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This week’s editors

“Francesc”

Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The Bank of Britain – a proposal

The Government has recently proposed that the Bank of England should take on the primary responsibility for macro-prudential regulation in this country (see this thoughtful appraisal). Such significant shake-ups in our fundamental financial (and political) institutions do not happen frequently – they are made possible only by crisis. So we do not have repeated opportunities to get them right. We have one shot. This article is a personal ‘think-piece’, a sketch of how to try to ensure that we get this matter right.

The recent banking crisis has surely shown that banks that are ‘light-touch’ regulated will invariably end up taking ever-greater risks, in pursuit of ever-greater profits. Such endemic risk is not basis for a secure real economy. Thus I have argued previously that there is a case for the banking sector to be genuinely nationalised (i.e. not run at arms-length), on a long-term basis.

But it may not be necessary to go that far. If there is one powerful and substantial genuinely nationalised bank, permanently, a bank that ensures that lending is kept going when it needs to be for the social good, ensures that all citizens have access to banking services (i.e. banking itself ought to be considered a public service, and ensures that the interest rate for borrowers is kept long-term low (See Ann Pettifor here and here for why), then that should be enough. For such a bank would provide a ‘lead’ that commercial banks would be unable to avoid following.

Can East England clean up the UK?

As an MEP Candidate campaigning around the East Region in the last few weeks, I’ve frequently asked and been asked the question: what can June’s European Union Elections really do for Britain? And aren’t Euro-politicians all a load of sleazeballs, anyway? The results of a recent EU Public Opinion Monitoring Unit poll show these questions to be central to the perception of the EU across the country. It found that a mere 38% of UK respondents claimed interest in the upcoming elections.

How can politicians revive interest in these elections?

Perhaps, paradoxically, an opportunity has been created by this low level of interest by the public, and it is the one I want to focus on here: As each party makes preparations for a possible general election, the full crush of corporate money, spin, and slime that have come to characterize national elections has yet to fully infiltrate the Euro campaign, which is a slightly lower-key affair. So: Here perhaps is where we as candidates and elected politicians can stake our claim to make this election campaign a process that will improve the image of politics in this country.

In this vein, in a case of life imitating art (fans of The West Wing will know to what I refer), the 7 Greens standing for the East of England in the EU elections have published the following ‘Clean Campaign Pledge’:

An epochal change on our political culture

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): Here is a good place to start. Check out the sub-head to this piece in today’s ‘Telegraph’: "October 13, 2008 will go down in history as the day the capitalist system in the UK finally admitted defeat." These are extraordinary days. In fact, the crisis is so fast-moving now, that it would be more accurate to say: 'These are extraordinary hours'. This blogger's and then the Green Party's call for the banks to be nationalised - for no taxation without representation - have been dramatically vindicated. At last, we the taxpayers are going to get seats on the Boards of banks. At last, banks will be forced to lend to each other, and to their customers, especially small businesses, who are at the moment being either gouged or stonewalled by commercial banks. At last, the obscene profiteering of the banks will be reined in, including dividends and executive bonuses.

Caroline Lucas elected Green Party's first ever leader

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): Last night, on September 5th, the Green Party made an historic decision.  We elected our first leader. This result, achieved after years of exhaustive internal debate, cannot be underestimated, for three reasons.

Firstly, as I've said previously here on OurKingdom, I believe our new leader Caroline Lucas MEP to be the most inspirational, intelligent, passionate and relevant politician in British politics today.  Faced with the looming triple crisis of the credit crunch, potential climate catastrophe and a peak in oil production that is causing energy prices to sky-rocket, the Greens are the only Party bold enough to take a stand and say what needs to be said, whether it be popular already or not. Caroline has embodied that spirit for over a decade, spearheading our Party in Europe and increasingly on the national stage.

Political history will be made at Green Party Conference

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): I am a local Councillor. Green Councillors want a Party that works well, a Party that punches above its weight, a Party that will deliver the successes and the desperately-needed policy-changes nationally that Greens are already achieving all over the country, locally.

That prospect is perhaps now within sight. For, in a fortnight's time, the Green Party will make history. Having had a system of ‘Principal Speakers' for the last generation, the Party is currently holding its first-ever election for a Leader (see here and here for the history of how this came to be). The entire membership has been balloted; the final votes will be cast at our national Party Conference on Sept. 5; the result will come out on Sept. 6.

My friend and colleague Adrian Ramsay is unopposed for Deputy Leader. For the Leadership position itself there is an intriguing contest going on, between our MEP and current Principal Speaker Caroline Lucas, and Ashley Gunstock, a grassroots member mainly well-known for his acting appearances on TV's "The Bill".

Davis 1st, Greens 2nd, Authoritarianism defeated

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): The Green Party stood in Haltemprice and Howden on a clear platform of being 'to the left' of David Davis on freedom in general and on civil liberties in particular. David Davis did all he could to marginalise and exclude us. The media didn't help, painting the by-election as a freak show, because neither the LibDems nor Labour were standing while a huge field of also-rans were standing.

And yet we have come through well. While virtually everyone else lost their deposits, the Green Party last night scored our highest-ever percentage in a byelection (beating our previous high, back in our best-ever-yet year of 1989), and claimed an unprecedented second place (see the full result and a pertinent comment from our candidate, here).

The real civil libertarian candidate stands up

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): The powers that be at Our Kingdom are welcoming the way Davis has called this highly-unusual byelection. I can understand that; I can understand the desire to applaud and welcome what he has done and what he is making possible. I said as much myself, in my earlier post on this on OK.

But I think what we also need to be very clear about is that no way is David Davis any kind of poster boy for civil liberties. Much of what he believes in and much of his record is extremely antithetical to what many on OK take for granted. I fear that this fact has not fully emerged in most of what has been written on OK about this byelection campaign.

This could be the moment the freedom debate turns

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): The amazing move that David Davis has made might just be the catalyst that we can use to turn the debate on political and civil freedoms in the correct direction. The kind of direction that, to most of us who write here on Our Kingdom, is second nature, but which has had precious little success in our polity in recent years. When I heard the announcement, it came to me in seconds that we might now -- finally -- be able to have a large-scale debate about ‘civil liberties’ in this country, and -- finally -- be able to get large numbers of people to reassess their continual sleepwalking into a police state. That we might at last have an opportunity to frame our fundamental post-Magna-Carta freedoms as something which it just isn’t OK to put in the balance and weigh against ‘the terrorist threat’. For, the moment we engage in such a weighing process, the argument is lost: liberty will always seem to weigh less, against an imponderable terrifying threat. The most important things of all must not be allowed to be traded for an always-receding ‘security’.