Posts Tagged 'Democratic Deficit'

MPs hint that representatives with small electoral mandates lack legitimacy

MPs appear to have questioned the democratic legitimacy of elected representatives who have a small electoral mandate.

The Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee has released a report following its scrutiny of the actions of Ian Johnston, Gwent’s Police and Crime Commissioner.  Johnston was accused of bullying former Chief Constable, Carmel Napier, into retiring in June.  The committee swung into action to give the illusion of control and hauled Johnston and Napier into Westminster to investigate the process of removing a chief constable and if Johnston had exceeded his authority.

Clearly there was no love lost in the battle of egos and after the session, Johnston had some things to say about his interrogators.  This did not go unnoticed by the parliamentarians and they made that blindingly obvious in paragraph 9 of their subsequent report which reads:

We were disappointed that, shortly after we took evidence from Mr Johnston, he took to Twitter to criticise a member of the Committee for asking questions that he believed had been prompted by Gwent MPs, describing the proceedings as “sad really”. Mr Johnson even described Mr Ruane as a “plant of Gwent MPs”. This disdainful attitude towards scrutiny by Parliament, as well as an indication of a clear over-sensitivity to criticism, from a politician elected by less that 8% of the electorate, who had managed to side-step the statutory arrangements for local scrutiny of his decision to sack the Chief Constable, is further evidence, if any were needed, that the checks and balances on police and crime commissioners are too weak.

It was in their arrogant fit of pique and effort to be dismissive of Johnston that the MPs opened a Pandora’s Box they might one day regret delving into.  Until now only bloggers and a couple of journalists have raised the legitimacy question of MPs – and governments – being elected by a minority of voters.  But now, MPs who have relied upon the accepted practice that the person in an election with the highest number of votes is the winner and has democratic legitimacy, have raised questions about power being held by people with small electoral mandates.

The committee’s report suggests that the principle underpinning our complaint is accepted, so now it’s just a question of figures.

So what size of mandate confers legitimate entitlement to represent a constituency?  Clearly 8% is not sufficiently impressive for the members of the Home Affairs select committee.  No doubt they consider their own mandates as conferring sufficient legitmacy to warrant their place on the ego trip aboard the rather luxurious gravy train.  So let’s see what the figures are…

Home Affairs Select Committee
(approx % of eligible voters in their constituencies who voted for them in 2010)

Keith Vaz 35.5%
Nicola Blackwood 27.6%
James Clappison 36.2%
Michael Ellis 21.3%
Lorraine Fullbrook 30.8%
Dr Julian Huppert 25.4%
Steve McCabe 23.9%
Bridget Phillipson 27.8%
Mark Reckless 31.9%
Chris Ruane 26.9%
David Winnick 20.5%

On average the committee members have squirmed into Parliament with the support of just 27.9% of eligible voters in their constituencies… some of them with barely one vote for every five available.  It’s hardly a thumping endorsement.  It is a questionable mandate.

The committee’s comment in the report is an important development.  Democracy in this country exists in name only.  The illusion of a mandate is what gives these people the opportunity to inflict their whims on the rest of us.  Now they have opened the door to the idea of a small electoral mandate being of questionable legitimacy, the concept of ‘None of the Above’ can no longer be dismissed so readily and not voting really does have the potential to undermine the political class.

Cameron: Alternatives must not be permitted

Cam Jong-Eu, Great Guiding Star of the Post-Democratic Century, has been at it again.

The Dear Autocrat has given another flatulent interview to The House magazine, where he was asked whether Nigel Farage should be included in the general election party leaders’ debate.  The answer was classic Cameron:

‘Obviously we have to decide on this nearer the time, but the TV debates should be about, you know, the parties that are going to form the Government, in my view.’

When it comes to politics only members of the groovy gang are allowed to play. This is an example of the anti-democratic political consensus pulling up the drawbridge, lest any alternative to their cosy round-robin government club might be able to make use of such a high profile platform to expose the vacuous, self serving and ignorance quislings for the treacherous and duplicitous con artists they are.

The door is closed to those outside the bubble by the Oxbridge PPE grads who have stolen control of this country’s political system.  Today it is Farage being kept on the margins.  Tomorrow it could be someone who is genuine leadership material with a sound vision of a positive future for this country.

This isn’t about the personalities, it’s about the principle of enabling those people who still vote to be able to make an informed choice about how they cast their ballot within this substandard system.  Cameron’s comments demonstrate how party politics is being stitched up to remain the preserve of the three serial failure parties, where no matter which of them forms the government the agenda and outcomes remain the same for the poor bloody citizen.

