards required of the elected representatives in the Parliaments these can provide the service until such time that they can give it up. This is like what happened with Northern Ireland during the hiccup they had, where the UK Government took over decision making.
The national Parliaments would apply the judements of the judiciary (include the European Courts) in line with local factors on this basis of ‘margins of appreciation’ by codifying the rulings, and their legislative powers should otherwise be used for framework legislation. All legislation would have to be checked by the House of Representatives.
- There would be no police at national level, but there would be a strong and effective judiciary. Europol and Interpol would be in charge of investigating and prosecuting counter narcotics, counter terrorism, force prostitution, human trafficking, etc, and would have full permission to request specific and identified data held by the corporations, full access to the Courts of the nation, and would be able to enter and leave the country with only having to notify the Executive.
Most petty crime would be handled by professional bodies of which there would be a statutory requirement that people had to be a member of. The RSPCA model would be adopted for other serious crimes. Rape and domestic violence cases could be handled by Women’s Aid in the case of Women, Stonewall in the case of gay people for example. Other equivalents would be necessary for other protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 and Article 10 of the EU Treaty. In terms of Child Abuse, these would be investigated by the NSPCC or their equivalent in Scotland. In the terms of theft and personal injury and other ‘insured incidents’ the insurance companies would have investigatory powers and it would be a statutory requirement to have insurance, unless you have limited income in which case there would be a social insurance scheme. In the case of other unprotected groups and other social wrongs these would be handled by the market. People would approach a solicitor and their case would be assessed for its crediblity – they would also be assessed for legal aid, and could go to another solicitor if the one they went to wouldn’t take up the case. This is better than what happens at the moment, which if the police don’t take it up there is little they can do if they are not wealthy.
If the solicitor agrees, the citizen would sign a Data Protection form, which would give the solicitor powers to internally or via a private investigator, access all the data held in CCTV, and records relating to the person complaining. CCTV would not be controlled by the government or local businesses, even thought it may be on their premises, but by local Neighbourhood Watch groups. The solicitor could request futher access to the CCTV that their client is not in but is relevant to the case on application to a Court. Individuals would be able to access any CCTV in which their in, through using services provided by companies like Google,Â such as Goggle and Latitude, and the individual would have control over it and access to it. They could delete it, but it would have to be undeleted in the event of an investigation. The solicitor/investigator may request further search powers from a Minister in the Parliament, to search things such as company records not relating to the individual, but relating to the circumstances surround their cases. The Minister would be able to refer complex cases to the judiciary.
- In the case of wrong doings by the corporations a Minister in the Parliament would be able to handle it through a transparent inquiry in minor cases or refer it to the European Commission in other serious cases.
- In the case of wrong doings by the Parliaments or the Armed Forces, the Executive would be able to ask Her Majesty to investigate, through the current secret service organisations. These would be held in secret courts and only released to the press if that court felt it was in the public interest.
In the case of wrong doings by the Executive, Her Majesty, the European Commission, or other international bodies would be able to investigate.
- The Parliaments would be responsible for redistributing wealth. Those struggling to reach their potential would be given more support. Those with more than their fair share of the cake with excess wealth would have to give it up for the state to redistribute. The judiciary would have the final say on what is a fair redistribution.
- The government would make few decisions affecting people’s lives, these regional Parliaments would only have to ‘rubber stamp’ them. So for example, if a charity put in a planning application for a drug rehabilitation centre, the inevitable complaining public would enter mediation/arbitration with the developers, to reach a decision. This would then be presented to the regional Parliament’s planning committee to check compatibility with the laws and planning policy. These public decision making bodies could be organised through Her Majesty’s Court Service, Trade Unions, or Professional Bodies.
If all this was done I think we would be living in a society in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many through community-run co-operatives, not the few through state or private monopolies and where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe underpinned by accountable legislatures and an effective judiciary, where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.
Tony Blair was defined as a Labour Leader by taking on the idealistic failures of his party to redefine Labour as party fit for government. Gordon Brown needs to take on the political classes to transform Britain into a country where power, wealth
and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.
Periods in history have always been struggles for identity, whether it be the working class struggling against the bourgeoisie under Marxism, or the battle between repressive men and ambitious women under Feminism, people have fought battles to secure equality and self-respect.
For me, the present time is a battle between the ordinary people who have a profession and work for a living against the political elite who wield power like it is their weapon of choice, who consume wealth like they have sole access to a tuck shop and who deprive others of opportunity like they are the only ones who have a right to achieve their goals.
