Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Real Divide- and How to End It



"What is it about our political class that makes them believe they are above the laws they make?",
asks today's Daily Mail, as Tory MP Derek Conway (above) faces a ban for paying his two student sons £77,000 from public funds for doing nothing. As The Mail's editorial argues, Conway's misuse of public funds surely warrants a police investigation, not just a ten-day suspension from Parliament. Let's not forget that the £77,000 he handed over to his sons was our money, dear British reader, not Conway's. What Conway's case highlights is that the big divide in British politics is not between Labour and Conservative parties, but between the political class and the rest of us. With one or two honourable exceptions, MPs represent not the interests of their constituents, but themselves. The case for moving towards a more direct form of democracy, bypassing the corrupt middle men and women who only go into politics for self-enrichment, has never been stronger.

11 comments:

slapheads anonymous said...

So when you sweep to victory as the British People's Alliance MP for Wantage, what percentage of your salary will you be publicly donating to charity in protest at MPs' excessive pay?

In fact, I reckon that if you were to pledge to donate a significant proportion to worthy local causes, that would gain you a fair number of votes right there!

Neil Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Clark said...

slapheads: I can assure you that if I did ever stand for Parliament, (regardless of what banner I was standing under), I would be standing on a programme of transferring more and more decision making powers over to people themselves. Indirect democracy is a contradiction in terms, as I said in the post, our elected 'representatives', with one or two honourable exceptions, represent only themselves. We've got the technology: let's move to a more direct system where ordinary people- and not a group of out of touch, corrupt politicos make the decisions. It's called democracy- we really should try it some day.

Anonymous said...

If voting changed anything they'd abolish it.

David Lindsay said...

MPs' pay should be fixed by statute at the median wage for full-time work in the public sector, which whould in turn be fixed by statute at the median wage for full-time work in the private sector. But prior to that, individual gestures would be politically counterproductive.

Apparently (I was once told), it is illegal to campaign saying that are going to give away, or have given away, part or all of your salary. I'm not sure if this is true, though. But anyway, if you're going to give to good causes, then you should just get on and do it, without fuss or fanfare.

The real scandal exposed by the Derek Conway affair is that positions such as those nominally held by his sons are only open, even when they are being filled properly, to people who can afford to live in Central London on pay of only eleven thousand pounds per annum. In other words, to independently rich people. And even the Green Book restricts them to university graduates.

Instead, just as there should be a ban on any party funding except of an individual candidate by resolution of a membership organisation (whether the Midlands Industrial Council, the GMB, or whatever) the name of which would appear in brackets on the ballot paper, so there should also be at least a firm expectation that jobs such as this be filled from a pool maintained by that organisation, which would match the public salary of those thus appointed.

Charlie Marks said...

If I might quote Rousseau:

"Sovereignty, for the same reason as makes it inalienable, cannot be represented; it lies essentially in the general will, and will does not admit of representation: it is either the same, or other; there is no intermediate possibility. The deputies of the people, therefore, are not and cannot be its representatives: they are merely its stewards, and can carry through no definitive acts. Every law the people has not ratified in person is null and void — is, in fact, not a law. The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing." (http://www.constitution.org/jjr/socon_03.htm#015)

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of cutting out the middleman, how's it done?

Anonymous pete

slapheads anonymous said...

Apparently (I was once told), it is illegal to campaign saying that are going to give away, or have given away, part or all of your salary. I'm not sure if this is true, though.

It's unlikely to be, because members of the Scottish Socialist Party donate anything they receive in excess of £25,000 (the average wage for a skilled professional in Scotland) to party funds. And they made this explicit in their manifesto.

True, the rules might be different up in Scotland, which is why I used the qualifier "unlikely", but it's clearly legal there!

Montag said...

Wherever direct democracy has been implemented, it has quickly led to tyranny and state bankruptcy.

There's a very good reason why the constitution of the freest and most stable country in the world does not mention the word once.

Neil Clark said...

montag: the Swiss constitution DOES mention referenda. (I presume you are referring to Switzerland).
No other European country uses referenda as much as Switzerland and boy, look how it's led to 'tyranny and state bankruptcy'... not

Charlie Marks said...

"Wherever direct democracy has been implemented, it has quickly led to tyranny and state bankruptcy."

Where d'you have in mind? And does a correlation equal a causation?

"There's a very good reason why the constitution of the freest and most stable country in the world does not mention the word once."

Which country is this?