All hail Cam Jong-Eu, Ever-Victorious, Cast Iron-Willed Commander

Cam Jong-Eu, Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Supranational Love, has spoken. His unique abilities have given him the power to look into the hearts and minds of men and know what they will think and feel in the future, before they themselves are even aware of it.

The evidence…

First, despite there being no treaty amendment on the immediate horizon for him to take advantage of, or any likelihood of an intergovernmental conference being called by Herman Van Rompuy, he is confident of getting the undefined changes he wants in the UK’s ‘relationship’ with Europe (the EU).

Second, despite many polls showing a majority of Britons saying they would vote to leave the EU if there was an straight in/out referendum, and he has refused to ask the people to decide themselves, he asserts the ‘beating heart of Britain’ knows we need to remain in the European Union.

We are truly blessed to have the all-knowing, all-wise Cam as our provincial governor.

Democracy and politics, Stoke-on-Trent style

If one wants yet another small but significant piece of evidence demonstrating that we don’t live in a democracy and the political process is an utter failure, look no further than a story from early last week from Stoke-on-Trent.

For it is there, as The Sentinel reports, that council officers are running out of control and operating in defiance of the law.

More than £118,000 has been spent on a survey to review how much repair work is needed on the city’s council houses – but tenants and councillors are not allowed to see the results.

Not just tenants, but their supposed representatives who were elected (albeit by a small minority of voters) to make decisions and direct governance in the city.  The refusal was of a Freedom of Information request for which there is no legal basis at the local authority for rejection.  Taxpayers’ money has been taken (from national and local level) and spent to garner information, but no one can see the results collected by the authority’s Officers.  Well actually, as the story goes on to qualify, councillors can see the information but only after Officers have ‘briefed’ them – presumably to tell them what they must not say in public.  But ‘information control officers’ say releasing the results would cause:

… an increase in customer enquiries relating to when improvements will be carried out.

Prior to publishing the stock condition survey it will be necessary to properly brief frontline staff, elected members and other stakeholders.

Information control?  How apt a description.  Heaven forbid that the public, the majority of whom pay their taxes to fund essentials such as housing repairs to council stock, should deign to ask about the findings or draw upon the very services that they are entitled to receive.  There can be no more clear example of the inversion of the positions of servant and master.

Since then, to compound the sense of incompetence that seems to permeate the city’s halls of ‘power’, Stoke-on-Trent City Council has gone on to write off £7.5m of unpaid council tax in addition to £8.1m already wiped off the books.  Out of control and above the law, councils are gouging the wallets and purses of taxpayers with the usual raft of charges and fees in addition to the annual charge – to fund non essential boondoggles rather than essential services only – which is undoubtedly fuelling resentment at the ever rising level of council tax and avoidance of its payment.

There is a perfect storm brewing caused by the failure of politics and absence of democracy.  An alternative, positive vision is required and thankfully a group of people are developing one known as the Harrogate Agenda,  but some residents are failing to grasp this and rather than demanding the council limit its scope and activities to essential services, instead are calling for it do more to chase down non-payers, and even call in bailiffs with their often illegal and intimidating tactics, to recover unpaid council tax.

Perhaps those who thought Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s ‘corporate logo’ was meaningless were being somewhat unfair.  The image, with its ever decreasing circles sinking lower and lower while fading away, seems somehow rather prescient.  Perhaps it was designed that way intentionally as a metaphor for the continuing erosion of illusory people power and democratic control.

Our vital influence at the EU top table, shaping the Community towards our way of thinking

Britain’s contribution to the EU will have to increase by next year by another £350 million.

Britain, sat at the EU’s top table and as always supposedly shaping the community to our way of thinking, opposed this payment.

The result?  Britain was outvoted.  Not enough EU member states voted to block the increase.  The interests of the British people were trampled underfoot by foreign nationals, whose own interests were served at our expense by extracting more money from hard pressed British taxpayers.  As usual, the EU’s fans in the British press gave the impression of dissent whilst retaining their fetish for rule from abroad by unelected and unaccountable mandarins who pander to the corporatist interests of the media barons.

This is nothing less than the state sanctioned theft of funds which are generated in these islands and are needed for the benefit of the citizens of these islands.

Would it not be better to be free of this straitjacket?  David Cameron’s view is very clear:

I think it would be bad for Britain. When I look at what is in our national interest, we are not some country that looks in on ourself or retreats from the world. Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those markets. Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that.

If we were outside we would not be relieved of our money to benefit people elsewhere in Europe to the detriment of our own.

And in any case, if this country were a real democracy, those of us who are expected to foot the bill would determine how our money is spent.

Old Swan

It has really upset me that I have been unable to attend the meeting at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate today.

