Monday 21 November 2011


You have to wonder at the level of stupidity that the London government displays in its day to day work, don't you?

You're probably nodding your head right now and thinking.... He's on about the MoD; they are pretty useless! 

Well it's a good candidate, quite apart from being jointly run until recently by Adam and Liam for the benefit of.... Adam and Liam,  its permanent  management is quite astounding. 

Take, for example the matter of the multitude of armoured cars projects that have had to be cancelled; some £718 million worth in the last 15 years, according to the National Audit Office. 

Or could it be the Revenue. And the almighty cock up over the Goldman Sachs affair, perhaps? You know, the one where they got out of paying oodles of tax, well £10 million actually, while they came after me for an under payment of £500?

Maybe it's the fact that in Customs and border control people are so short staffed that at busy times they simply can't check people in to the country, so they just let anyone in, rather than have planes stacked 40 high over the English capital. Or maybe it's that they don't check private planes at all these days for fear of disrupting rich people's lives with trivia such as customs.

But no, it's not  them either. 

Nor is the almighty mess of the PFIs, which is bankrupting local health authorities, councils, police and fire services...

And it's not even the half witted idea that they've come out with today where the government will take on what are, in effect sub-prime home loans (despite us having bailed out the bloody banks) and encourage the price of housing to rise... engendering a feel good factor.... falsely.

Nope. OK, I've kept you in suspense for long enough.

What I'm talking about is Tessy's brilliant idea to bring in legislation to make it illegal to protest around the area of the Olympics during the time of the Olympics.

Brilliant, Tess of the Horribles! Which one of your half-wit staff came up with that idiot idea, or was it your own wee brain that gave birth to it?

You see, I suppose that, in a country where most of the population is pretty depressed about the state of their affairs, disillusioned by incompetent government and displeased about the turning of London 2012 into Moscow of the Brezhnev 70s, with Zil lanes for the party elite, and most good seats for the games, which are causing such disruption for the ordinary people, going to Barclaycard, McDonald's and BT's elite customers, it's quite likely that people will wish to protest in some way. Certainly there will be protests by disabled people over the audacity of the paralympics being being sponsored by Atos, the soulless organisation that delights in making the lives of the ill such unimaginable misery.

Certainly it will be a little embarrassing when the tv cameras of the world focus on it, and they realise that the streets of London are not paved with gold for anyone except those and such as those. But most democracies have protesters. It won't be news.

But, Tess, old thing, if you make it illegal, people will still do it. 

In fact according to what I read on Facebook last night they will do a lot more of it. 

And then, because it's illegal, you will have to arrest them. And there will be fights and scuffles with the police... and that's going to look 10 times worse.

You really are a very stupid woman. 


  1. Tris....At the risk of sounding like a broken record, thank you for giving me once again the opportunity to offer my standard unsolicited advice on governance.

    The problem of the Home Secretary is much bigger than her views on Olympics protests. (An issue which should be decided by some low level London municipal authority, NOT the Parliament of the nation, BTW.)

    No safe in his/her home as long as Parliament is supreme, and a simple majority rules. There will always be asinine politicians passing asinine laws. And in Britain they are unchecked by any higher authority.

    You MUST have a written constitution! You MUST have a Bill of Rights! Only that solves the fundamental problem.

    And you MUST stop making it up as you go along. A Parliament that can ban fox hunting can also ban freedom of speech and assembly. Both ideas are insane, and destructive to a free people.

    Thanks to the second amendment to the American constitution, I do own three or four guns. Just in case the British Army tries to come back this way. ;-)

  2. I thought the Tories were all for freedom of speech! I suppose that will be like localism and these parliamentary petitions requiring 100,000 signatures, sounds great on paper and when you want people to vote for you but totally inconvenient when they don’t go the way you and your big business paymasters want.

  3. Danny:

    Your advice on government practices is always welcome, as you know well. (When I'm King of Scotland I'll be inviting you over as a special advisor on constitutional affairs!)

    The trouble, as I think Wolfie's post shows, change would take a lifetime to get through and they would resist anything that looked like reducing their entitlements to a sense of superiority over us.

