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