Having fallen ill and thrown myself upon the tender mercies of the NHS, I am currently unable to drive any distance and have had to withdraw from something that I have looked forward to participating in for so long.

The discussions that take place today have the potential to form the foundation of a new settlement for democracy and representative government.  Like the Chartists, it may be today’s specific demands for reform are not realised by this group.  But they may instead become a catalyst for people who follow to secure those reforms later for the benefit of the people of this county.

As in the time of the Chartists this action has become necessary because of the nature of politics.  We have a political class that is unresponsive to the wishes of the people it is supposed to serve.  What passed for democracy has been further eroded by the outsourcing of control to an unelected, unaccountable and alien bureaucracy, whose mandarins are allowed to suckle at the teat of the taxpayer – claiming expenses for items they have not even purchased, and affording themselves the perk of not having to pay tax on their earnings.  Power is sought for its own sake.

As they enjoy the trappings of power, the politicians defer to the ‘guidance’ of faceless civil servants who take their lead from the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats overseas.  What results are spectacles such as that where the Prime Minister rejects the clamour of people to be allowed to decide how this country is governed, citing his personal belief that it is not in our interest.  Democracy denied.  A yawning chasm of a deficit.

It must end.  The dictatorship must be dismantled.  The people must be the constituency that determines how monies collected by the state are used.  The inverted master – servant relationship must be corrected.

Sentiments such as these will certainly treated with contempt by the establishment.  There is every likelihood that they will be considered threatening and hostile and therefore necessitate action by the state.  But that is only because democracy is the antidote to their grip on power.  Our interests are not the same as their interests, so we need to be as determined and ruthless as them in seeking to put our interests first.

The meeting at the Old Swan Hotel is but a small step on a long journey that has to be taken.  The thirty or so people who are currently engaged in the sharing and challenging of ideas are just the first of those who are prepared to stand up and be counted.  There is no doubt that as more eyes are opened more people will make a stand.  The sooner the better.

The rules of the game no longer apply

I completely understand why some people want an in/out referendum, why they wanted it yesterday, why they want it today.

Some people just want to get out: I completely understand that but I don’t share that view, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.

Those are Cameron’s words.  Translated this is what they mean:

Instead of being your elected representative in Parliament, paid handsomely from your tax pounds to carry out your wishes, I will uphold the cynical and destructive democratic deficit in this country; and do all in my power – straining every sinew of my body – to treat you with naked contempt and put first the vested interests of the political class here and across Europe.

You can vote Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour and it won’t make any difference.  We all think and act the same way.

Enough people will still keep voting for the three main parties to allow us to claim a mandate to act as an elected dictatorship.  You will continue paying your taxes, obeying the laws handed down for you to observe, abiding by our diktats, suffering the consequences and discomforts of our actions that are there only to serve the establishment and power brokers who control the fortunes of the political class.  So why is there any need to listen to you, let alone do what you ask?

I want this country to be ruled by the EU. Nick Clegg wants this country to be ruled by the EU.  Ed Miliband wants this country to be ruled by the EU.  That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be.  And you are stuck with it because we have bound you so tightly in rules and regulations, assisted and enforced by unelected and unaccountable placemen in various departments, agencies, quangos and commissions who are also funded by your taxes.

As a result you play the game by the rules we and our paymasters choose.  This is the post-democratic age.  You only think you have influence.  You have no power.

Dear reader, if you want power then it has to be taken back.  Our servants have made themselves our masters.  They will not give power away.  Rejecting these people is not enough, we have to defeat them.  The game has to be played differently.  The rules of the game no longer apply.

So what are we going to do about it?

Perhaps the Failygraph has some uses.  On Monday it devoted space for a common sense op-ed by Fritz Vahrenholt, formerly an active supporter of the IPCC and its CO2 theory, who now declares himself ‘not convinced that humanity is causing catastrophic global warming’.

While the ground Vahrenholt covers will not be new to readers of this blog, EU Referendum, Watts Up With That, and numerous other sites, it does at least provide for some incisive comments which add some value to the debate.  Standing out among these was this contribution:

This is the challenge the world faces.

The whole climate change industry is grounded in politics, not science.  Leading sites such as Watts Up With That and Bishop Hill continue to produce some excellent content, but to no real end because they are attempting to challenge a political endeavour masquerading as science, with science.  The only way to tackle the political and corporate vested interest agenda is politically.  Engaging the opposition on its faux ground of science simply diverts attention from the real activity that needs to be stopped.