    Cameron talks about having a British bill of rights but it never progresses past him talking about it. He knows that anything with "European" in front of it is unpopular in England, because it's foreign and probably smells of garlic, so he promises to replace the European Human Rights Act with a British one to resounding cheers.... The he goes away and does something else.

    I can't help thinking that any Bill that Cameron would bring forward would simply reinforce the rights of the English squirearchy, and reduce those of the rest of the population.

    Of course his Bill would try to cover Scotland at the same time that Scotland is slipping out the back door of his disunited union.

    So it won't happen.

    But to be fair, for all the protection you guys have, the New York protesters were man handled away the other day by hard looking cops.


    The link is now working and I have deleted my cut and pastes so as not to be seen to have hijacked the Blog.

    Read the article, it is absolutely spot-on in its analysis of how our democracy, the Western World, has been hijacked by a self-serving elite class of career politicians snake oil salesman.

  5. Ah Wolfie, I was just about to reply to your posts when you deleted them....

    I thought that your other blog put the whole thing a deal better than I did.

    I hope you'll put the whole thing back up.

    It made for an excellent read.

    I'm off to Edinburgh today and won't be back till late. So my lack of response to anyone's posts shouldn't be taken as a lack of interest on my part... just a lack of availability.

  6. Fair enough Wolfie, but I had absolutely no problem with your posting it the way you did. :)

  7. Munguin: The Tories are for freedom of speech when it suits them, rather, I imagine, like most political parties.

  8. The trouble with a written constitution is that you are stuck with an 18th century interpretation that is a difficult fit for the modern 21st century world for example the electoral colleges were not I think intended to be fitted into a party system and now that they are its a square peg in a round hole. And then your body politic spends a huge amount of time debating, discussing and litigating on the subject while the country goes to pot. The USA with its written constitution and bill of rights is in no better a boat than the UK as far as I can see. The same agenda led loony swings from side to side as first one then another ideology gets its bite of the cherry. Nobody seems to think of competent administration as being an ideal watchword for government and instead we get the beer garden ya-boo politics that makes for such great TV. The clearly defined roles of the branches and institutions tend to hogtie each other and prevent progress.

  9. At the invitation I am reposting the article by John Ward which I think is very germaine to the blog above by Tris.

    I will need to cut it into Sections to get past Bloggers word number limit.

    Here goes

  10. At the End of the Day

    If you want to change the System, don’t go into politics

    While we pride ourselves on being the home of Parliamentary democracy, the simple reality is that a large number of the useful bits of legislation from the 13th century onwards came from a not entirely judicious mixture of force, riot and regal whimsy.

    King John didn’t exactly sign Magna Carta willingly. Without Henry VIII’s love of expansionist power and desire for a male heir, our naval traditions and Protestant scientific pragmatism couldn’t have led to the Empire and the industrial revolution. Later Kings who wanted such power were beheaded and deported respectively.

    The first great Reform Act was (in the last few days) only passed because it seemed the best way to appease the London Mob. Safer merchant ships with plimsoll lines happened because the MP of the same name violently interrupted Parliamentary business to such an extent, it was deemed better to pass his Bill than pass nothing. The tradition of trade fairs and exhibitions to boost exports was largely created by Queen Victoria’s husband Albert. The Suffragettes got votes for women by chaining themselves to railings, attacking policemen, and throwing themselves under horses. And the Poll Tax was defeated by violent ex-Parliamentary demonstrations which, in the end, brought Thatcher down too.

    In many of the cases above, the legally endowed and constitutional system of moving things forward had temporarily broken down – and usually for the same reason: a self-satisfied clique with undeserved privileges had stopped paying attention.

    We have this in Britain today; and to fail to appreciate this is to ensure a failure to change things in the fundamental way they need changing.

  11. Most elites, in the end, become less accountable, and thus feel inviolate. They get distracted by self-enrichment, and neglect the crucial job of looking ahead. They drift away from reality towards a different Universe that they alone share, and shrink from the sort of decisive leadership required to face the realities endured by their citizens. When the People become indifferent to them, they take this as evidence of fecklessness. When the People become angry with their inaction, they see this as insurrection to be punished. So busy are they looking down on the People, they no longer wish to be looked up to: they assume this as their right anyway.

