Does the Power commission give more "Power to the People" than to the parties?

The commission's electoral reforms are introduced by way of a parody, called "Three Ships."

Three Ships.

As in the traditional carol, three ships came sailing in. One was the Transferry that let passengers get on and off where they wanted in the numbers they wanted. In short it served the convenience of the passengers rather than the crew's time-table. Another ship was The Conqueror, really called that, jokers alleged, because it conked out before the voyage was half way thru. Of late, it had been conking out before they were hardly a third the way there.

No matter what went wrong, the captain continued to declaim another successful voyage that vindicated the continuance of his license. He and his officers continued to sneer at change. But they had sanctioned a third ship, called The Springer, for lesser routes, helping to make it fashionable. This ship let off parties of passengers, if not where they wanted to be as individuals, and led by the officers.

We were reluctantly sailing on The Conqueror, that is the sixty per cent or so, who hadnt yet jumped ship. Apparently one of the crew was an Inspector of sea-worthiness, as she was compiling a volume on every aspect of the ship's running. The first part of the report was an honest-to-goodness coverage of the sinking morale of the souls on board this top-down commanded tub.

The second part was an exhaustive list of remedies from the top down to the top-down command. There was to be a concordat between captain and officers, another concordat between officers and crew, and so on. Some of these reforms seemed to the point and some didnt. One wondered, as she warmed to her work, why she wanted no one at the captain's table, in future, to be under forty, and why those, once ensconced, should be allowed to stay there for so long, to the exclusion of others.

Another proposal was to set up another committee to find out all the committees that the captain and officers had proliferated, including co-options from the passengers. This was to determine how the ship managed, or rather mis-managed things such as the missing stores, rations, and so forth. This proposal was happily called a mapping committee, as the ship's map had also gone missing, and no-one seemed to have any idea of where the ship was, or where it was going. Every-one had long since ceased to listen to the captain and officers' windy pronouncements on the subject of "The Free World".

Round about page 189 of the report, I kid you not, the passengers were given the message: "Abandon ship!" Tho, it was evidently beset by heated debate, among the Inspector's assistants, held in private, just as the officers met.

The crew hastened to tell us it was all non-sense. They had been working on the pumps and the hull, they assured us, had risen back a few inches. There were no imminent storms. Only the lower berths had their feet in the bilge. A task force monitored when it slopped into their bunks. This had been personly appointed by the captain himself in joint consultations with the first officer, who was rumored to be taking over some of the tasks of command. The first officer had even indicated his assent for the first time to the possible abandonment of The Conqueror.

Some prescient passengers actually asked the Inspector what other ship was to pick them up. They were a bit taken aback by this emergency-raiser when she just shrugged and said: "we have no firm views on this." But she added, perhaps noticing their surprise, "Current thinking seems to suggest" The Transferry.

This less than whole-hearted commendation was not lost on the passengers. However, they opted to board The Transferry. It was then that the captain and most of his company intervened in a passion of dissent from the despised Transferry.

They were to have us removed to The Springer. This dynamic-sounding ship was already in limited use. And symptoms of aggravated sea-sickness of it were already evident from other reports than the Inspector's. ( These reports had been thrown over-board. ) The name Springer seemed to have more to do with the fact that every time, one leak was sealed, it sprang another. Sometimes the engines would only work in reverse to the direction most people wanted to go: the tail wags the dog effect. Sometimes the vessel would unaccountably list left or right from unsecurable cargo. The rudder would jam the vessel into doing rightward or leftward rings but essentially going no-where.

The recent design of The Springer was based on the philosophy that no radical departure should be made from The Conqueror. If the Conqueror could travel no more than half or third the way, that should be good enough for some of the passengers. The advance made by The Springer would be to let the rest travel on by auxiliaries, sort of glorified life-boats. The remaining passengers could choose their life-boat, if they could tell the difference.

The sneaking suspicion arose that the unseaworthy Conqueror was re-commissioned with life-boats and passed off under the name of The Springer. The suspicion was enhanced when the occult phenomena on the ship related to an auxiliary crew. These were brought on board to man the auxiliaries, when The Springer conked out like The Conqueror. The auxiliaries were trying to establish prerogatives in the joint running of the ship, which led to the kinds of confusing and erratic performance, already mentioned.