As Tayles says in his comment, ‘they aren’t about to give up the fight that easily’.  He/she is spot on.  The justification for political and corporate actions will simply morph into something else.  Global warming will make way for another imminent threat that, surprise surprise, will also just happen to require solutions necessitating centralised political control beyond democratic accountability and structures, wealth transfer, higher energy and bills, rationing of essentials such as water and power, vast sums of taxpayer money gifted in ‘subsidy’ for lucrative mitigation activities, and so on.

Given this the only question that remains is, what are we going to do about it?

The real London Mayoral election result

The people in London, who are actually registered to vote, had their say on Thursday about who they wanted to be Mayor.  Below is the official result, including the second preference votes where a choice was indicated.

The vote doesn’t take into account those people who had a mountain of opportunity to support a candidate but who decided not to vote for anyone.  When you include that number, the election result looks rather different (percentages rounded).

This is the state of politics today.  38.1% of those with the franchise saw anything worth voting for and went through the motions of supporting a candidate under the illusion the outcome would matter.

However at least 3,588,047 of London’s registered voters exercised their democratic right not to engage or select any of those on offer.  There will be a multitude of reasons why they chose not to.  But turnout in London was down 6.7% from four years ago, the last time the Mayoral election was fought.

The political process is failing people and increasing numbers are turning away as they recognise the fact that nothing they do will effect any kind of change.  They do not want anything to do with those who purport to represent them and claim a mandate to lead them.

It is time to stop looking at the percentage of the vote candidates secure, and instead look at the percentage of registered voters who actually engage in the process.  It is far more informative.  61.9% in an election is considered to be a landslide.  In this case, it is a landslide against the political class and politics in general.  Those in office do not have real legitimacy.  In years gone by an electorate excluded people based on class, title and gender.  The only difference now is those not having a say are self selecting.  They have disenfranchised themselves because they have no power.  We just need people to see that they can take power back.  It is within their gift.  It is their responsibility to do so.

The excitement and drama of election night

In years gone by elections used to matter.

Election night was a time for sitting in front of the TV and radio as results streamed in from around the country.  The people who were elected and the platform they stood on would have an effect on the way services were delivered and the spending priorities of authorities and central government.  The notion of a politician being rejected at the polls and therefore seeing their manifesto discarded was a powerful influence.

But for a long time now elections have ceased to be relevant.  When all that is on offer is the same product in a different coloured wrapping there is frankly no point going out and making use of the electoral franchise.  For the main three parties it doesn’t really matter who is returned by the voters, because the same agenda will be ruthlessly pursued and the wishes of the people won’t be allowed to get in the way.  Which is why local political campaigning on real issues is all but dead in more and more localities and paper candidates are increasingly the norm.

The result of this should be a rejection of the political class by the electorate, characterised by a refusal to go out and vote.  But there has always been a hard core of people who wish to use their vote.  However even that number seems to be experiencing a dramatic decline.  (Update: As Richard at EU Referendum puts it, ‘The indifferents have it’).  Bearing witness to this implosion is BBC News Online’s live text coverage.  Just a few of the comments lay bare the accelerating rejection of the political class:

… In Kingston-upon-Hull, reports turnout about to be declared at 18.7%.

… Reports that polling station in Ealing & Hillingdon, west London, had reported hardly anyone voting until parents started collecting children from school. Turnout was remarkably low even then.

… BBC Radio Derby’s Chris Doidge reports candidates in Derby say turnout is well down on last year. Official says postal vote returns down around 5%, indicating it is not just the weather.

… Early indications point to a record low turnout amongst Scotland’s four million voters. Councils will begin counting ballot papers tomorow morning with the battle for control of the country’s biggest cities expected to command most attention. 

… Alan Johnson, Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle, tells the BBC that he is “very disappointed by the turnout”.

… BBC Nottingham’s Steve Beech reports that turnout in Nottingham’s mayoral referendum was just 10.89% in one ward.

The impact of this?  It is likely there will be an increasing awareness among ordinary people that politicians who are imposing decisions on us are doing so with ever less legitimacy.  Especially given that despite what appears to be a much improved showing for UKIP where they are standing candidates, they are still not taking seats from the main three parties against the backdrop of a sharply reduced turnout.

… Andrew Sinclair Political Correspondent, BBC East reports that UKIP have come within 40 votes of taking a seat from the Conservatives in Great Yarmouth.

… Darren in Liverpool emails: Some excellent results for UKIP so far, a good number of second places they seem to be making good progress in local elections in recent years, despite a lack of coverage.

While many people may remain blind or ignorant to the fact most of our laws and regulations already lack legitimacy because they originate in the EU – imposed by people we have not elected or accepted and who are beyond democratic accountability – people are more likely to notice and take issue with the lack of legitimacy in their own towns and cities.  This is dangerous territory for the political class and the current ‘democratic process’.

