Wednesday, December 19, 2012

State Funding of Political Parties - The answer.

The question that has to be addressed is not so much as to whether there should be State funding, but if it is to be justified on the basis that it is to enhance our democracy, what conditions and requirements have to be met by those recipients of the funding.
                There are clear links between party democracy, membership and fund raising.   There is no doubt that healthy political parties should be capable of raising from the public sufficient funds to sustain themselves.   It is equally clear that for their own internal reasons the two main parties have pursued large donations from a few individuals and in the process have created a public perception of sleaze.   They have avoided the option of raising funds in small amounts from a large number of people because without democratic reform of the parties their pleas would fall on deaf ears.
                The solution to their problem requires the recognition of the calamitous financial state that the parties are in and that State funding should be strictly limited to assisting the parties to overcoming their temporary difficulties.   There should be a time limit on the main element of funding.   In order to eliminate the public perception of sleaze the maximum size of any donation from an individual should be limited to £10,000.   The parties should be democratically accountable to their membership.   The limit on donations becomes less important if the parties are democratically accountable to their members for it would make it more difficult to obtain influence in such circumstances.   All these steps are taken to enhance democracy and should be conditions imposed on the parties prior to them receiving State funding.
                The simplest way for these objectives to be achieved is for the State to pay a per capita amount (say £20.00) to each political party dependent on the number of audited members of the party paying a minimum subscription of £10.00.   Such monies paid by the State should be reduced each year by 20% thus eliminating the subsidy over five years.   This would give the parties time to increase their membership to the point where they are self-financing.

To enhance democracy the State should pay a per capita amount (say £20.00) to each political party dependent on the number of audited members of the party paying a minimum subscription of £10.00 and subject to the parties having democratic constitutions.   This would encourage them to concentrate on building up their membership.   The subsidy would diminish by 20% each year and be completely abolished after five years.
The Trade Unions should be subjected to the same limits on donations to political parties as Companies and individuals i.e. £10,000.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

House of Lords reform

"In the United Kingdom, however, 92 seats in the House of Lords continue for now to be reserved to holders of hereditary aristocratic titles.
"Only two of these 92 seats are currently occupied by women. While the holders of hereditary peerages continue to be eligible for membership of the House of Lords, the way in which their titles are inherited, and its effect on the gender balance in Parliament, remain matters of public interest."
A government source in the Lords said there were no plans to change the position of hereditary peers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

State Funding of Political Parties

Whilst in opposition 1997-2010 the Conservative Party received over £40 million in State funding.   It was called "Short" money after the Labour MP Ted Short who first introduced it.   Since 2010 the Labour Party has been receiving similar amounts each year.   Both of these Parties are fundamentally undemocratic organisations.    Both operate the discredited Electoral College system for their elections.   Effectively they are controlled by a small group of oligarchs.
There should be no State funding to any political party which does not have a democratic constitution which can be changed by the members on the basis of One Member One Vote.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Party Democracy

The Conservative Party needs a constitution, which would make those that run the Party democratically accountable to the membership.   The officers of the Party would be elected and those elected officers would control Conservative Central Office.   Members of the Party feel that they should have a say in the way in which the Party works.   Until this happens the Party will continue to decline.
The Labour Party also needs to become genuinely democratic.   It cannot be right that a National Political party should be so dependent on the vested interests of a particular group – the Trade Unions.
The Unions continue effectively to govern the Labour Party or more accurately the Trade Union bosses continue to run the Labour Party.
All political Parties should have elected Chairman and Treasurer answerable to their membership.
All political Parties should have an Annual General Meeting to which their members are invited and entitled to vote at which the Parties accounts are presented and voted upon and the officers of the Party are elected.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Party democracy - One member One Vote.

For political parties to play their role in the chain of command they need to be membership organisations that are under the control of and answerable to their members.   In this respect political parties in Britain (and elsewhere) are in decline.   This comes from the drift into mega-expensive politics and the then unavoidable transgression of moneyed power into the domain of democratic politics.   This is fuelled by donations to parties and campaigns from moneyed persons, businesses and organisations.   That should simply be put a stop to.   It would improve democracy if political budgets were cut and members given power in parties.  S. Ringen "The Liberal Vision."

                                Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party should reform themselves to become democratic bodies answerable to their membership so that the members can change the Constitution of their Party on the basis of One Member One Vote.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A vote for all the people.