They hated being called auxiliaries and resented any suggestion that they were inferior to the original company more or less reduced to a skeleton crew to make room for them. The auxiliaries had themselves called the regional members, because they took passengers to within a region of where they wanted to go. This was admittedly a bit vague but that was why the ship retained a generous skeleton crew of local members: If passengers happened to want to share their localities of choice, their journeys were in luck. Most of them didnt, but then you had the regional members.

This passenger asked the Inspector why hadnt her report spoken up, at decision time, for The Transferry, that gives the people what they want, rather than what the commanders want. Well, she replied: Almost anything was better than The Conqueror and people were already leaving, if we didnt provide some alternative.

To which, the proper reply would have been: You mean almost any lame duck alternative, the captain and officers would tolerate, but the ferry that actually ferried.

Moral.

Things must change, so that things can stay the same.

The Power commission fumbles electoral reform.

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In March 2006, the Power Commission brought out a 300 page report called "Power to the People." We have seen so many of these independent enquiries. The first part is a careful enquiry, and essential reading, into the state of the relations between rulers and ruled. I was surprised by how much my own vehement views were shared by members of the public. This remained largely true of public opinion quoted thru-out the report. We're used to hearing about public "apathy", instead of such focused passion from those who consider themselves powerless, especially against an ineffective voting system, first past the post, and against all-or-nothing party manifestos.

The commission, chaired by Helena Kennedy QC, accuses the parties of "killing" politics, meaning popular participation in politics. Some thirty recommendations are made to reverse that decline, in the second and third parts. The third part rambles and the report is rather too long.

"Three Ships," the parody, above, is at the expense of so detailed a report that knows, for instance, no-one under forty should be allowed in the House of Lords. The commission's self-styled democrats suddenly get a fad for gerontocracy. And they hold that incumbents should be allowed to stop there for 12 to 15 years. Yet, about two-thirds the way thru, the report decides, amongst other details, that the first past the post voting system must go. While, it is admitted some commissioners said it must not. And while, it was admitted the whole commission didnt know what to replace it with.

The voting systems, refered to in the parody, the three "ships" are The Conqueror as first past the post, and The Springer as the additional / mixed member system. The Transferry stands for the single transferable vote. I dont want to spell out the parody. It is only an analogy, which gives an inaccurate but not really exaggerated feel for the kind of fatal flaws in a report, that thinks some oligarchic controls of elections more acceptable than others.

The Power commission admitted the single transferable vote was currently thought to be the best replacement. Some criteria for this are noted. But criteria, in the Jenkins commission's terms of reference, didnt prevent their report from coming up with a non-starter of an electoral system.

The Power report does discuss some reasons why STV may be best, but said "we have no firm views on this." If you are to give power to the people, you have to find what you are looking for, or you wont get it. The British government's record is of choosing any other voting method but STV. ( The Scottish parliament's approval of the Kerley report on local government is the only exception so far. ) The Power commission noted with approval all the different methods, from first past the post, adopted by government.

And the power commission omitted to mention that the current one-party executive in the Welsh Assembly has turned down the two reports, the Sunderland and Richard reports both in favor of STV. Given that the Power commission is all about the over-weening power of government, doesnt all that ring some alarm bells in their heads? The only naff system, the Power commission draws the line at, besides first past the post, is the closed list.

"Open lists" are still based on votes for parties and so can, in principle, elect individuals with as few as no personal votes. Open lists are at best first past the post between a parties' candidates on a list. Yet, a central tenet of this report is that first past the post has failed in the single member system. So, why let this failure back by way of open lists?

Also counter-productive, for instance, is recommendation 22, to speed up the eight to ten year delays in boundary re-alignments. STV's multi-member system gives stable boundaries. With First past the post or a mixed member system, this is not the case.

It is not good enough for a commission that claims to give power to the people, rather than the parties, to fail to recommend the democratic voting system rather than systems of party oligarchy, which is what they admit has come into the deepest disrepute. The Commission merely goes which way the wind blows "currently" on electoral reform, without an opinion of their own on the matter, when it seems they have reform views on every-thing else under the political sun. This is only more cause for cynicism and alienation between rulers and ruled.