As a recently elected Town Councillor who aspires to be a Member of Parliament, and a Chartered IT Professional who aspires to be on the Board of Directors of a leading IT firm, I experience the difficulties of an ordinary person seeking
responsibility in a world where only the elite prosper, and where difference is seen as a disadvantage.
The party political system favours the elite, the people who are remote from everyday people, who have the talents of a salesman, the cunning of a cameleon, and who have struggled as much as someone trying to put a hot knife through
It was once illegal to live on earnings from the oldest profession in the world; this should be the case for elected representatives. Being a politician should only ever be a part-time unpaid position as this would mean that elected representatives would be required to have a real job and face the same financial struggles as the people in society they claim to represent. Brown should tackle the elite who cling on to power to preserve their publicly funded lifestyles, rather than to serve the public interest.
House of Lords reform is often talked about as a class battle, but all the government want to do is replace an unelected elite with another political elite.
The House of Lords should be made up of professional people and members diverse interest groups rather than consider of more members of the political class.
Brown needs to tackle the inequalities created by the political class, firstly in his own party and then in political institutions in the country as a whole.
This week I attended the New Statesman New Media Awards, where I had been shortlisted in the Elected Representative category for using my Website to communicate with the electorate whilst I was a councillor and I was also shortlised in the innovation category for using mobile technology to help people with autism and social phobia.
Tom Watson MP won the Elected Representative award for his use of Weblogs for encouraging debate and widening the democratic process.
The thing that makes Tom’s Weblog better than most, including mine, at the time of writing, is that he allows visitors to freely post comments on his posts. Perhaps this is something all political bloggers should do – I’ll be updating my site soon to demonstrate my commitment to freedom of expression and allow people to comment on my posts.
Another winner at the New Media Awards was the Public Whip, which won the Civic Renewal Award. The Public Whip brings together data from Hansard to allow people to know how their MPs voted on the issues put before Parliament.
One of the features of The Public Whip that I think has a lot of potential is the Dream MP feature. As someone who regularly plays Celebdaq (a celebrity version of Fantasy Football) I think allowing this sort of interactivity with Parliament is a great idea.
Perhaps the Public Whip could consider setting up leagues, so Dream MPs can see how much in agreement they are with other Dream MPs or how much of a rebel they are within their preferred party!
One more serious use of the Dream MP feature could be to allow other elected representatives, such as councillors let the electorate know how they would have voted on key issues if they’d been their MP. I have already set up a Dream MP account showing how I would have voted on issues such as devolution, the European Constitution, the banning of Fox Hunting, tackling the humanitarian abuses in Iraq, and the reform of the House of Lords, along with the Private Members Bills that I would have supported.
At present my voting record is 100% in agreement with my local MP Dr. Kim Howells, 100% in agreement with Tom Watson, 33% in agreement with Michael Howard and 25% in agreement with Iain Duncan Smith.
Whilst I did not win anything at the New Media Awards, I have come back with some great ideas on how I can be more open and democratic for the time when I am next in a position to stand for election.
William Dylan was right to emphasis the need for a second chamber in Parliament (The Western Mail, February 24), but his suggestion of a Senate would not produce any better legislation than the House of Lords does now.
In 1999 we voted for our preferred party to form a draft of the Health (Wales) Bill in the Assembly, and in 2001 we voted for an MP to debate the specifics of this Bill in Parliament.
The last thing we want in 2003 is to elect another load of politicians to play party politics with a very important piece of legislation for Wales.
In my view a second chamber should be made up of experts to scrutinise legislation, people from the real world, with real knowledge and experience. In the case of the Health (Wales) Bill this would be health-care professionals, the people this Bill will affect and who know what its implications will be.
If we really want democracy in our legislative process then the people affected by proposed laws should be involved and not just politically motivated individuals.
It was unfounded for Chris McLaughlin to suggest that New Labour is out of touch with the electorate (Rules of Disengagement, Big Issue 304), especially when they delivered devolution to Wales.
The Assembly has made a big difference to young people, and listened to their concerns. On housing, landlords now have to register if they rent to multiple occupants and the poorest families now have grants to study at university.
Mr McLaughlin should realise that when powers over issues such as housing devolved to the regions, there will be desirable amount of disengagement government at Westminster as local politicians address local issues.