    Our self-perpetuating, smug Establishment displays every last one of the symptoms described above. They will never vote themselves out, and they will never allow any legislation to pass that allows us to have a realistic chance of voting them out. The elite I refer to, by the way, starts in Brussels, and goes right around the EU until it gets back to Westminster again – where UK politicians are perfectly happy to deal with that higher elite…because just below a very thin surface of skin, they’re exactly the same.

    Were in 2011 the British People to try and form a new ‘political Party’ operating at Parliamentary elections, five things would make real progress impossible:

    1. Organisational expenses incurred via election publicity and lost deposits 2. The vast spending power of the two major Parties, and their ready access to the media. 3. First Past the Post elections 4. Wonks joining the Party and engaging in endless esoteric debates 5. After many years of ploughing through treacle in lead boots, MPs being elected to Parliament and, very quickly, joining the Establishment.

    UKIP has enjoyed the support of perhaps 10% of Britons for the last decade, and the ‘opinion sympathy’ of perhaps another 65%. It hasn’t elected a single MP to the UK Parliament in that time.

    The overwhelming reasons for this are very straightforward: first, our MPs are tied to constituencies, and are elected by local Party organisations. The constituency organisations worm their way into the fabric of local life and, once elected, an attentive, flesh-pumping MP also becomes part of that. There is thus a strongly inbuilt local resistance to sweeping change.

  12. .

    To engage in elections is to risk playing the game of politics alone. The sort of organisation I’m talking about would concern itself with the culture: socio-familial standards, the Rule of Law, equality before the Law, professional ethics, business morality, the encroachment upon personal liberty in every walk of life, radical reform of the tax and banking systems, and the regeneration of a commercially viable (as opposed to largely financial and retail) economy.

    It is a sure sign that something is wrong in the UK when one reads that exhaustive list, and concludes pretty quickly that there is no way engaging with the political system is likely to achieve any of it.

    The Left understands nothing of real equality, has little commercial experience, and is hand-in-glove with the increasingly grasping trade union and legal professions. Many Labour politicians are part of the socio-familial-gender-race ‘industry’, and their voters/donors tend to be in favour of poorly targeted benefits and unreformed public sector structures. As for the Right, it is supported by big business, the professions, the City, banking and unelected media proprietors. In this last, exclusive group, most of them do not pay tax, and have motives that are at best shady or unknown.

    All Parties, meanwhile, sign up to the robocrat Civil Service armies both here and at Brussels.

    Whitehall is a major part of the oligarchy, and lies at the core of our problems with incompetence, waste, and above all a resistance to change. “The civil service exists to explain why nothing is possible,” a former Minister told me two years ago – but I didn’t need telling. I spent over 20 years working on and off with these people, and they only ever had two concerns: how to employ more and more people, and how to ensure an even bigger budget for the next fiscal year. After the age of 50, the upper echelons had two further concerns: the size of the pension, and the quality of the gong.

  13. I have come round to the idea of a cultural rather than political ‘persuasion’ group as the best way to get our country back onto some kind of straight and narrow again. But what I envisage is an extremely hard-headed organisation.

    The levers of power are not only changing form: their location has changed too. The power to effect change today – beyond the citadels in banking, the civil service, the ISPs and proprietor-driven media – lies with the following groups – which aren’t mutually exclusive: business, consumers, and the internet axis of blogs, campaigning sites, Facebook, twitter and texting.

    The electorate gives its votes. A vote today confers no power upon the holder at all, because its decision will be derided and ignored once the required election result has been obtained.

    But the consumer buys products. The consumer can exert real power over business: and when the consumer does that, business almost becomes the law. It was advertisers that killed the News of the World, not the police or the judiciary.

    Not only that, the campaigning and blogging sphere sells ideas. If properly organised and aggregated for some issues, the internet can be a major force for change. Because on the internet – and growing via the internet – are those small businesses most aware of how everything from ISPs to banks and spendthrift governments are screwing the life out of their entrepreneurship…while the multinationals use ridiculous tax dodges and armies of tax accountants to compete unfairly….or push for a multi-speed internet where Might is Right, full stop.