The report says: "the argument for change is now as much about what is expedient for the future of democracy in Britain as it is a matter of principle." I take this to mean that first past the post has to go, and that is more important than which system replaces it. Since the only motive behind every change to the electoral system, that the British government has made, is power to the parties rather than the people, the Power commission's attitude is bound to defeat its own avowed aim of power to the people.

Talking to one's-self.

The 2005 general election gave government to the party with least support since the beginnings of British democracy, over the past couple of centuries. But the result was treated as business as usual. The Lord Chancellor made out there was little demand for electoral reform. ( Something the Power commission found to be skating on thin ice, as they realised new depths of discontent with political parties. ) The premier said that PR was unfair as well, as if that settled the matter. The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw poured scorn on PR.

In 2005, I e-mailed some responses, which got no replies, needless to say. They are included here, with abridgments of repetitions:

To the Lord Chancellor's department enquiry on voting methods.

Since the call by MPs to reform the Westminster voting system, it seems Lord Falconer's department is involved in an enquiry. I agree with "Make Votes Count" that it must be open and transparent.

It is true as Tony Blair and Jack Straw say that the German system has given disproportionate power to small parties. The tail wags the dog effect was also seen in New Zealand with the NZ First party's about-turn. But this is the system those self-same people have already imposed ( or tried to impose ) on this country....

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Mr Straw supports anything but the democratic voting system.

Writing in the Guardian and elsewhere, Jack Straw recalls his support for the Euro-elections closed list, by which you no longer vote for human beings but corporate entities called parties.
Likewise he supported Additional lists to the present system for national and regional assemblies within the UK, tho they do, as he says, give disproportionate power to small parties....

He also supports the Alternative Vote for Westminster, tho it does suffer from Churchill's complaint repeated by Lord Wheedon, of being the worst votes for the worst candidates.

The only system he doesnt support is the single transferable vote which suffers from none of the above admitted faults.
Firstly, STV is the voters' personal preference for individual candidates, who are held responsible to the public rather than the party boss's autocratic preference vote for his party list.
Secondly, the vote being transferable means that candidates can be prefered according to which coalition the majority of voters prefer, if no one party wins more than half the votes: No disproportionate power to either the larger or the smaller minorities but genuine and decisive democratic majority government.
Thirdly, STV's multi-member constituencies mean that many more first preference votes count than with the alternative vote: something like 70% with STV, and often considerably less than half with AV....

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Sirs or Madams at The Independent, Chris Huhne,

We shouldnt forget that many of the world's problems, of deprivation and violence, that take the headlines owe much to lack of democracy. Why should any one look to a British government that wont put its own House in order?

Writing in The Independent, Jack Straw criticised the German electoral system for giving disproportionate power to small parties. But that was also true of the first past the post system, when the Callaghan government began to run out of a majority of seats and went running with promises ( bribes ) to the small parties.

It would also be true of the Jenkins commission's Alternative vote top-up, which Straw's respondent, Chris Huhne put forward. This grotesque system is used no-where and wanted by no-one.

The transferable vote allows the voters to prefer the candidates of more than one party and therefore which coalition should govern, if no one party has a majority of votes. Transferability of the vote, and not the watered-down proportionality of STV in Ireland, is its commendation. Irish constituencies were reduced by the biggest party merely to give itself disproportionate power....

The Independent campaign should recognise that STV is the democratic system, learn its advantages and communicate its excellence to the public.

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Citizens Assembly private members bill.

Some British MPs intend to introduce a private members bill for a British Columbia-style Citizens Assembly this autumn ( 2005 ). They also intend a local government bill.

Private members bills are rarely tolerated by governments. [ The Power commission recommends that the Floor of the House should be allowed time by the Executive to pass its own legislation. ] But what fun to see the Tory opposition party control freaks looking on the idea with equal horror to the Labour government control freaks.... In short, there is no present prospect of the British Citizens Assembly being passed. Never mind, politicians will have to say why they are against it and their phoney responses, they will try to avoid having to make, will only show them up all the more.