The General Assembly of the United Nations needs to be reformed.   By giving each member one vote in the Assembly there is a huge distortion in the democratic process.   George Monbiot points out that:
        in the UN General Assembly, the 10,000 people of the Pacific Island of Tuvalu possess the same representation as the one billion people of India.   Their per capita vote in other words is weighted 100,000-fold. 
        Complicated though it might be, the best solution would be for all the members of the UN General Assembly to be elected by the people from within each country.   This solution was favoured by the Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein.
        The citizens of each country should elect members of the United Nations General Assembly.   There should be one member for each 6 million population.   Those countries with less than 6 million population should join together with others in an alliance to achieve the 6 million.
 With such radical reforms the United Nations would then be able to regulate legitimately global corporations and it should also have the powers to control the WTO the IMF.   This would be a major step forward.
 By the beginning of the new century, by the United Nations’ count, 140 countries of the world, out of 190 in all and with two thirds of the world’s population, had multi-party electoral systems.   The number of authoritarian regimes was down to 26, from 67 in 1985.   For all who believe in democracy, this is a magnificent triumph – but for all its glory, still less of a triumph than it may appear if we look more closely.
Most countries are now full or partial democracies, but their citizens are turning away from democracy and becoming disenchanted.   They care less for democracy, believe less in it, participate less in it and have less trust in those that govern them, because in most cases democracy is distorted.
For too long the politicians have ignored the impact of globalisation on democracy.   Globalisation is here to stay.   There is no turning back, but ways must be found to ensure that multi-national corporations are accountable, that nations recognise the effect their policies have on other nations, that force or the fear of force is not the way to conduct our affairs.   The obvious institution to handle these matters is the United nations, but we have seen that without radical reform the task would be too great for it.   Should that be the case then a new institution consisting of the democratic nations of the world must be created.   Such a body would have to be democratic but would draw its strength from the votes of the peoples of the world.   Perhaps in time it would develop into a World Parliament.   It would be a federation of nations, leading to World government.   Its time will come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Alistair Campbell on the Iraq War

The following exchange took place at the Alastair Campbell, Book Launch, 'The Burden of Power: Countdown to Iraq - The Alastair Campbell Diaries' at Mile End Group meeting in June 2012:

John Strafford:
I opposed the war in Iraq.   I did so on the basis that if Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction the most likely time for him to use them would be when he was attacked.   And if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction then we shouldn’t be attacking him.   So did you take into account the danger of him using those weapons of mass destruction, the impact that they would have had, had he have used them, and what was it that convinced you it was worth the risk?

Alastair Campbell:
That was a very fair question.   I think there is a passage in the book, which even now every time I look at it, it slightly brings hairs up on the back of my neck.   I think Sally was there as well when we went to a briefing at the MOD, where they briefed us on the level of preparedness of British troops in the event of chemical and biological weapon attack.

This is why, whenever people say, “he did it for Bush, he did it for this, he did it for that”, I always say to them, “at least understand that he thought about every single possible ramification”.   And there was very detailed and very specific planning about what would have happened.   And indeed, when the parliamentary vote happened.   Its really funny going through the Cabinet Office process of what we can and can’t say. They still have this thing about you can’t say about the existence of special forces, even though you have hundreds of books out there about them.
The point is, I think a lot of the initial action was in relation to that as well so the fear, it was real.   It was absolutely real.   I think Tony said this when he went to the Chilcott Inquiry. That all of the things that we thought were going to happen and that we worried about didn’t happen and the things that did happen including Al-Quaeda piling in and the Iranians piling in and all the rest of it.
And we thought there was the makings of a civil service structure and it turned out there was a shell.   So all the things that we thought were going to happen, didn’t.   Saddam fell much more quickly I think than had been envisaged.   The attacks against the forces that we worried about didn’t materialize.   And so yes that was all thought about.
Going back to the nub of your question, he either had them, in which case, don’t provoke him or he didn’t in which case don’t attack him.   Tony’s view, absolutely, was that we all thought he had them.   Back to the MOD, there wasn’t a person in that room, who didn’t believe what was being said.   So he’s the Prime Minister, he’s not having to give an opinion, he’s not having to say yes or no in an opinion poll, he’s got to take a decision and I can remember him saying at various points, and Sally and I would have these discussions with him at various points, and I can remember one where Sally was there when I said: ‘look Tony, you do realize there is every chance this is going to be the end of you, don’t you. Is it really, really worth it? And he said: ‘its always worth doing what you think is the right thing and we have ignored Saddam for far too long and that includes Britain”. And that framed his management response to this the whole way through. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reform the United Nations

 There is a need for regulation and accountability at a global level.   The obvious candidate for doing this is the United Nations, but the United Nations needs drastic reform.   Its structure created after the Second World War is out of date.   The most powerful part of it is the Security Council, which is supposed to deal with security problems in the World.
 The UN Charter grants the five permanent members vetoes over constitutional reform of the United Nations.   Even if every other member of the General Assembly votes to change the way the Institution works, their decision can be over-ruled by a single permanent member.   Any one of the five can also block the appointment of the UN Secretary-General, the election of judges to the International Court of Justice, and the admission of a new member to the United Nations. 
  By 2003 France had wielded the veto eighteen times, Britain thirty-two times the United States seventy-six times and China four times.   The USSR vetoed more than half the UN resolutions before it collapsed in 1989.   Since then it has used the veto sparingly.
  The veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council is in conflict with the principle stated in the preamble to “The Charter of the United Nations” that all nations have equal rights.   There is no way in which genuine reform can be made to the United Nations until the veto power is removed and the Security Council itself is reformed.  
  The Security Council should be elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations, but that also needs reform.   It is a case of chicken and egg, and probably a package of reforms is required all at the same time.
  The veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations should be abolished and decisions taken by a two-thirds majority vote.
  The 15 members of the Security Council should be elected by the General Assembly with no country having more than one member.   To be eligible for membership of the Security Council a country must meet certain democratic criteria and pay its due proportion of United Nations costs based on GDP of member nations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

John Bright's Solution

"The class which has hitherto ruled in this country has failed miserably.   If a class has failed let us try the nation.   That is our faith, that is our purpose, that is our cry - Let us try the nation.