Things cannot continue as they are.  Change is overdue and the refusal of the electorate to engage in the current process via the ballot box suggests the time may soon be ripe for a new settlement.  That really could provide a mix of excitement and drama – and not in the way the political class might hope for.  And with that, it’s off to bed to leave the BBC reporters around the country sharing the election news with an ever less interested and rapidly shrinking audience.

378 words

Writing in the Barclay Brother Beano, Rev Dr Peter Mullen uses 378 words to support his assertion that this Conservative Party is more socialist than any government he has seen in his lifetime.  While Rev Mullen is right in what he says, 378 words barely scratches the surface of the story.

In relative terms his is a throwaway comment that actually provides little if any value to the discussion.  Nowhere in those 378 words is there any mention of the chasm that is the democratic deficit in this country.  Nowhere in those 378 words is there any acknowledgement of who actually governs this country.  Nowhere in those 378 words is there any reference to the manner in which the interests of a select few are pursued at the expense and detriment of the many.  Nowhere in those 378 words is there any consideration of alternatives that might empower the people who are treated with barely disguised contempt by the political class.

Long before millions of people trudged to the polls to cast their ballot at the general election – a futile exercise cynically passed off as proof that we live in a ‘democracy’ – David Cameron had already shown himself for what he is.  Enough people had spotted Cameron’s rapid reverse away from previous attention grabbing pledges, delivered with his face contorted in that trademark sham sincerity, to back away from the Conservatives and deny him what would pass for an election victory.

Not that it mattered.  Whether it was the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems or a coagulation of any two of them getting their hands on levers of power that they and their ilk have willingly disconnected from everything that is remotely capable of controlling anything, we were always going to end up with the same outcome.

For too long politics in this country has been characterised by creeping progression down a path that is rejected by voters time and again.  The political class continues to be unaccountable to the people they are supposed to represent.  Their supposedly bitter political battles are nothing more than shallow theatrics designed to obfuscate and conceal the reality that on all the major issues they share a common agenda.  What the people want never comes to pass because the people have allowed power to be taken from them and have not taken it back.

What is needed is not another mini op-ed from the likes of Peter Mullen, who are angry not because of the direction this country is being taken, but because they fell for the partisan party charade in the first place.  Their value is negligible.  What is needed is a new settlement.  What is needed is a constructive blueprint for the future that empowers people and makes them want to support it for positive reasons.  What is needed is something that is borne from the grassroots and evolves and grows, rather than something imposed from on high.

The seed might have been sown.  But it will only germinate and take root if people who care are prepared to help nurture it and play a part in tending it to maturity and strength.  The time for complaining is over.  The time for positive and constuctive action is at hand.

It belongs to us

There have been many stories this week, but there are two that have dragged me to my keyboard at a time when I really haven’t felt like writing.

This post concerns the first one, the news on Thursday that the government is planning to introduce charges for FOI requests, perhaps involving a “range of tariffs”.  As our blogging friends at Save FOI explain:

Charging for FOI requests would drastically curtail the ability of ordinary people as well as charities, journalists, businesses and others to hold public bodies to account.

Save FOI goes on to say that this seems a particularly strange move for a Government whose Prime Minister has said “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the world.”  But of course, as readers of this blog have long known – and an increasing number of people up and down the country are at last starting to realise – it is impossible to trust anything most politicians say, and when it comes to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband in particular our default position must be the justifiable assumption that they are lying through their teeth.

But there is a more fundamental point to be made here that even Save FOI appear to have missed, namely that we are required to request information to be made public in the first place.

While there are obvious exceptions where some information has to be kept out of the public domain lest it aids a potential enemy to do harm to this nation, the fact remains this is information that should be released and made public proactively.  The information is the public’s.  It is produced and exists supposedly to serve the public.  We pay for it.  Therefore it belongs to us.

That we are forced to go in search of it (and all too frequently encounter significant obstruction in getting it) is a scandal.  That we may also now be compelled to pay for that which is ours is an outrage.  This reinforces the reality of a them and us society, where on one side we have a self selecting elite operating in its own interest at our expense and on the other side we have the general public, abused and treated with contempt.

If we had genuine people power in this country via system like Referism the inverted master and servant relationship would be corrected.  Power is exercised through the  control of funds.  Under Referism the people would decide regularly where our money is spent.  Representatives would be forced to abide by the public will instead of acting as our masters.  And one outcome would be the end of the pantomime that sees us forced to crawl and beg for titbits of information from those who pretend they are a class apart.