    So after many months of thinking, hatching, and hinting, that’s it: no more than a sketched outline….but a very different approach, I think, to what people tend to imagine as a weapon of reform.

    I don’t think the more switched-on folks in our midst can any longer cede ownership of radicalism to those who ‘look’ radical, support fundamentally anti-capitalist aims, and carry placards with the words ‘smash’ on them. There is no need to smash anything: the only thing required is for a minute oligarchy to be persuaded to listen, and then be shoved into releasing much of their power into the hands of those with a better idea of how to use it for the greatest number of deserving citizens.

    We will never reach Utopia. Utopian dreams are, by their very accumulation of piety, dangerously intolerant. The name of the game – for me anyway – at this point in the human story is to reverse the drift into a ghastly material Dystopia.

  14. Tris....Yes, the New York City police action was outrageous, and the City of New York will probably be in court about it. There's no doubt that the 50 police authorities in the USA sometimes seem to function a long way from the federal constitution in Washington.

    If you REALLY want to see outrageous police action against peaceful demonstrators, Google the pepper spray incident at the University of California at Davis. The campus cops sprayed demonstrators with pepper spray as if it was water. The police chief of the University has been removed from office and placed on administrative leave, and the Chancellor of the University may lose her job.

    Politicians and policemen will often act beyond their authority, and a freedom of speech clause to a constitution only assures that when dragged into court for stifling that freedom, they will not have a legal leg to stand on.

  15. make good points about the American government, and the federal constitution of 1788.

    There's no doubt that the framers distrusted centralized authority, whether in the form of Parliament or the Monarchy. So they devised a system of governance in which political power is fragmented. As for being stuck with an outdated document, the eighteenth century words of the American Constitution are always being interpreted by a modern Supreme Court. And the document can be changed whenever necessary.

    But whatever form of government a constitution establishes, it seems to me that a Bill of Rights is special. It's a statement of the rights of the people being governed. Rights that are deemed to be so fundamental and important, that even a democratically elected government can't change them (short of amending the constitution itself.) With such a Bill of Rights, essential rights would not be subject to the whims of politicians in Westminster or Edinburgh. A good idea I think, given the nature of politics and politicians.

  16. Thanks Danny. I was under the impression that all the fuss about the right to have guns was as a result of this point not being made clear in the constitution?

  17. Didn't 'The Patriot Act' overrule a part of your constitutional rights Danny?

    We are protecting those lovely olympics at a cost of £250,000 per day we are so lucky in Westminster protecting us from all those olympians!

    RSA Animate -- Crisis of Capitalism

  18. Woolfie.

    Thanks for reposting. I think it's a much better written piece than mine.

    So I hope folk who were kind enough to read the original piece have read this too.

    I believe that bloggers, and tweeters have enormous power, as we have seen in Egypt, Iran, Libya and Tunisia...And last summer in England we saw how much can be co-ordinated by internet.

    It certainly got Tessy to make the idiotic statement that she would consider shutting down social networking sites; another knee jerk reaction from a stupid woman being badly advised.

    The consumer has power too, but unless it is big stuff like the NoTW, it has to be co-ordinated, and the net is the voice that ordinary people have been lacking for so long.

    The press has vested interests and only reports what won't hurt it. (eg: A story to emerge from the Leveson Inquiry which targeted the Mail, was reported in a small story on page 16 on that paper's sister publication on Sunday, but made the front page on most other papers).

    Although bloggers have their own issues to push, there are so many of them that most things can be aired freely.

    I'm most particularly impressed by the fact that governments rarely change anything. We have to do it for ourselves.

  19. Danny: I actually think you are quite right. A unwritten constitution (which our politicians have bragged about ever since I can remember) is an affront to any kind of democracy.

    They make it up as they go along, and when inevitably they contradict themselves it's all a matter of interpretation of case law or some such garbage.

    The trouble is I wouldn't want my rights to be determined by the likes of David Cameron and his bunch of drunken overgrown schoolboys from the Bullingdon club, who are currently playing at being ministers and mayors.