John Bright 8th October 1866

A referendum on Europe - Let us try the nation!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Where is today's John Bright?

I often wonder why it is that men are so willing to bow their necks to men who are ornamented with stars and garters and titles; for I am sure the more I come into contact with these characters the more I come to the conclusion that it is something beyond titles which constitutes true nobility of character... And there is not any creature which crawls the earth, to my mind more despicable and more pitiable than the man who sacrifices the interest of his own class, of his own order, and of his own country, merely that he may toady to somebody who has a title to his name.
John Bright 1844

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monkeys and Parliament

Monkeys and Parliament
with acknowledgement to Peter Mullins.

 If you start with a cage containing five monkeys and inside the
 cage, hang a banana on a string from the top and then you place a set
 of stairs under the banana, before long a monkey will go to the
 stairs and climb toward the banana.

 As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray all the other monkeys
 with cold water.

 After a while another monkey makes an attempt with same result ...
 all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon when
 another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try
 to prevent it.

 Now, put the cold water away.

 Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.
 The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the
 stairs.To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the crap out of
 him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to
 climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

 Next, remove another of the original five monkeys, replacing it
 with a new one.

 The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous
 newcomer takes part in the punishment...... with enthusiasm, because
 he is now part of the "team".

 Then, replace a third original monkey with a new one, followed by
 the fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the
 stairs he is attacked.

 Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they
 were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they
 are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

 Finally, having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the
 remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.
 Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway
 for the banana.

 Why, you ask? Because in their minds...that is the way it has
 always been!
This, my friends, is how Parliament operates... and this is
 why, from time to time:

 ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What have we learned in 2,067 years?

What have we learned in 2,067 years?  

Here it is:

  "The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,
    public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be
    tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should
    be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to
    work, instead of living on public assistance."
                                           -   Cicero    - 55 BC

So, evidently nothing.......

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Conservative Case for House of Lords Reform

The following article was published on the conservativehome web site today:

The Conservative Case for House of Lords Reform
John E. Strafford

One of the key features of democracy is that it is a system of government of the people in which the people exercise power.   This is done directly or indirectly through their representatives and by a process in which the will of the majority is determined.   The House of Lords exercises power and yet the people have no say in its composition, so it is not representative of the people (43% of the members went to just 12 private schools).   This cannot be right and for more than a century prominent Conservatives have recognised this and called for it to be changed.
The Conservative Party has a proud tradition of constitutional reform.   From the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 to Disraeli’s Second Reform Act of 1867; from the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928 which gave votes to women at the age of 21, to the Life Peerage Act of 1958, Conservatives were in the forefront of reform.   The one reform which has eluded the Party is that of House of Lords reform.
A century ago Winston Churchill said that the Upper Chamber “must be based upon the roots of the whole body of parliamentary electors”.   Its members should be elected by “very large constituencies” to differentiate them from MPs.
In more recent times William Hague said “We would like to see a stronger House of Lords in the future, including a substantial elected element”.   In 2005 Michael Howard said “the way we are governed has become less accountable, more complex and, ultimately less democratic..... proper reform of the House of Lords has been repeatedly promised but never delivered”.
In 1998 William Hague launched a Commission chaired by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.   The Mackay Report included many similarities to the current proposals for House of Lords reform.   It said that “the functions and powers of the reformed chamber should be broadly the same as the current House of Lords.   There should be no significant diminution of powers”.   Among the Report’s proposals were the following:
It should have limited numbers, no less than 400 and no more than 550.
Members should serve one non-renewable term of three parliaments.
Members should be able to resign.