Sign the petition opposing this move to charge for FOI by all means.  But don’t lose sight of the fact that this is our information that should be made public, without delay or hindrance, by default.  That is what we should be demanding, not going cap in hand to the likes of Cameron – whose two faced party (if you can believe the irony / hypocrisy / self delusion *del as appropriate) produced the t-shirt on the right – hoping we can cling on to scraps of information, sometimes supplied when it suits the political class, on request and under sufferance.

We should not be addressing the symptom, we should be fighting the problem.  That is why it is time for disparate voices to combine and declare our demands.  I will be there at the Old Swan in Harrogate with the other people who will be working to frame those demands and pursue them.

With that event in mind, two of my favourite bloggers make essential points that all need to burned into our collective memory.  Firstly, Raedwald who reminds us that we don’t request, rather we demand our freedom, because it’s our freedom and not for others to grant us.  Secondly, Witterings From Witney who reminds us that that the politicians are always the servants and never the masters of the people, irrespective of the fact they behave otherwise.  It is time to make both a reality.

‘I am just a loyal Conservative.’

That sentence sums up all that is wrong with politics today.

It was the reported response of Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell, when we was told that fellow Tory MP, Claire Perry, had directed a foul mouthed comment at him in the House of Commons – namely ‘Why don’t you f*** off and join UKIP?’

Carswell is putting tribal party loyalty before all else.  He claims to believe the United Kingdom should not be part of the European Union.  Nevertheless he doggedly remains a member of a political party whose leadership and policy is to remain part of the EU at any cost, to deny the electorate a referendum and to conceal the extent to which the EU is the true government of this country.

How can a man who holds the view he claims remain a loyal Conservative when that party behaves in the way it does?  The party’s position is sewn up tight.  The leadership sets the policy, regardless of the wishes of the membership.  Behind the scenes and out of the public gaze there is a powerful group of people with vested interests who bankroll and control the direction of the party.  They determine who will lead it and what agenda will be followed, to suit their interests irrespective of the impact on the rest of the country.  The Conservative agenda will not be changed.

It is not dissimilar to Labour taking its direction from Union barons and the uber rich champagne socialists who want to pull up the ladder behind them after acquiring wealth and influence.

Being an MP is a good gig, with its good pay and expenses and the illusion of power and influence that comes with it.  Carswell, for all his bluster and verbiage, is just another Europlastic happily sacrificing supposed principles to cling to tribal party loyalty in service of his own interest – namely remaining an MP.  When a person sees it for what it is they quickly realise Carswell couldn’t be a more loyal Conservative if he tried.

Voters who oppose EU membership yet continue to vote Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem only have themselves to blame for this country’s ever deeper integration into the EU and ever greater control by Brussels.  Until they stop being taken in by the likes of Douglas Carswell nothing will change.

FOI gamechanger – Bolton Council loses court appeal over senior officers’ outside interests

Regular readers may remember the story of the battle between transparency campaigner John Greenwood and the bureaucrats at Bolton Council to force the authority to make public the register of interests of Council Officers, so the business dealings of senior town hall staff are a matter of record.

As we said in a blog post about the matter in June last year, John Greenwood won what amounts to a game changing battle when the Information Commissioner ruled that the details of the register of interests should be released.  Imagine for a moment what would happen if Council Officers – and by extension civil servants in other branches of government – had to release the details of business dealings with developers, or reveal relationships with organisations such as Common Purpose.

Undeterred by the Information Commissioner’s ruling, Bolton Council has used thousands of pounds of council taxpayers’ money to appeal the decision so it could continue hiding information about the outside interests of its officers from the public.  That the elected councillors in Bolton have let this happen is not only shocking but should also raise alarm bells about what might be being concealed.  As various branches of government keep telling us, if there is nothing to hide there is nothing to fear.  So what is it Bolton Council’s public servants fear?

The story returned to the fore last week with John Greenwood kindly contacting AM to point us to this news in the local Bolton press.  In Court it has been ruled that the council’s appeal will be partly allowed, in that lower-paid staff’s privacy would be protected.  But the outside interests of senior officers – the real decision makers in the local authority –  must still be made public as per the Information Commissioner’s earlier ruling.

This really is the gamechanger in Freedom of Information we hoped for last year.  The outside interests of senior council officers must by law be made public.  FOI requests about these interests cannot be refused.

However, the story in the Bolton News omits a number of important points that put matters into proper context and should, once again, cause the residents of Bolton some concern.  Although there were around 1,000 council officers who were paid at Grade 8 and above, only about 70 of them bothered to to submit a declaration of interest to the Council register.  So it is estimated there are more than 900 council officers who have failed to comply with the requirements to declare their outside interests.  Also omitted from the story is that while the lower paid council officers will now have to declare they have outside interests, they won’t have to say what those interests are.  This is a very odd state of affairs and one which will only serve to raise more doubts in the minds of the public about their probity than before.