  20. Danny,

    "But whatever form of government a constitution establishes, it seems to me that a Bill of Rights is special. It's a statement of the rights of the people being governed. Rights that are deemed to be so fundamental and important, that even a democratically elected government can't change them (short of amending the constitution itself.) With such a Bill of Rights, essential rights would not be subject to the whims of politicians in Westminster or Edinburgh. A good idea I think, given the nature of politics and politicians."

    Forgive me, but I think you are labouring under an apprehension.

    Civil rights, and essential rights of man are not subject to the 'whims' of any particular party - but is by convention. Which is a perfect gaurantee of those freedoms.

    Not least when you consider than convention dictates that no parliament can bind another absolutely. Each parliament is sovereign in its own right. No government could undermine conventional freedoms for individuals in any draconian way, as it would be unconstitutional, and against the grain of convention.

    Personally I like convention, and parliamentary (rather than republican) government. It is more flexible than a constitutional document, and can adapt to the changes in a society gently, moving with the times. Much like the Queen has done so successfully. Adaptation, but convention ensures that all reform strengthens the traditions and inheritance which works. And removes that which does not.

    Burke had it all right. If a social contract does exist, it isn't that the USA believes it to be. It isn't a matter between people and government, or between the rulers and the ruled. No, it is an unspoken contract across the generations, and we alive are little more than custodians of the next generations inheritance.

    That rather changes ones perceptions about the usefulness of a written constitution.

  21. To Lupus and Dean
    Many thanks for both posts (and to you other guys for the USA perspectives and comments), but would not a simple revolution - along French, American, Russian, Irish, Chinese et al, go some way towards dispelling current assumptions and oppressive practices either under whoreish, unwritten "convention", or distorted, sectionalist interpretations of the written constitution the Founding Fathers put in place?

    Ockham's Razor seems relevant just as much in this context as any other.

    PS Happy Thanksgiving Day (and to my fellow Scots, its equivalent when it soon comes).

  22. David: Happy whatever they have in Japan....

    Thanksgiving's this Thursday, if I'm not mistaken.

    So I join with you in wishing the many America readers of the blog, and our own man in America, my mate Danny, a very happy holiday and loads of turkey...

  23. Danny, however your system leaves the Supreme Court as safeguarders of your constitution, and at the moment that is broken.

    As an example, the notion that Corrporations are people for the purposes of buying political influence

    That free speech is taken to mean AstroTurf organisations can lie to the electorate about the date of an election, or use fake push polls to damage a candidate

    These should be stopped by your Supremes, but they do not, because it is nakedly partisan

  24. Tris....As you suggest, deciding who would actually write your constitution, and just what it should say in this modern age, is almost mind boggling to consider. Just where you would begin and end, for example, when defining "human rights" these days? It was hard enough to do it in that stiflingly hot sealed room in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787.

    Thanks much for the Thanksgiving day greetings. I suppose that the Presidential "pardoning" of the Thanksgiving turkey will be performed tomorrow by Mr. Obama at the White House. One of the highlights of the year for me as you know. ;-)

  25. Munguin....You're absolutely correct that the second of the US Bill of Rights has an introductory dependent clause which seems to makes the right of gun ownership less than absolute. Interestingly, the American Bill of Rights drew upon the English Bill of Rights (an act of Parliament) of 1689 which also granted a freedom of the people to have arms suitable to their class and as allowed by law.

    The Second Amendment to the US Constitution in it's entirety:

    "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

    Now what in the world does THAT mean? Is it an absolute declaration of the right to keep and bear arms apart from that leading dependent clause? Or is the constitutional right to gun ownership tied to the requirement to maintain a national defense? Which, in the 18th century, was a matter of citizen militias shouldering their own weapons at a time of national peril? The first shots at the British Army in 1775 was from those citizen soldiers bearing their own weapons.

    Of course it always means whatever the courts (and ultimately, the US Supreme Court) says it means at any point in time.