In view of the historical stance of the Conservative Party on House of Lords reform why do some Conservative MPs object to the current Reform Bill?
Some critics say that the House of Lords should be 100% elected and that they should not have 15 year terms and also that they object to the “Open list” method of election.   All these points I agree with, but if we can pass the Bill as it stands there will be an opportunity to deal with these points in future legislation.
It is said that we will lose many experts from the Lords, but in fact most of the day to day work is done by the 195 members who were former MPs or MEPs.   In the case of many of the “experts” their expertise is decades out of date – 14 members are over the age of 90.   Often “experts” disagree with each other.   What is required of a politician is not so much expertise but judgement.   There is no reason to think that experts are better at making decisions than the average voter.   Thomas Jefferson for one, thought it likely that they might be worse.   In his book “The Wisdom of Crowds” James Surowiecki quotes Thomas Jefferson “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor”.   “The former will decide it as well and often better than the latter because he has not been led astray by artificial rules”.
Then there are those who think it is all a plot by the Liberal Democrats to ensure that they always hold the balance of power in the Upper House.   What a counsel of despair for Conservatives to believe that they can never get a majority of the people to vote for them.
Some say that a reformed House of Lords is a recipe for deadlock.   Let us take a leaf out of the United States constitution which built in checks and balances to reduce the amount of legislation on the grounds that the less the Government interferes the better off we will all be – a good Conservative principle.   Ultimately the House of Commons must always have supremacy.
This House of Lords Bill is a vital step towards a fairer democracy.   In good Conservative tradition it is an incremental step along this path.   We should all support it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do we have a hereditary Monarchy? Brush up your history.

Do we have a hereditary monarchy? Brush up your history.
1066-87         William the Conqueror - obtained throne by conquest.
1087-1100 William II (William Rufus)– third son of William the Conqueror.   Robert (first son) was   made Duke of Normandy. Richard (second son died).   William II died, shot whilst hunting, no children.
1100 – 35 Henry I, fourth son of William the Conqueror. Robert (first son) tried to claim the throne but was defeated in battle and imprisoned for life by Henry.  Henry’s son William drowned in 1120.
1135 – 54 Stephen – Nephew of Henry I through his mother Adela who was Henry I sister.   Henry I had a daughter, Matilda who should have succeeded, but Stephen seized the throne.   Stephen had two sons, Eustace and William but Eustace died before Stephen.   William agreed that Henry II would succeed Stephen.   Henry II, son of Matilda seized the throne.
1154 – 89 Henry II – Son of Matilda and grandson of Henry I.   Henry II had five sons.  William, 1st son died age 3.  Henry, 2nd son died of dysentery fighting his father and brothers.
1189 – 99 Richard I – Third son of Henry II.   Geoffrey, 4th son of Henry II died in 1186.  Richard I died, no children.   Eleanor and Joan, sisters of Richard and older than John should have succeeded or Eleanor, daughter of Geoffrey should have succeeded.  Arthur son of Geoffrey should also have succeeded even though he was born after Geoffrey’s death.
1199 – 1216 John – Fifth son of Henry II.
1216 – 72 Henry III – son of John
1272 – 1307 Edward I – Eldest son of Henry III
1307 – 27 Edward II – Eldest son of Edward I.   Edward II abdicated, was murdered and followed by:
1327 – 77 Edward III – Eldest son of Edward II. Edward III had four sons that survived to manhood.   The eldest was Edward, the Black Prince.   He died in 1376.   His eldest son Edward of Angouleme died in 1372.
1377 – 99 Richard II – Grandson of Edward III.      Richard II was the second son of  Edward, the Black Prince.   Richard II was forced to abdicate and was then starved to death in 1400.   He was followed by:
1399 – 1413 Henry IV – Grandson of Edward III, son of John of Gaunt – third son of Edward III.
1413 – 1422 Henry V – Son of Henry IV.   Died of dysentery.
1422 – 1461 Henry VI – Son of Henry V.   Imprisoned by Edward IV.
1461 – 1470 Edward IV – Great, Great, Great, Grandson of Edward III through Edward III’s second son Lionel, Duke of Clarence.   Fled into exile after the Earl of Warwick put Henry VI back on the throne.
1470 – 1471 Henry VI – Murdered in the Tower of London after Edward IV had defeated the Earl of Warwick in battle.
1471 – 1483 Edward IV – Fell ill and died in 1483.   His two sons Edward V and Richard were captured by Richard III before Edward V (age 12) had his coronation.   The two boys disappeared!   Bones found in the Tower of London were moved to Westminster Abbey by Charles II in 1674.
1483 – 1485 Richard III – brother of Edward IV.   Richard killed in a fight with Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth.   Richard’s son Edward died age 10 in 1484.
1485 – 1509 Henry VII – Grandson of Henry V.   Margaret, daughter of Henry VII was older than Henry VIII and married James IV of Scotland.
1509 – 1547 Henry VIII – Second son of Henry VII.   Arthur, first son of Henry VII died of tubercolosis in 1502.
1547 – 1553 Edward VI – only son of Henry VIII. Died.   Left the throne to Lady Jane Grey, Great Grand Daughter of Henry VII.
1553 Lady Jane Grey On the throne from 10-19 July.   Mary, daughter of Henry VIII formed an army and declared herself Queen.   Lady Jane Grey was executed six months later.
1553 – 1558 Mary, eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Died, no children.
1558 – 1603 Elizabeth I, second daughter of Henry VIII.   Died, no children.
1603 – 1625 James I, Great, great grandson of Henry VII.   Elizabeth was the eldest child of James I.   She married the King of Bohemia.
1625 – 1649 Charles I, son of James I. Executed for treason.
1649 – 1660 A Republic.
1660 – 1685 Charles II, eldest son of Charles I, no legitimate children.
1685 – 1688 James II, second son of Charles I.   Fled the country when William of Orange landed in England with an army of 10,000.   James II had a son James, the Old Pretender who also had a son Charles, the Young Pretender.
1689 – 1694 William III & Mary II. Mary was the eldest child of James II and granddaughter of Charles I.  She married William  - grandson of Charles I through his daughter Mary.  William insisted on sharing the monarchy.   Mary II died in 1694.
1694 – 1702 William III.   William and Mary died with no children.
1702 – 1714 Anne, second daughter of James II.   William, Duke of Gloucester, her only surviving son died in 1700.
1714 – 1727 George I, Great grandson of James I through Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James I.
1727 – 1760 George II, son of George I.   George II had eight children.   The eldest Frederick died in 1752.
1760 – 1820 George III, son of Frederick and grandson of George II.
1820 – 1830 George IV, eldest son of George III, no children.
1830 – 1837 William IV, third son of George III, no children.
1837 – 1901 Victoria, Granddaughter of George III. Daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III who had died.   Eldest child of Victoria was also named Victoria and married Kaiser Wilhelm I
1901 – 1910 Edward VII, eldest son of Victoria.
1910 – 1936 George V, eldest surviving son of Edward VII.   Albert, eldest son died in 1892.
1936 Edward VIII, eldest son of George V, abdicated.
1936 – 1952 George VI, second son of George V.
1952 - Elizabeth II, Eldest daughter of George VI.