As John Greenwood observed to AM, what will now be interesting to see is what Bolton Council Director of Legal Services (and standards monitoring officer) Alan Eastwood does personally.  He is due to retire in May but Greenwood is wondering if Eastwood will now decide to go earlier in order to keep any outside interests he has out of the public domain.

The folly of HS2 and government spending priorities

In its ‘wisdom’ the government has given the go ahead to HS2, or the second phase of the high speed rail programme.

The initial outlay of over £17bn is supposed to fund the HS2 line from London to Birmingham.  The line will be electrified because electricity is considered cleaner than diesel.  In the years that follow the plan is to extend the line to Manchester and then on to Scotland, increasing the cost to at least £33bn.

This is a shining example of the short sightedness, idiocy, ignorance, dogma, call it what you will, of the government’s spending priorities.  There is not a pressing need for this expensive rail line – although as Richard North makes clear on EU Referendum, there are certainly political pressures at play for it.  Yet there is real concern about the ability of this country to produce the power it needs to keep the lights on.

£17bn could pay for the construction and eventual decommission of at least five nuclear power stations.  One would think that would be a priority.  Instead the government chooses to construct something that will draw power from the grid, not something that puts power into it.

It is bad enough that this government has a fetish for unreliable wind power and puts huge sums of taxpayers’ money into subsidy for its provision.  But it is worse that the government refuses to subsidise new nuclear build that would benefit millions of people and instead chooses to channel huge sums of money into one small section of the rail network that will benefit a very limited number of people.

There is no shortage of tax pounds going to HM Treasury.  But there is a problem with the decisions about how that money is used.  Increasingly it is frittered away, diverted to whims and fancies of the political elite, rather than allocated to the delivery of quality essential services for the population.

No matter how much we complain or shout in protest, the political class is unmoved.  This is proof that we do not live in a democracy.  Elections may take place, but the decisions of the political class are not controlled by the electorate.  Consultation about the HS2 line saw an overwhelming majority of respondants reject the principles, specification and route selection for HS2, but their views were dismissed out of hand.

Democracy is about more than putting an ‘X’ on a ballot paper, it is about representatives who are elected doing our bidding.  In what way are the political class doing our bidding?

Update: If you use Twitter you might be interested in contributing to this – #betteruseof32bn

Another EU Referendum petition

A reader has tipped me to yet another e-petition demanding a referendum on EU membership.

Normally I ignore requests to publicise such petitions because more often than not they are a waste of time or duplicate other petitions on the e-petition site.  However the email about this e-petition amused me:

We must play the politicians at their own game!

When the French, Dutch and Irish voted No to the EU constitutional and Lisbon Treaties, they were asked to vote again. We must force our MPs to do the same. There are loads of other petitions but they are too similar to the one that was granted a debate so therefore will be rejected by the committee responsible. We have spoken to the petiton office!

Our new petition, it is worded differently so the EU can be re-debated due to a clause in the programme for Government, that the people will be able to table their own bill. Like what happened in other European Counties let’s keep having them vote until we get the ”right” result!! We have spoken to the petiton office and they have indicated that they would allow ours!

Somehow I cannot see the Parliamentary Committee giving this the time of the day, given that  it focuses on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty instead of offering the Europhiles’ faux option of ‘renegotiation’.  But it will be fun to see what happens if this tops 100,000 signatures and forces the Committee to consider it.

If nothing else it would again demonstrate the overwhelming majority of MPs put their own interests before their duty to fulfill the wishes of the people they supposedly represent.  It would also sort out the Eurosceptics from the Europlastics.

Remember, remember the 5th of November

This 5th of November we see the film V for Vendetta being shown on BBC2.

It is somewhat ironic that the very broadcaster showing the film is the one on which the fictional ‘BTN’ in the film is modelled upon.

The parallels between the fiction of V and the reality we see today are striking.  Both have a political elite that does as it pleases and operates beyond the constraints of democratic accountability.

In V the government controls the population through fear, making the population dependent upon the politicians.  Today in real life we have the politicians doing the same thing, as they seek to give the impression of tackling an international economic meltdown fuelled by their corporatist agenda.  As the populations of many countries turn on their political class, attention suddenly switches to Iran.