    Most recently, in 2008, the Supreme Court, in striking down the gun control laws of the District of Columbia, ruled that the right to bear a firearm is unconnected to service in a militia. So that introductory clause is presumably now considered to be a bit of 18th century rationale, not enforceable as constitutional law in the 21st century.

  26. Yes CH......While no legal statute can in theory overturn constitutional rights, those rights are always subject to reinterpretation by the courts in light of modern needs. And there's no doubt that the Patriot Act of 2001 (passed in the days of national hysteria following 9/11), and as amended in 2006 and 2011, has weakened civil liberties protections in a number of areas including its provisions for indefinite detentions, and searches, seizures, and wiretaps without court order.

    It was the usual case of a people preferring safety (or the illusion of safety) to their own personal freedoms. And Obama has been just as happy as was George W. Bush to play to this popular political sentiment.

    It has happened before....but much worse. Many people of Japanese ancestry, in 1942, were stripped of their homes and businesses, and sent to what were called "War Relocation Camps" for the duration of the war. Effectively this was imprisonment for the crime of being of Japanese ancestry. This included 62% who were American citizens, many of them native born in the United States. It was outrageous, and was done by Executive Order of the President of the United States.....the great liberal icon, Franklin D. Roosevelt. He deserved impeachment for it. Instead, he received political acclaim. Various departments of the US government over the years denied complicity for their part in the crime.

    Legislation passed by Congress in 1988 apologized for the internment on behalf of the Government of the United States, and paid $1.6 Billion in reparations.

    Wiki points out that the legislation stated that it had happened due to "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." Couldn't be better said! I think that it's essential to have written constitutional guarantees that constrain politicians in normal times. But in times of overwhelming fear and hysteria, nothing on earth can protect the individual and the minority against the howling mob, and the self-serving politicians who pander to them.

  27. Dean....I appreciated your comment, and would be pleased to debate our diverging views, were it not for the fact that my relative ignorance of constitutional law is eclipsed by my COMPLETE ignorance of social contract theory, conventionalism, and the writings of Burke, Locke, et al. So allow me to just make a couple of points which may be mostly irrelevant to the point at hand, but are nevertheless sincerely held. ;-)

    I certainly take your point that sovereign Parliamentary government is more flexible than constitutional government. It has permitted the government of England/Britain to transform itself over time from a Dark Age absolute monarchy to a modern democratic state. This argues favorably for sovereign Parliaments, one after the other, bound by nothing more than convention and an unwritten social contract across the generations.

    Trouble is, as the old joke goes, an unwritten contract (or constitution) is not worth the paper it's printed on. "No government could undermine conventional freedoms in any draconian way, as it would be unconstitutional...." Unconstitutional? How do any two people even decide what an UNWRITTEN constitution IS? Much less invoke it in some way to prevent "draconian" governmental action that could undermine conventional freedoms.

    I suggest that at some point it's desirable to write it down. While the words will be forever subject to the vagaries (and flexibility) of interpretation, amendment, and enforcement, it offers some greater assurance for the future course of events than a simple faith in politicians, unrestrained by nothing more than convention.

    And if I've more or less missed the point, do forgive me. Political science is most assuredly not my field, and one can seldom go wrong by pleading ignorance. ;-)

  28. Yes Anon.....Many view the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to be an example of First Amendment free speech run amok. The court struck down a previous legal ban on electioneering communications (as defined) by corporations and unions as being an abridgment of individual free speech rights. Granting corporations the status of individuals who enjoy free speech guarantees.

    The "broken" nature of the court was dramatically and conclusively illustrated by the 5-4 "party line" decision in Bush v. Gore in 2000. The present court is strongly ideological if not blatantly partisan. And indeed, there is a crying need for election campaign finance reform to restrict the buying of political influence by big money interests.

    But First Amendment free speech has always been given the broadest possible legal interpretation, with free speech interpreted as free "expression" writ large. This has been, and will likely remain the death knell for many sincere attempts at election campaign and finance reform. The Court has almost invariably held that restrictions on campaign practices of various forms is fundamentally a restriction on political expression. So campaign laws will always have a very high legal bar to clear based on free speech arguments.

  29. Wow, Danny

    Political science isn't your field?