Not only that, it is encouraging to see Charter 88 and a new oranisation, ACT or Active Citizens Transform both advocating a British Citizens Assembly.This is a big improvement on the earlier British electoral reform campaign that supported "some form" of proportional representation, which effectively meant never mind democratic form. ( The Liberal Democrat leadership has stuck in this rut for time-servers. ) This would almost certainly have let down the British people. Indeed, British government levels have been given the party-controlled forms of so-called PR....

At least with a Citizens Assembly, the random representatives of the citizens have only themselves to blame if they get it wrong. And a referendum neednt endorse their decision. Britain, as well as Canada, has much to thank British Columbia for the Citizens Assembly. Let's hope BC will derive the benefit of its decision,backed by a statisticly highly significant majority with over-whelmingly significant consistency from the general public.

Yours sincerely,...

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Re that last letter:
The Power Commission somewhat distinguished its position from that of Charter 88, as going beyond its constitutional reforms. They would have done better to endorse Charter 88 and ACT on a British Citizens Assembly for electoral reform, because none of the Power report's many distinct new proposals compare as a means of promoting the democracy, we are supposed to be so keen on. It has the advantage that the issue is taken out of the hands of deadlocked vested interests, politicians and reformers and given to a sample of the general public, for whom elections are supposed to be meant.

One-dimensional democrats ignore 2nd chamber economic election.

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Fumbling the electoral reform issue is not the only means by which the Power commission recommendations would give the parties more power. A document called "Power to the parties" could not have done worse than to lift some of their proposals. State funding of political parties is like protection money for gang bosses. It's a blood money transfusion from democracy to oligarchy. Th Commission's proposed ballot papers would include a parties' begging letter for 3 of state funds to a party of choice. Some people will not believe that public funds should be plundered for partisan ends. So, those with a public conscience will be discriminated against for those with more limited sympathies.

If people want to donate to political parties there is nothing to stop them, without the commission's special pleading. The Power commission is so anxious for the welfare of these undeserving causes, that they would stick their begging bowls under our noses while we vote, if we still do.

This accessorising the voters has all the finger-prints on it of New Labour's dependency politics. It is just their sort of unfair discrimination against people who would rather forego spending on themselves than take from the community. Blair and Brown's demoralising obsession with unjust and inefficient means tests is an example of their unreasonable and unrepresentative self-will, which this report is wide open to. Means tests were practised by the Tories and loathed by proud working people in the Great Depression.

Of course, the rich funnel riches into the two main parties, because they hold the power thru the two-party system of voting first past the post. A modified simple plurality system with additional members from party lists wont address the problem. You have to have a genuinely democratic voting system to best challenge plutocracy and you have to have democracy in political and economic representation. Then it becomes possible to work more on democratic than plutocratic influences.

The commission wants 70% of House of Lords members to be elected. They mean elected politicians. It doesnt occur to these one-dimensional democrats, that there is a second dimension of economic representation. Flat-landers are multi-dimensional gods in comparison to the political class of line-landers. The latter fail to recognise that political democracy depends on economic democracy, which seems to be in a higher dimension than its senses can apprehend.
And why 70% elections? Other percentages have been suggested. Why one or the other? Such figures are completely arbitrary or without justification.

The Power commission admits replacing Lords with elected politicians will reduce room for the number of experts in the House, so it would have them "co-opted." In other words, more appointments by connections, New Labour's "love of bureaucracy." The best way to get experts is to have them elected by their colleagues who are qualified to know who will best represent their professions. Democracy is best in politics and economics.

Then you have to consider that the appointed Lords are likely to continue being the likes of retired cabinet ministers. Or, if they are voted for, it would be on party lists that automaticly get them in "the other place." In fact, the Power report is explicit about former leaders and ministers being appointed for their experience, as they might be unlikely to stand. They might also be unlikely to be voted in, if the public were tired of them.

The report identifies a main problem being with these people having too much of their own way. So, it seems strange that the report should be so solicitous that the path continue to be made smooth for them into a politicly active retirement. However, there is a certain "reciprocity" or returned favor in that the commission chairman Helena Kennedy was made a New Labour peer. Not that she hasnt rebelliously followed her conscience as a human rights lawyer. She needs now to rebel against the failures of her own report.

Bruce Anderson in The Independent, 27 february 2006, wanted the Lords returned to the landed gentry, essentially I suppose, the thousand year-old war settlement of William the Conqueror. Other occupations, like lawyers and politicians, also seem to think they have the right to monopolise the second chamber of the nation's interests.