Monday, June 11, 2012

When the House of Commons acted as a Court of Justice

In October 1656 James Naylor travelled to Bristol in company with seven Friends, including Martha Simmonds. The group travelled in procession through Glastonbury and Wells and entered Bristol on 24 October. Nayler went on horseback while his companions sang hosannas and cast garments before him in what many regarded as a blasphemous imitation of Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Bristol Quakers immediately disassociated themselves from Nayler and his followers, who were arrested and charged under the Blasphemy Act of 1650. Although Nayler maintained it was a symbolic act, he was accused of impersonating Christ and claiming divine status. The case came to the attention of the Second Protectorate Parliament. Despite legal doubts regarding Parliament's authority to conduct a trial, Nayler was taken to London to answer to the House of Commons. Many MPs were suspicious of the religious freedom granted under the Protectorate and regarded Nayler's case as an example of the worst excesses of toleration. In December 1656, a majority declared him guilty of blasphemy and a fierce debate ensued regarding the extent of his punishment, with some MPs demanding that he should be stoned to death in accordance with the Old Testament penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). Despite Cromwell's call for leniency, Nayler was sentenced to be whipped through the streets, exposed in the pillory, have his tongue bored through with a red-hot iron and to have the letter "B" for blasphemer branded on his forehead. He was then returned to Bristol and made to repeat his ride in reverse while facing the rear of his horse. Finally, he was taken back to London and committed to solitary confinement in Bridewell for an indefinite period. 

With some journalists being held in contempt of Parliament and demands for the House of Commons to punish them will they get the same justice as James Naylor?

For further information see 

Friday, June 1, 2012

I told you so - 47 years ago

The following article was published in the Chelsea Young Conservative’s magazine “Force” in Autumn 1965:

The Common Market
Economic Disadvantages
By John Strafford

Although entry into the E.E.C. would bring benefits to Britain (i.e. membership of a major world market that is rapidly expanding) the economic advantages would be outweighed by the following disadvantages:
1. Loss of national sovereignty.   Britain would not retain sufficient economic freedom to counter – for example – any excessive depression or deflation affecting a leading member of the community.
2. Commonwealth producers who rely on tariff-free entry into Britain and receive preferential treatment for their products would suffer.   Commonwealth trade is a two-way affair – no less than 40% of British trade is done with Commonwealth Countries.
3. The British system of support for agriculture could not survive entry into the market; the adoption of the European system would increase the average level of food prices.
4. Immigration of low paid workers under the free movement of labour scheme could lead to a reduction in the standard of living;
5. The inevitable liquidation of E.F.T.A. would mean a loss of trade.
Economically (and also politically) entry into the Common Market on the terms proposed would be national suicide.   France prevented Britain’s entry into the Common Market last time she applied for membership, so does the Common Market really want Britain?

It was all so predictable!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Did you know these little bits of history?