    Well, I know it's not your chosen subject from university, of course, you and I having known each other for quite a few years, but it's certainly something you have a strong grasp of as part of your deep interest in history.

    I'd hate to have to argue with you on something that WAS your field!!

    I was interested that you described the UK as a modern democracy, which of course, I suppose is the correct description, but at UK wide government level, it makes me laugh to see just how far from democratic it really is.

    For a start, we operate a first past the post election system for MPs. In a two party system that can mean that 49.999% of the population don't want the governance they get, but in a multi party system there is potentially no limit to how low the governing party's (or parties')support can be. In practice around 35% with a large majority in the House of Commons is not unreasonable.

    Added to that there is a strong whipping system, which operates successfully because executive appointments in government are made by the prime minister (an MP) mainly from his body of MPs. In other words, tow the line or you're going nowhere, buddy!

    Secondly there is an unelected chamber of aristocrats, political appointees, party supporters and priests from the established church.

    Then there is an unelected head of state who has undefined powers, although the current occupant of the throne rarely uses any of them. Heaven knows what the next bloke will make of that.

    The powers of the monarch are not properly enshrined in law. Victoria let many of them slip out of use when she was in her 30+ year mourning, and they became the prerogative of ministers. One 19th century constitutional historian defined them as the right to be informed, to advise, encourage and warn. Who knows? And in any case what exactly does 'warn' mean?

    Additionally,as some readers would be quick to point out, the European Union has a say in law making here (although, in fairness, not nearly as much as the Daily Mail would suggest, and a great deal of the legislation supposedly forced upon us, could easily be avoided if it weren't just signed into law here without parliamentary scrutiny).

    I wonder where the actual democracy is... :)

  30. Tris...I'm fascinated by your comments on what might be called the UNdemocratic elements of British governance. In summary, I suppose we must conclude that the long journey from Dark Age monarchy to modern democratic state has been far less than perfect in its outcome, while nevertheless marveling at how well "making it up as you go along" has actually worked, all things considered.

    Your unelected Head of State is the most obviously anachronistic residual element of the process it seems. Her/his theoretical residual authority would be disturbing to me in theory, but as you suggest it doesn't become an actual problem unless and until a present or future Monarch actually tries to exercise it.

    I did one day discover the 19th century English writer you refer to, who examined the issue of the so-called English Constitution, and enumerated the role of the Monarch in his book of the same name. It says something about the rather casual approach the English take to the matter of actually defining their constitutional monarchy that those important rights of the monarch now taken for be warn.....began as ideas in a book written by one Mr. Bagehot which, apparently, the Queen and important people in Whitehall considered to be rather good. So it presumably caught on at the Palace and at No. 10......and.....well.....there you are. A part of the "English Constitution" newly written and discovered in the book shops. (If there was in fact more to it than that, then my apologies to the English people for my impudence.)

    Interesting topc Tris! I enjoyed the discussion.

  31. Ha ha , Danny. Yes, it is surprising how well it has worked, made up, as it is, on the trot.

    Of course, it helps that for most of the time the people who made the constitution up as they went along were of the class that none of the rest of the population would ever question.

    For most their poverty was a full time occupation!

    Even with the coming to education for all, the masses in the UK are a relatively supine lot compared with most other Europeans. They have a tendency to moan a lot and take very little action.

    The head of state is anachronistic but as you say, the situation works well enough until someone pushes it too far. Charles may be the one to do just that and the whole thing will fall down.

    As for Mr Bagehot, lol, yeah, he wasn't even a historian or legal expert. He was a businessman and a writer, and he came up with this description of the monarch's rights, which seems to have been accepted.

    Earlier in Victoria's reign, when 'dear' Albert was still alive, it seems the Queen took a far more active role in politics.

    She only became what I think she described as 'a weak and feeble woman' when it suited her to become one. And for 30 years she barely did her job whilst being 'weak and feeble' in one of her many homes.

    And this was accepted by the Brits. Although there was a strong republican movement at that time, it seemed to melt away when she personally nursed her son through typhoid, the illness which had killed his father... 'dear' Albert.