The permissive approach to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions of recent years – the lame jaw-jaw, carrot and bigger carrot ‘diplomacy’ – is suddenly being replaced with tough talk and the threat of war… years too late and only after Iran’s programme has been given plenty of breathing space to develop.  But now the political class needs a crisis to hang its hat on, to convince the people we are all at imminent risk and that without our ‘leaders’ we are doomed.

V ends with a scornful population taking back power.  How long will it be before the people in the western ‘democracies’ come to terms with the necessity of this solution and act to take back power in real life?

That much discussed trade between the UK and EU

In the run up to the Commons debate on national referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, many talking heads kept referring to the UK’s trade with other EU member states.

Time and again on various news programmes we heard pro-EU advocates proclaim than anywhere between 40-50% of the UK’s trade is with the EU and therefore leaving the EU would be devastating to our economy.  Setting aside the flaws in the inherent suggestion that leaving the political structures of the EU would automatically mean we would lose our ability to trade with remaining EU member states, very little focus was directed at who holds the relative power in UK-EU trade.

A written answer in the House of Commons yesterday goes some way to explaining why so little attention was given to the question of who would come off worst from a trade dispute between the UK and EU.  For it was confirmed that the EU continues to do better out of trade with the UK than the UK does. In fact the Balance of Trade deficit the UK has with the EU has widened:

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the size of the UK trade deficit with the EU was in each of the last five years.

Mr Davey: As published by the Office of National Statistics, the balance of trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union over the last years were as follows:

UK’s balance of trade in goods and services with the EU
£ million
2006 -29,616
2007 -35,235
2008 -28,582
2009 -27,421
2010 -35,534

While a number of commentators were quick to mention that Honda cars are made in Swindon and Nissan cars are made in Sunderland to take advantage of the UK’s ability to trade within the EU customs union, even with these manufacturing activities we still buy far more from the EU member states than they buy from us.  If both car makers moved to the continent it would only increase our balance of trade deficit with the EU and actually make us an even more valuable trading partner.

The figures make clear there is a vested interest in EU member states maintaining strong trade links with the UK, irrespective of whether the UK is self governing or ruled from Brussels.  To cite a loss of trade as a rationale for staying firmly inside the EU, and subverting the right of the British people to decide how this country is governed and by whom, is simply dishonest.

The great sleepwalk

The people of this country are in the process of being brainwashed to ask only those questions the political elite will allow and are, at the same time, being programmed to see every political decision as one that is unquestionably correct. This brainwashing, or social engineering, has now reached a stage where it appears that Britons are no longer able to see what is happening to them and their country.

Read the whole thing at the always excellent Witterings from Witney.

The next European war

During my recent days of inactivity we have been treated to/forced to endure* (delete as appropriate) the grand theatrics of the EU elite, supposedly shoring up the Euro by creating a €1 trillion ‘bail out fund’.

Only, this being the deluded EU daydreamers at work, the figure broadcast to the world was unfunded.  It was plucked out of thin air before those who were going to contribute to it had even been asked – or in the case of European taxpayers, told – to hand over money.

But then came the warning that has been held in reserve for years by the integrationist elite. It fell to Germany’s Angela Merkel to deliver it:

Another half century of peace and prosperity in Europe is not to be taken for granted. If the euro fails, Europe fails. We have a historical obligation: to protect by all means Europe’s unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail.

The message was clear, if we don’t back the financial lunacy and the ever closer political and fiscal union being foisted upon us by the bureaucrats, the uber wealthy and their political drones, then the consequence could be another war in Europe.

However, Merkel and her ilk have got it wrong.  A failure of the Euro and the EU does not mean Europe will be plunged into war.  The political class across Europe is broadly united, so who would be declaring war on whom and for what reason?  Besides, the military capability of the European states has been so degraded by politicians jumping on the ‘peace dividend’ bandwagon their war fighting potential has been dramatically reduced.  Not to mention the fluffy bunny political correctness that spread like a sore across the continent and which sought to remove aggression from the fighting men, and turn them into armed humanitarian relief workers and ineffective peacekeepers who baulk at the first sign of conflict.

No, the prospect of war is made more likely by the political elite and their backers continuing along this doomed integrationist path.

It won’t be the military units of the European countries being pitted against one another, the scenario which with Merkel is trying to scare people into passive, obedient consent.  It will be ordinary people turning on the political class for stealing their democracy and pursuing self serving interests that are bringing about the ruination of economies and have already undermined social structures and cohesion.

The next European war will not be a planned and deliberate military action.  It will be the result of civil strife borne of the rejection of anti democratic hegemony as the people take back what has been stolen from them.

But as usual no one inside the bubble, politico or journalist, can see it.  When it happens they will be the only ones not to have seen it coming.

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