In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was
 either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed
him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others
showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not
based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs
 were to be painted. Arms and legs are 'limbs,' therefore painting them
would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, 'Okay, but it'll cost
you an arm and a leg.' (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult
 to paint)
As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year
(May and October) Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved
their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men
 could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so
to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the
shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and
 fluffy, hence the term 'big wig.' Today we often use the term 'here
comes the Big Wig' because someone appears to be or is powerful and
In the late 1700's, many houses consisted of a large room with only
 one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and
was used for dining. The 'head of the household' always sat in the
chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a
 guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair
during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in
charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the 'chair man.'
Today in business, we use the expression or title 'Chairman' or
 'Chairman of the Board..'
Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many
women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would
spread bee's wax over their facial skin to smooth out their
 complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began
to stare at another woman's face she was told, 'mind your own bee's
wax.' Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term
 'crack a smile'. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the
wax would melt . . . Therefore, the expression 'losing face.'
Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and
 dignified woman, as in 'straight laced'. . Wore a tightly tied lace.
Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax
levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the 'Ace
 of Spades.' To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards
instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were
thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't 'playing with a full
Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what
the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV's
or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns,
 pubs, and bars. They were told to 'go sip some ale' and listen to
people's conversations and political concerns.. Many assistants were
dispatched at different times. 'You go sip here' and 'You go sip
 there.' The two words 'go sip' were eventually combined when referring
to the local opinion and, thus we have the term 'gossip.'
At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and
 quart-sized containers. A bar maid's job was to keep an eye on the
customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention
and remember who was drinking in 'pints' and who was drinking in
 'quarts,' hence the term minding your 'P's and 'Q's
One more and betting you didn't know this!
In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters
carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It
 was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to
prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method
devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on
four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30
 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the
cannon. There was only one to prevent the bottom layer
from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a
metal plate called a 'Monkey' with 16 round indentations.
However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly
rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make 'Brass
Monkeys.' Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and
 much faster than iron when chilled.
Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass
indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come
right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, 'Cold enough to
 freeze the balls off a brass monkey.' (All this time, you thought that
was an improper expression, didn't you.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

European Parliament Elections - scrap the "Closed Lists"

Members of the European Parliament in Great Britain are elected using the closed list form of proportional representation (Northern Ireland has used the Single Transferable Vote since 1979).
There is nothing voters can do in a closed list system to pass individual judgement on MEPs they support or oppose.   In most regions the top candidates of Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP were more or less guaranteed election.   Even without fully anticipating the UKIP surge in the 2004 election, it was possible to identify 50 out of the 75 MEPs before a vote was cast.
Closed lists tend to reflect internal party preoccupations rather than the priorities of the electorate.   Because of the large size of each region, they tend to reward fame over ability to a greater extent than with selections for Commons constituencies.   Even when the parties use one member one vote, as they did for selecting candidates for the 2004 European Parliamentary elections, this would not be transparent to voters only to party activists.   Closed lists risk increasing party patronage and are less accountable and open to scrutiny.    Those chosen are accountable to the party rather than the electorate.
Northern Ireland used the Single Transferable Vote system of election to elect its three MEPs.   Turnout in Northern Ireland has been higher than in Great Britain in every European election since they began in 1979.   The Northern Ireland election showed significant advantages over closed lists in that voters chose between candidates and could be confident that their vote would not be wasted, either because their favourite candidate was elected easily or by backing a candidate who turned out to have little support in which case their second vote would count.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.   The turnout in the elections for the European Parliament in 1999 was 23.1% in Great Britain as against 57.7% in Northern Ireland.   The difference was not so great in 2004 being 38.2% against 51.7% but remember in Great Britain the local and European elections were held on the same day and postal voting was brought in on a massive scale.   It is time we had the same basis of election throughout the United Kingdom and that basis should be the Single Transferable Vote.
       The European parliament electoral system can be improved without losing its advantages.   Open lists and STV would both allow greater choice for voters, and STV would be much fairer to candidates without support from a major Party.   STV would be a better system for future European elections.
The present system of closed lists for the European parliament elections should be abolished.   It should be replaced by a STV system of election where each constituency elects three MEPs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Conservative Philosophy

Inherent in and at the core of the Conservative Party’s philosophy is a belief in:

An economy based on:
Free markets and trade
Private ownership and enterprise
Monetary and fiscal probity
Gainful employment
Minimum intervention by the State
Low taxation

A society based on:
Patriotism and duty
Reciprocal rights and responsibilities
Respect for law and order
Equal educational opportunities

This philosophy:
Accommodates the view that each human being is an individual, answerable to and for him or herself and also a responsible citizen of the community
Allows that there are bound to be social and economic inequalities in life and that the strong have a duty to help the weak and encourage them to help themselves
Leads to policies that are justified by common-sense rather than doctrinaire theory

A philosophy is more a statement of belief in the nature of things than one of intent or action which, respectively, are the foundations of strategy and policy.   The perceived aim of the Conservative Party is to build a democratic society that is both prosperous and at ease with itself.   To achieve this aim the following objectives must be pursued by the Party:
Maintain itself as a national organisation supported by a broad section of the population from all walks of life
Uphold the rule of law and order and the concept of equality of all before the law
Create favourable conditions for the creation of wealth and thereby to sustain high levels of employment and living standards
Promote free enterprise, maximise choice and minimise regulation
Provide or enable the provision of high quality services in fields where the State must provide them
Control public expenditure within a balanced budget and with low levels of taxation
A foreign policy which is conducive to our National interest.
Ensure the integrity and security of the realm

