Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Democracy: 'UK Style' vs 'Libya Style'

Yesterday in Parliament we saw a statement made on the recent EU Heads of State meeting and a vote on whether there should be a referendum on our country's membership of the EU. Before proceeding further please note that Cameron's statement on the former, followed by the debate can be viewed here (start at 15:30:48) and read here (begins page 25) and which includes the voting record. I have no wish to highlight entire speeches, readers may form their own opinions on those which were good and those which were poor, suffice it to say that as someone has just mentioned on twitter there is no 'I' in the word democracy, something which MPs do not appear to have realized. To take two examples:

Cameron, in his statement, continues to espouse the line: "I believe in EU membership....." - one continuing in his responses to questions from MPs, MilibandE likewise follows this line in his response to Cameron. Cameron was of course, as is normal, helped with some 'patsy' questions to his statement, from amongst others, Charlie Elphicke, Andrea Leadsom and Tony Baldry. The latter was being somewhat devious with the facts by way of his question wherein he stated: "Will the Prime Minister confirm that, at the last general election, the Conservative manifesto committed us to seeking to return powers from Europe on economic and social policy, but that nowhere did it contain a commitment to seek an in/out referendum or to seek to renegotiate our terms of membership of the European Union?" and Cameron was likewise devious with his reply. Both Baldry and Cameron do not seem aware that one cannot just take back powers from the EU without a renegotiation of this country's membership.

In the debate on the motion there were several points worthy of note. Hague (page 59) is still having trouble with basic arithmetic in that, in answer to a question from Bernard Jenkin, he is still unable to grasp the fact that 17 is a majority out of a total of 27. Douglas Alexander has a similar problem to Hague, in that Alexanders problem is with facts. In response to a question from Graham Stuart, Alexander stated that the EU Constitution is no more, having been rejected by the Dutch and the French, whilst failing to acknowledge the similarities twixt the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty.

(As an aside, Douglas Alexander was correct to counter early accusations of the previous Labour government being solely responsible for the bail-out responsibilities in which we presently find ourselves by reminding MPs that it was indeed Justine Greening being on record as having written a letter  confirming the cross-party nature of support for the steps that were taken. Douglas Carswell has been pressing for the release of all correspondence on this matter including discussions between Darling and Osborne. To date I believe that it is correct to say Carswell is still without a reply)

Anyway, to return to the debate. Much as I have time for Kate Hoey, even she appears to be a believer in this charade of repatriation and renegotiation of powers. (page 89) Philip Hollobone is right (page 96) to make the point that the problem with the European issue at general elections is that there are a lot of other issues to discuss and it gets lost in the noise, in part because of the establishment view on the European Union, which often suppresses public opinion on this issue - something the leaders of the Lib/Lab/Con make damn sure happens. Gisela Stuart made a most telling contribution when she stated (page103):
"...... and talk about the nature of democracy and the nature of democracy in the House. For better or worse, the House has decided that it should become a far more participatory democracy. We have said that we will ask the people much more and have such things as e-petitions. If we are to have e-petitions, we had better start taking them seriously. We cannot say, “Some are more frivolous than others. If they suit us, we’ll take them on board; and if they don’t, we’ll knock them on the head,” because they are all serious."
To her credit Gisela Stuart continued:
"It is presumptuous of the House to think that it knows what the people would say. We should not take for granted what the people would say. Even if I were to accept the Government’s argument that now is not the time, what is the case against having a referendum at the same time as the EU elections in 2014? I assume that for once—it has not happened since I have been around—we would have a European election during which we actually talked about Europe. We could have a referendum on such an occasion. In the name of democracy and having trust in the people, which we all say that we do, we should vote for the motion tonight, because if politicians do not trust the people, why on earth should the people trust the politicians?"
That hardly any MP believes in a participatory type of democracy is not surprising for obvious reasons, namely it would result in the loss of their power, privileges and perks. This is best illustrated by reference to my previous post in which I discussed my first impressions of Parliament. When viewed on television they appear 'giants' of our society yet 'in the flesh' they are such little people, but in common with little people they have an inherent disregard for others, as witnessed by the likes of Nadhim Zahawi who wandered through the lobby. The attitude seen from those MPs observed in the lobby seemed to be one questioning just what the hell their paymasters were actually doing in Parliament in the first place. Yet another example of this misplaced attitude by politicians is one illustrated by this post from Richard North, EU Referendum, showing the response by Graham Stuart (Conservative) when asked to vote for the motion. 

As Autonomous Mind posts, the size of the Conservative 'rebellion' should not be taken at face value and that had the motion under debate been purely an in/out question, the actual number of rebels would probably only have amounted to those who have signed the Better Off Out pledge, regardless of what John Redwood believes. Reverting to the title of this post, again linking to Richard North, I can but echo his view that whilst Libyans can now chose their own rulers – we can't, that in order to reach their happy state, the Libyans had to resort to murder and that our political brethren would do well to meditate on that fact.


PeterCharles said...

It is I think sadly true had it been a straight in/out question the revolt would have been far smaller. Far too many MPs, on all sides of the House, seem to believe that they can renegotiate terms and win back powers. Are they all stupid or simply disingenuous, or is the standard hubris of the politician and the certainty that they can always finagle something?

Like Cameron, these 're-negotiators' should be put on the spot, what powers do they want repatriated, which clauses of which directives do they want rescinded? When? And what do they intend if the answer is no? Silly questions in a way, I am sure not a one of them even knows exactly, or even inexactly, what powers have actually been surrendered or which directives they were codified in.

Even if anyone was bothered to ask the questions we already know the answers, obfuscating waffle about employment and social things, what's good for Britain, how tricky it is to separate individual parts and they can't really state any specifics because that would be putting us at a disadvantage in any discussions, showing the EU our hand, etc. etc.

No, the only chance, given the EU doesn't implode before then, John Ward is now predicting a month, I think, before Euro collapse, would be a large UKIP vote to force the issue once and for all and a highly organised NO campaign ready and primed to fight long, hard and dirty, every counter answer to hand and the glibbest of communicators to speak them. Probably too much to hope for.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: What can I say, other than couldn't agree more.....