openDemocracyUK

God bless the Squire and his relations. And keep us in our proper stations.

John Jackson
13 May 2010

The very good thing about the agreement between the Tories and the LibDems is that, if as intended (we are told)  it produces five years of stable government by an executive managing our nation’s affairs competently, the tale that coalition governments are ineffectual – and that electoral systems favouring them are bad -  will have been knocked on the head – permanently. 

The very bad thing about it is that (probably on Tory insistence) control of the system which determines the composition of  Parliament which will legislate and to which that executive will account is to be kept firmly in the grip of the political party establishment – the modern Squirearchy.

In a truly progressive representative democracy it is not enough to resort to referenda about electoral reform with the question put defined by those with a ‘private’ interest in the outcome. Popular involvement in determining what is to be decided must come far earlier. Citizens’ conventions work in other countries; they can work in ours. The House of Commons is composed of our representatives not those of the political parties: we alone must decide how they get there. We must also make clear that a parliamentary seat is not the property of its incumbent. The scramble for personal political advancement by being granted a ‘safe’ seat by ‘your’ political party speaks volumes about how the Squire’s relations see representation.  

And, apparently, the House of Lords is to be put in its place by ensuring (via proportional representation) that, wholly or partly elected, it will be under joint control of the political parties. There is to be no possibility of a majority being in the hands of ‘independents’. It would be nice if we were asked if we thought that a good plan. 

These elements of the ‘deal’ smack of a pre-emptive strike designed to head off the pressure for deliberative democracy last year’s Convention on Modern Liberty and this year’s pre-election exercise by Power 2010 could lead to. One can sense the formidable intellect of, for example, Oliver Letwin and William Hague who have an excellent grasp of what ‘too much’ popular democracy could do to the way they would like things to stay. Giving Nick Clegg oversight of such pre-determined political reform may be a carefully crafted poisoned chalice. 

This is the background against which the rallies organised by Take Back Parliament and its supporters next Saturday should be viewed. They are an important way of saying to the squires “Parliament is ours, not yours. We will not let you keep it from us. And we will go on saying so.” Doubtless we will soon hear other, reproving, voices saying “Sit down, shut up and stop rocking the boat.” Well, in my view, the boat needs rocking, a lot! We should not be kept, in our own country, in what others regard as our ‘proper’ station. We should simply not put up with it. I, for one, won't.

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