Monday, June 01, 2009
The Parliamentary expenses scandal proves one thing with crystal clarity: you can never ever trust your rulers.
True, selling your immortal soul for a KitKat - or even a dry rot treatment - is not altogether in the same financial league as Mobotu’s Swiss bank accounts. But the moral principle is the same: these characters deliberately deceived us in order to line their own pockets from the public purse.
Why did they not level with us about their allowances system? Why did they not tell us it was £20 grand pa tax free for virtually anything they fancied? You know why. They all kept schtum for the simple reason that they knew we’d object. Instead of being open and honest, instead of explaining why they thought the allowances were justified, far easier simply to help themselves.
Of course, there are plenty of people out here who would do exactly the same, given half a chance. But you see, they're not ruling over us.
So given that these rascals are no better than the rest of us, WTF do we permit them so much power over our lives?
I mean, everybody knows that Big Government is rubbish at implementation: wasteful, inefficient, counterproductive… even hardcore socialists now concede that (which is why Labour “thinkers” like the ippr thrash about devising tortuous and unworkable arrangements to split “policy-making” from implementation - see many previous posts).
And as the expenses scandal has now underlined, those supposedly representing us at the controls of Big Government do no such thing. True, once every 4 or 5 years they do give us a Tweedledum and Tweedledee first-past-the-post election. But those elections can be won decisively with as little as 35% of the vote, and for the rest of the time they behave pretty well as they want. And all too often, that’s a million miles away what we might want.
Take Gordo's performance on his tour of studios and sofas this morning.
Right now, it couldn’t be clearer what we want - we want him to eff off before he does any more damage. But as he told us, he has decided that an election is not in the national interest. That famous “moral compass” of his is apparently in such fine fettle, and so vastly superior to anything we, the ignorant masses possess, that his duty - yes, his DUTY - is to fight on. He must save the nation from itself, and there's nothing whatsoever we can do to stop him.
True, this arrogant repulsive buffoon is taking the Labour party over a precipice. And true, a smashed Labour party will put the Tories in power for a generation. And true, the Major and I feel much better about that prospect than we have done at any stage over the last 12 years. So some good will come of it.
But never mind that. This simply ain’t no way to run a whelk stall, let alone Britain.
We have somehow got saddled with a system that gives us an elected dictator – well, unelected in the case of Gordo – who never enjoys majority support (see this post). Yet once in power, he gets complete control over a supine lobby-fodder legislature, he disposes 40-50% of our national income, he can take us to war on a pack of lies, he can force us to accept substandard public services, and he can stick his nose into every aspect of our lives.
Why? Why in the name of sanity do we put up with it?
The good news is that more and more of us understand not just the need for change, but also the nature of that change. We need to dismantle Big Government. Decentralise, downsize, privatise, etc etc (see almost all previous posts, and of course, The Plan). That would soon cut the power of these people back down to size.
Good as far as it goes. But now we can see it isn't enough: Parliament itself needs a radical overhaul so we can make the rascals at least a bit more accountable to us for the stuff that has to remain in their hands.
As we've blogged before, we reckon the time has come to split the executive from the legislature (and see this article by David Green). Because we surely can never hope to have a legislature that holds the executive to account while the executive commands an automatic majority in the legislature itself. And we can never hope to have more independently-minded MPs while for the most part they owe their prospects and their very election to the party leader.
We should have a directly elected PM, just like many of us already have a directly elected Mayor. And we could use the same single transferable vote system we already have for electing London's Mayor. There should also be a strict two-term limit, like they have in the US and France.
We would elect our local MP separately, possibly using a single transferable vote, or possibly even on the same first-past-the-post system we have now. Only, after the reform, we'd be focusing much more on the individual we are electing, rather than his/her party. The outcome of the local constituency election would not determine who is PM because we'd have already chosen our PM directly.
Oh, and there'd be far fewer MPs, all of whom would be subject to recall.
As for the Lords... can anyone think of a good reason to keep it at all? If it didn't exist, you'd never invent it, and with the planned separation of executive and legislature, what possible purpose would be served by having two lots of legislators?
Yes, it's all becoming so very clear.
There’s just one small problem: how do we get our rulers to vote for any of it?
As far as I can recollect, no Prime Minister has ever been up for relinquishing power. No Parliament has ever forced the issue. No major party has ever offered bankable pledges on the subject.
Bring me my torch of burning tar,
Bring me my pitchfork of minority parties.
PS No posts since Friday because our BT phone line went down. According to the engineer who finally pitched up, we'd "got lost". We certainly did - living in an area with zero mobile phone reception means that, without a landline, you simply drop off the edge of the known universe. Scary.