Countries like Britain have become litigation tyrannies. People go in fear of so much as touching someone. A famous person has just under-gone an eighteen-month ordeal for this before the case was dismissed. ( He was speaking to Channel 4's "Richard and Judy". ) A touch is enough to get the courts to throw one in jail. Sheltering someone is enough to get thrown out of home for them onto the streets. At this rate, no-one will dare do anything for anyone lest they get a court order. School-children are not allowed to play snow-balls or a "rough" game like British bull-dog, lest a lawyer bull-dogs the supervisor into the court-room. etc etc.

The root cause of this is that government is a lawyers' playground. It is unproductive, uninventive, time-wasting, traumatic, exhausting, hugely expensive for the public, and lucrative for the lawyers. They see nothing wrong with it. Helena Kennedy QC betrays no suspicion of lawyers, one of the main powers behind the undoubtedly unscrupulous parties of her report. ( The occupations of the Power commission, as a whole, belong to what more trying times might have called "non-essential personnel." ) Lawyering is the only trick lawyers know to solving problems. The lawyers' cancerous contribution must be reduced from its present pathologicly unhealthy level for society. All the other occupations should get their proportional share of representation in solving the nation's problems. They each have their own expertly useful point of view, for which the nation's second chamber is the historical place.
Tho, lack of room, at the Palace of Westminster, should probably re-locate the vocational or economic second chamber to the north of England, with teleconference links to the Commons.

A House of Callings, in the tradition of the Lords' membership of the nations' vested interests, could bring it in line with representative democracy of the economic dimension. Expert evidence from representatives of every walk of life is a practical counter-weight to legal principles. Otherwise, every-one is strait-jacketed by bureaucracy into lunatic orthodoxies or political correctness.

The fault lies with the lawyer politicians. The police cannot be blamed. The police want to be allowed to get on with their job of preventing and solving crime. They have said they dont want the job of visiting people for something uncomplimentary they said about some group. Generally, groups dont need defending against individuals. It is the other way around. The main effect of politicians turning the police into "thought police" is "self-censorship". Both terms were invented by George Orwell in his writings against totalitarianism. This is the enemy of spontaneity, creativity and progress.

In a free society, free criticism and, if need be, ridicule, is the proper regulator of prejudice. Running down some group is easily countered by the achievements of its members. This usually makes the belittler look the one who is little. That way teaches against rash judgments.

There are many examples of political correctness that have been high-lighted and ridiculed by the Press. But one example, Ive not happened to see in the Press, was the government's demand to the deaf that they stop using allegedly racist and homophobic sign language. What does this mean? you may well ask. Well, the sign for Jewish is a curved finger to represent a Semitic nose. The sign for Gay is a limp wrist.

The deaf community were up in arms at the government's implied slur, that they were prejudiced and must stop using the signs. Rupert Murdoch recently said, as others have previously, the Blair government has become too much of a Nanny State. This litigious government ban is typical of their superficial approach. This is not solving problems, it is merely making problems for the deaf community.

Oliver Sacks' book "Seeing Voices" is aptly named, because he found out that image language is the most directly effective form of communication. Deaf people with no speech-based sign-language in common could still understand each other in hours using iconic gestures. This fact has profound implications for ready communication between the hearing population divided across the world by many different phonic languages. The deaf could be the trail blazers for world communication.

We recognise the truth of this already in the Highway Code. In life or death situations of possible vehicle accidents, instant recognition is afforded by visual road-signs. For a long time, educators of the deaf have insisted on their using speech-based sign language, which is much more difficult for them and far less successful. Having been thru this hard-learned lesson, what the deaf dont need is the ignorant blunderings of politicians telling them not to use innocent visual signs, with no moral connotations, only ready reference to meanings.

You might multiply that example hundreds of times over, to show the need for representatives in a House of Callings to defend the special interests of every-one in society.

Labour was never properly represented in the Lords. Hence, the mischief of the Commons, or house of communities, being degraded into a war of party interests to the detriment of all but the strong, the wealthy and powerful. Indeed, the commission shows awareness of this by its recommendation:

"Meetings of ministers with business, including lobbyists, to be listed every month."