Thursday, April 26, 2012

European Commissioners

        The European Commission can only be dismissed en-bloc by the European Parliament and when allegations of fraud arose the entire Commission under Jaques Santer resigned, although many Commissioners were re-appointed under Romano Prodi.
The European Parliament also has the right to oppose the appointment of the Commission en-bloc.   It did this in 2004.   The effect of all this is that individual Commissioners are unaccountable and the exercise of their rights by the European Parliament, are rarely used.
The European Parliament should have the right to dismiss individual Commissioners. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

European Commission

The European Commission has a peculiarly privileged position in that it has the right to propose new legal initiatives – and once adopted, European law trumps national sovereignty.   This has enabled a strange kind of bureaucratic vanguardism to emerge, with the Commission self-consciously extending the reach of European integration free from the standard political oversight at the national level.
In their glass boxes the commissions, committees and sub – committees play an absurd billion-euro bridge game.   All are entirely without democratic legitimisation: those who had power had not been elected, and those who had been elected had no power.
The European Commission should be the civil service of Europe not a quasi government.   By it having the  right to propose new legal initiatives it sets the agenda for the direction it wishes Europe to move.   New initiatives should emerge from the Council of Ministers or the European Parliament.   The Commission should be there to serve the peoples of Europe, not to govern them.
The European Commission should no longer have the power to propose legal initiatives.   Either the Council of Ministers or the European Parliament should propose them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't make old people mad!

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should  bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."
The cashier responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."
She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day. We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not
Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right. We didn't have the green thing back then.
We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn't expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn't come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad. But we didn't have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart-ass young person.
Remember: Don't make old people mad. We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off.

Monday, March 19, 2012

European Scrutiny Committee

Before the 2010 General Election the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee met in secret in spite of the Committee voting for its meetings to be held in public.   David Cameron promised that it would meet in public.  After the General Election it did meet in public, but then it decided that it would meet in private.   The public have a right to know what is going on in their parliament.
The European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons should meet in public.

Monday, March 12, 2012

European Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers meets in secret.   It is totally unacceptable that in a democracy a legislative body should meet secretly
                The European Council of Ministers should meet in public. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

House of Lords Reform - Things you should know

Of the 827 members of the House of Lords 22 have leave of absence, 3 are suspended (problems with expenses), 13 are disqualified as members of the judiciary and 1 is disqualified as an MEP.   Only approximately 130 are active members and these are mainly former politicians who were MPs, Council Leaders, etc.
<There are 92 hereditary Peers. The only other country in the world with a hereditary element in its legislature is Lesotho.
<There are 26 Bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords.   They are all male. The Church of Scotland, The Church of Wales and the Church of Ireland are unrepresented as are all other faiths. There are only three other "democratic" countries in the World that have a theocratic element in their legislature. They are Iran, Israel and soon Syria.
<Just because you are an expert in say Human Fertilisation (Lord Winston) does not mean that you are more qualified than anyone else to legislate on defence, education, foreign affairs etc.
<79 Peers did not attend a single session of the House of Lords last year.
<When Tony Blair ceased to be Prime Minister over half the members of the House of Lords had been appointed by one man – Tony Blair.
<Other than the People’s Congress of China the House of Lords is the largest legislative body in the World.
<61 other countries have an elected second chamber.
<5 Peers with criminal convictions are members of the House of Lords – some are even in prison now.
<9 members of the House of Lords have never made a speech including Lady Falkender who was made a Peer in 1976
<Lord Heseltine has yet to make his maiden speech although he has been a member of the Lords for 11 years
<Divisions in the Lords tend to be decided not on the merit of an issue but by the timing of a vote, since independent cross benchers go home in the evenings.
<The Lords receive £300 per day attendance allowance – tax free.

<The Appointments Commission appoints on average 4 independent members to the House of Lords each year.   All other appointments are party political.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

European Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers is probably the most powerful body in the European Union and yet in practise it is the executive, rather than our own Parliament which interfaces with the EU in legislating in the Council of Ministers, and the executive rather than Parliament then makes regulations to transpose the directives into national laws.   Parliament’s involvement should be strengthened:
                There should be a legal obligation for Ministers to obtain parliamentary approval before exercising the United Kingdom’s vote in the Council of Ministers of the European Union.
                This is done in some other member states such as Denmark and Sweden

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

House of Lords - Constitutional Reform

                A directly elected House of Lords should have the power to block major constitutional reform unless that reform has been put to the people either at a General Election or in a referendum.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Elect the House of Lords

 It is unacceptable in a democracy that a key part of the legislature is not elected.   In 2007 the House of Commons passed a resolution calling for 80% of the House of Lords to be elected.   Only then would it be able to claim independence from the House of Commons.   Were this to happen there would be a real debate on what powers the House of Lords should have.  These powers would have to spell out what would happen if, on occasion the two democratically elected Houses could not agree.      On financial matters the House of Commons would remain supreme.
  The people should directly elect the House of Lords.

