Is Democracy A Check On Power?

The biggest encroachment on civil liberties has taken place in 2020, and under a Conservative government.  How did this happen without any scrutiny?

Democracy was one of the first things to be suspended, so how can it be used to check the power of those at the top?

Do opposition parties ever oppose when it really matters?  Or when they sense a threat to the entire establishment, do they buckle up for the ride, so as to maintain their place in the system?

And what of the rule of law?  Sacrosanct for some, but if bad laws are passed, isn’t it our moral duty to disobey them?

We discuss all this and more, in the latest edition of Sounding Board.

Photo by Jannes Van den wouwer on Unsplash

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Brexit isn’t threatening our constitution, Theresa May is.

It’s easy to say we are going through a constitutional crisis.

The assessment is a lazy one.

But this issue is bigger than Brexit (although that was the trigger) and dare I say it, it’s bigger even than the overturning of the clear democratic mandate of the referendum.

In most people’s eyes Theresa May, or indeed any Prime Minister that were to replace her, has the responsibility to implement the result given.

But there is something, I think, even more sinister happening that threatens our entire system of government, and that’s the overthrow of the executive in favour of the legislature.

In our system, as distinct from the US and others, the executive is appointed from members of the legislature. In particular, the vast majority are members of parliament, rather than members of the house of lords.

So they are each elected by their constituents, part of a political party, and on the winning side before they are then chosen by the Prime Minister to serve in the government.

But what happens if parliament “takes back control”. Well this is what media pundits like to tell you, although I’m not sure in its history it ever actually had the control it is purported to be taking back.

But the point is a serious one and it’s also important to understand who is enabling it.

One Theresa May.

Yes, we have a Speaker who doesn’t respect the office he holds, turning it into a specifically political and therefore ultimately party-political position.  The is dangerous in and of itself.

But it’s May who is continually letting MPs now call the shots.  MPs who lost. MPs who haven’t been chosen to form a government. MPs that’s function is to scrutinize law, not rule.

The Bill has been defeated. That should be it.

She could withdraw it. She could end this parliamentary sitting and reset proceedings.

But instead she enables potential policy outcomes that she says she is against while attempting to prevent the one outcome that is still government policy (just leaving).

In my eyes this now transcends Brexit.

This is about process. And process is important.

Not least of which because we need to hold our elected officials to account, but also because big constitutional change surely needs democratic support. Say… a referendum on what organisations and structures govern us and whether we have sovereignty?

This parliament with the support of Bercow and May, egged on by Anti-Democrats on all sides, is neutering the executive, but without a credible or warranted alternative.

So while Brexit is the catalyst, or at least the trigger of this spasm of protest and sudden flexing of muscles by MPs who five minutes ago were happy to be ruled from Brussels, to me it doesn’t matter that it’s about leaving the EU.

To me, in any circumstance where the executive feels it is being usurped, it should defend itself, and our very system of government, with its checks and balances and separation of powers.

I may not agree with the amount of power our government holds in general, but exchanging one set of useless despots for another is not my idea of liberal reform.

The larger mistake that Theresa May is making, and this is obviously saying something, is letting MPs over rule not only the referendum result, but the government’s control of negotiations with the EU when they have no authority to do so.

And the fact that she blames MPs now publicly for the mess she is in, just shows how delusional she has become and how she’s forgotten what it truly means to hold the office of Prime Minister and defend our constitution.

Photo by Deniz Fuchidzhiev on Unsplash

Government – everyone thinks they can run it better

People who are “literally” communists are basically saying they could have done communism better than all the ways that have already been tried.

Ignoring the fact that all the ways tried so far have all been communism or socialism, it leads me to think that this highlights an important part of why government does or doesn’t work.

For a while we believe that if only the right people come to power that everything will be ok.

“Once our guys are in, things will get better”

But then, it became clear to me at least, that there are a number of problems that aren’t always obvious.

I suppose the obvious one is the maxim that power corrupts.

Another is that the only people who become political leaders are those who want power, which are the people you least want to have it.

But each of them think that they will do it better, only to discover that the same big-state issues will always exist.

One thing it curiously made me think about recently was our monarchy in the UK.

Now lots of people on the right and left in politics think that in a democratic society, it is clear that we should abolish the monarchy.

But this is where our constitutional monarchic system has its genius. It’s responsibility without power. It’s power that you aren’t allowed to use. That you must not use.

It’s an argument I heard once that totally converted me to a monarchist. That and the three word argument that I have heard a few times against a democratically elected head of state: President Tony Blair.

If only our government had the same mantra. That it was their responsibility to hold on to power but not to wield it, in favour of it being wielded directly by the people.

That they were custodians of power, there to stop others from taking advantage of that power.

It’s very unlikely to happen, but we need to recognise where the British system of government has got things right, and a head of state there to make sure nobody becomes head of state is pure genius.

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