Every-one has special considerations to be taken into account. Every-one has the right to lobby. It is the essential condition of ensuring that political laws work in practise. It is the routine of science itself, which requires freely representative evidence to arrive at the most comprehensive understanding. Lobbying is not wrong. Unrepresentative lobbying is wrong.

That could be alleviated by ( transferably voted ) proportional representation of all the vocations in the second chamber, instead of the biggest pushers subverting the first chamber. The second chamber elections could be combined with normal professional or union elections etc, to avoid a turn-out problem. The first chamber should lay down laws, based on agreed principles, that apply to all. The second chamber should consider their special effects on each properly represented occupation and amend where necessary.

This is the science of a political economy that relates political principles to economic practise. Scientific progress is missing from our politics of studious ignorance in the service of place-holding reaction.

Not addressing what Churchill, in 1930, called "the economic problem" is at the root of the ineptness of the Power commission's campaign finance reforms. It means theyve failed to promote economic democracy in the nation's second chamber. Theyve left the second chamber to double the parties' power of patronage, when the commission admits they are already destroying political democracy.

To help save political democracy you have to promote second chamber economic elections. This is the democratic way to address what James Burnham called in 1944, "The Managerial Revolution". That is the uncontrolled plunder of the economy by executives or "fat cats". In a democracy, there cannot be privileged laws for corporations over individuals any more than there can be one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Once youve settled the legitimate and ethical use of people's investments in trust, once youve prevented high finance of people's savings without their consent, because the people would be protected by a comprehensive body of expert representatives effectively elected in the second chamber, then you are some way at least to preventing big business bribes of party organisations away from their public service.

Nevertheless, there should be statutory limits on campaign spending. It follows the wasteful advertising conditioning of the public to be wasteful consumers at the expense of the environment. In that respect, Michael Moore has done much to bring back rational debate into the media, while keeping it entertaining. That was always a difficult art. Those who dont agree with him should try to do as well with their own points of view.

Exorbitant campaign spending is indefensible. If it is not unfair, then why indulge it, when the money could be spent on good causes? Why not let enough money be spent just for people to hear the reasons and evidence for which competing policies work best? Then let the public's better judgment decide their fate.

The Power commission wants to move away from the rich-biased financial deposit for candidates to a collection of enough signatures to be taken seriously as a candidate. ( 150 - 200 in general elections. )
They also make the good point that a 16 year old may have to wait up to six years, before being eligible to vote in a general election, with the 18 year threshold. And they found no evidence of their own or others that immaturity was a reason against lowering the age of enfranchisement.
Registration could take place at school, along with civics education, and National Insurance numbers could be used for voter identification. These are practical proposals for making elections more efficient.

The commission found the standard of civics less than satisfactory. Education is potentially a third dimension, in which democracy has yet to be recognised. The underlying problem with education is, as a scientist said in a letter to The Guardian "Life", that schools refuse to teach children how to think. Likewise, in politics, the parties prevent representatives from thinking. And economics is a set of dogmas disasterously out of touch with ecological reality. School science should not be an indigestible fact-cramming. Science should be the model for society of progress by free enquiry.

I broadly agreed with the public views of the media, quoted by the Power commission. Tho, I think the media in general have covered fairly well the dangers to life on earth. The media guard the right to freedom of speech and civil liberties with some passion but they do less than nothing to promote democratic improvement of the system.

For instance, The Independent is the only paper to campaign for proportional representation after the 2005 general election. Even in that paper's response to the Power Commission, the chief political commentator captioned his article: "Voting reform won't bring a different result." But Britain has half a dozen different voting systems, all of which, if you changed them round, would bring different results to the political bodies in question. He was particularly sarcastic about the single transferable vote, the system carefully excluded from the half-dozen, precisely because it would give a freer result from party control than the rest.

The Initiative.

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The commission recommends:

Citizens to initiate legislative processes, public inquiries and hearings into public bodies.

The Initiative could be an idea whose time has come in the UK. The possibility of a free and dedicated digital television channel, like the Parliament channel, means that Initiatives can have their own full time forum. The main objection to the referendum was that it took an issue out of the debating chamber and exposed it to the prejudices of the majority of the people, who never had their convictions challenged in public debate, before an audience, who can judge which side was more or less in the right.