Monday, February 6, 2012

House of Lords - Expulsion of Peers

Peerage titles cannot be withdrawn except by Act of Parliament, but during the First World War many members of the German Royal family held British titles and fought against the British.   In 1917 Parliament passed The Titles Deprivation Act, which allowed the King to establish a committee of the Privy Council.  The committee was empowered to take evidence and report the names of British peers who served in an enemy military force, or rendered assistance to or voluntarily resided in an enemy nation.   The report would then be laid before both Houses of Parliament.   If neither House passed a motion disapproving of the report within forty days, it was to be submitted to the King, whereupon the persons named therein would lose their titles.
 The committee reported their findings to the King in August 1918 and on March 28th 1919 the King issued an Order-in-Council depriving the following of their titles: Duke of Albany (Queen Victoria’s grandson), Duke of Cumberland, Duke of Brunswick, and Viscount Taaffe.
                The successor of a person thus deprived of a peerage is allowed to petition the Crown for its restoration; the petition is to be referred to a committee of the Privy Council, which may recommend whether the petitioner be reinstated or not. To date, no descendant of the persons who were deprived of their titles has petitioned the Crown for the restoration of their title.
                Members of the House of Lords should be subject to the same procedures as members of the House of Commons regarding expulsion from the House.
At present there is no procedure in place for such disciplinary proceedings to take place.   This is wrong.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Statutory Instruments - should they be amended?

Statutory instruments are regulations, orders or rules, which have the force of law.   They are made by a Minister, or sometimes by some other committee or body, in accordance with powers granted by an Act of Parliament.   Many Acts confer powers to make statutory instruments for purposes specified in the Act.   The powers to make statutory instruments are often very widely defined, and in some cases statutory instruments can even be used to repeal or amend Acts of Parliament: so-called “Henry VIII” powers
The most important and widely drawn “Henry VIII” power is that contained in the European Communities Act 1972, which permits ministers and a range of other bodies to make regulations making “any such provision as may be made by Act of Parliament”.   Regulations under this section can and regularly do repeal or amend Acts of Parliament, and may be made for the purpose of implementing EC obligations or “for the purpose of dealing with matters arising out of or related to any such obligation.”
Almost all the directives emanating from the European Union have to be converted into Statutory Instruments in the United Kingdom.
The key weakness of Statutory Instruments is that while each House can vote down a Statutory Instrument as a whole, there is no power to amend it.   Rejecting the whole instrument is a drastic remedy if the objection is to parts of it.   The fact that they cannot be amended in Parliament is one of the reasons, which at present make them so attractive to the Whitehall machine, and yet scrutiny of these Instruments is essential.   The key reform is:
                Statutory Instruments should be capable of amendment by Parliament.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Conflict of interest

In an article in The Guardian on 27 June 2007 Marcel Berlin wrote:
The office of attorney general contains an inherent inescapable flaw; a potential conflict of interest between the two hats that come with the job….Under one hat, the attorney general is a political animal, appointed by the party in power and owing allegiance to its policies.   He’s also the government’s legal advisor and although not a member of the cabinet, can be invited to attend meetings…Yet the same insider, wearing the other hat, is expected to make decisions over a whole range of issues (especially criminal prosecutions) as an independent lawyer, taking into account the public interest, with no thought of how they would affect government policy or colleagues.”

  This is an untenable position and one way or another, the conflict should be resolved.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Major public appointments

When the political party in power also has a large majority in the House of Commons, the power of the Prime Minister is almost unlimited.   Why should one person be able to exercise so much power?   If Parliament fails to be the centre of democratic legitimacy its main function has been lost.   Only parliamentarians themselves can re-assert this function.   If they fail then the decline of parliament is inevitable.   They could begin to reverse this decline by insisting that the heads of executive agencies and Quangos and many other public bodies should be confirmed in their jobs by parliamentary committees.   Those confirmed should only continue to hold the positions subject to parliamentary approval.
 This is done in many other countries including the United States of America.
                Major public appointments should be confirmed in their jobs by parliamentary committees, and hold them subject to parliamentary approval.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fixed Terms for Prime Minister

Now that we have fixed terms for parliament, perhaps we should consider having a maximum fixed term for the Prime Minister.   Two terms of parliament, i.e ten years should be the maximum.   If this had been in place for Margaret Thatcher she would have avoided her humiliating dismissal.

The Prime Minister should not serve for more than two consecutive parliaments.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The patronage of the Prime Minister

A major fault in our democracy relates to the way we are governed.   Under our constitution our Prime Minister uses the powers of the Royal Prerogative to exercise power.   The House of Commons could and should hold the Prime Minister accountable but continuously fails to do so, perhaps because the Prime Minister exercises great power of patronage.   The Prime Minister appoints the Government Whips.   For MPs, promotion, position, overseas trips, appointments to outside bodies, all, effectively rest in the hand of the Prime Minister.

The powers of the Prime Minister should be set out in writing and where appropriate placed on a statutory footing.