|The next head of state|
We've talked before about the lack of democracy in the UK.
Despite being lectured at school about the Great British democracy, better and more democratic than foreigners could ever imagine, only a fool could imagine that what exists at Westminster is anything other than a travesty of democracy.
We start off with a non-elected, non appointed head of state, who apparently cannot be removed even if she is certified mad. We were told at school that she had no real powers, but of course we discovered recently that that is far from true. Not only does she have powers but she, and her son, use them. On a regular basis.
She has a Privy Council. A body of the "great and the good" of hundreds and hundreds of members, for which the quorum is 3. It's a body which in principle only ever dictates matters as mundane as English public holidays, but which in fact has the power to pass (and does on occasion, pass) legislation that no one wants scrutinised, without it ever being scrutinised.
Then there's a House of Peers, populated by a mixture of proper aristocrats, pretendy aristocrats that have bought their way into power, and churchmen from one of the dozens of religions that operate in the country. Because the UK state religion is Church of England.
Then we have a lower house that is actually elected. However, because it is elected by a first past the post system, it is generally unrepresentative of the populace.
The present UK Tory government was elected by around 38% of those who voted, and 28 % of the possible voting population. 62% of those who bothered to vote didn't want the government we now have. That is a reasonably substantial majority against the government.
So, in what way is this democracy?
But, even that isn't sufficient for David Cameron, who appears to me to be a man who wants to have everything his own way. Or, at least, the way of his friends. His rich and powerful, and frequently titled friends.
He has systematically set about reducing the power of anyone who might oppose him.
He is introducing draconian Trades Union legislation that will make it much more difficult for unions to take any legitimate action against employers.
In the light of the Lords delaying his assault on working tax credits, he intends to curb that chamber's power to act on what is called "secondary" legislation.
He has introduced powers to the House of Commons to exclude Scottish MPs from voting on legislation that the Speaker decides mainly concerns England or England and Wales. (Strangely he has not offered the same for "Welsh only" legislation, which will continue to be voted on by English MPs. Nor has he insisted that only Scottish MPs can serve on the Scottish Grand Committee.)
According to some people's reading of it, this is a way of ensuring that, while Labour may win a UK election in the future, it will not be able to effectively govern England (the bulk of its job) unless it gets a majority IN ENGLAND (under the FPTP system). The law may effectively lock Labour out of power in their so-called "United" kingdom. A Labour UK majority, with a Tory English majority would effectively be unable to pass legislation for England.
The redrawing of ward boundaries throughout the union will also have an effect upon democracy. Firstly the Tories want to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, which, of course, is no bad idea on its own. But the new boundaries will be drawn up using a voting registration system not used anywhere else in the world. This article explains it, and suggests that it may benefit the Tories by 15-20 seats. Once again the likely gains are in England, making it even more difficult for Labour to form an effective government.
Additionally Cameron's chancellor has reduced what is known as Short money. Named after the man who first proposed it, Short money is the finance that is made available to opposition parties to fund their staffing, researchers, lawyers, etc. The government itself has the Civil Service to do this work for it. This reduction will mean that all opposition parties will be less well funded to provide an opposition to the UK government.
Taken one by one none of these moves might give rise to concern, but taken together they seem to me to be eroding what little democratic voice the population has.
In the meantime we should remember that Cameron has removed the royals from FoI legislation. He wants to remove both Scotland and the rest of the UK from European Human Rights legislation, possibly from the Council of Europe and the EU. And inquiries into anything that goes wrong are often either drawn out for so long that people forget about them, or simply terminated.
We are now on the third attempt to inquire into child abuse in the upper classes. Previous ones having failed becasue of the government's incredibly inept appointing of friends of the establishment to the chair.
The opposition and press in Scotland are fond of accusing Scotland of being a one party state. Presumably this is based on the fact that, using a voting system preferred by the Tories, and not by the SNP, the National Party won the majority of Scottish seats in the UK parliament back in May last year on only 50% of the vote.
These are of course farcical and low level arguments from people who clearly have never visited a one party state, where you can be imprisoned, executed, some places boiled in oil, for opposing the leader. And neglecting the facts and figures of Scottish democracy: the number of opposition members in the councils, parliament and EU parliament; the fact that the BBC and press clearly support unionist parties, and that in the up coming election, at least 7 parties are proposing candidates.
Still, it resonates with people who don't really know what is happening, and to whom it sounds like Todor Zhivkof's Bulgaria in the 80s, or Kim Jong Un's current regime in North Korea.
Isn't it, in light of all these changes, a more realistic description of the way that Cameron is taking the UK than of Scotland?
I don't think we are moving in the right direction. Do you?