That need no longer be the case. It doesnt matter whether Parliament or individual citizens hold a referendum. The latter case is called the citizens' Initiative. In your digitally broadcast Initiative forum, you could have a legislative procedure as considered and detailed as that in Parliament itself. Forget the whipping system which is just a gagging of free opinion from getting in the way of party doctrine and favors. ( The commission rightly wants "Limits on power of the whips." ) The Initiative forum would be no challenge to Parliament because it would help to elect issues not persons.

The Power commission's document "Beyond the Ballot" ( p. 107, sec. 7.4 ) shows that I have been anticipated in this idea, in the form of a "Civic commons in cyberspace." This proposal doesnt actually envisage it as an Initiatives forum, but it is essentially the same idea that could be adapted to that purpose as well. It would be an informal discussion of public business that the authorities would have to listen to. It would be free from the sort of "barriers" to popular participation ( mentioned on p. 112 ) such as incorporating citizens into official ways of working and professional resistance to inclusion.

The Commission study points out that its fairness would depend on over-coming the digital divide. Others have pointed out that this mainly remains because of British Telecom's monopoly. Their standing charge for a low user of the land-line can be more than five times the cost of the phone calls. That should be enough to provide a broad-band service, which, however, they charge for, all over again.

The Power commission might address such typical complacencies of the government with the general population's high cost of living, as from the standing charge rip-offs of banks and utilities. The government is eager to do the bidding of big business to doom all forseeable generations to the poison waste from more nuclear power stations. But it seems alien to its centralists to promote energy-independence of houses and buildings, as radicly as could be done.

The Power commission also made the point that it was a dubious sort of enquiry in which the government had already made up its mind in favor of more nuclear power stations. ( p. 110 ). I believe this is one of the most serious examples of the fatal deficiencies of party propagandist government that prevents the kind of progress achieved in science from free enquiry. Calamity comes from the mis-application of scientific achievement by its big government and big business pay-masters. The best remedy for this is the democraticly open debate, that occurs within science, occuring thru-out the whole community, without let or hindrance from partisan vested interests.

Would there be limits on what citizens could initiate?
Certainly, just as there are or should be on what parliaments can legislate. It is a common misconception that democracy is the tyranny of the majority. This is fortified by a simple majority voting system. This isnt even an over-all majority system, and wouldnt be, with any single member system.

The Power Commission mentioned the proposal from the Borda Institute of Northern Ireland that referendums should have a range of options, rather than a crude Yes/No. This would allow the voters to express their views more particularly to show more clearly what they really want, rather than be manipulated into a dilemma. However, Borda's method of giving points for order of choice is more arbitrary than adaptation of transferable voting, whereby weight is given to preference order in proportion to the number of surplus votes over each prefered option that can achieve a quota of the total vote.

A news Independent commentator raised the old spectre of Initiatives for hanging, which jumps in popularity with the public distress at certain murders high-lighted by the media in this wicked world. ( Ive discussed this elsewhere on a page about capital punishment. )

The commission has surely got it right on "Text voting or e-mail voting only after other reforms." In contrast to Initiatives, this is an idea whose time has not come. It may not properly come till the invention of quantum encryption makes internet transactions, as vital as voting, as secure as they need to be against hacking.

Concluding remarks.

For all its list of recommendations, for participation on the side-lines of government, this report knows no other than a democracy that is the monopoly of politicians. The historic role of the Lords as representing special interests is a cue for the second chamber to become a second dimension of economic democracy. Instead, the report wants to virtually double the power of party patronage over representation. It wont grasp the nettle of removing safe seats by firmly recommending the transferable vote, as an essential means to that democratic end. It wants to financially entrench the parties into the constitution.

Like the Jenkins report, the Power report gives a little lecture about the necessity of parties in the system. I have news for the commission. As Vilfredo Pareto said, history is the graveyard of elites. Dominant groups come and go, only the people endure. If you want progress, you dont worry about entrenching the current powers. They are only too good at entrenching themselves. The Labour and Tory parties have no divine right to rule. The lawyer-politicians and the corporate-above-the-laws will have their day.



Richard Lung.
7 March 2006.


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