Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Descent to Dictatorship - Guest Post

The Descent to Dictatorship

by Edward Spalton

A few years back I was at an evening meeting in a House of Lords committee room. Our chairman was the redoubtable Old Labour peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon (now an independent). At 7.00 pm the bell rang for the Commons to adjourn. “That's it” said the noble lord “They are all going home in time to put the babies to bed. There's nobody minding the shop now”.

Family-friendly hours were an innovation by “Blair's babes”, ostensibly part of modernising Parliament. Not only does Parliament now usually rise in the early evening; most members do not arrive until Monday afternoon and nearly all are back in their constituencies by Friday, doing the work they used to do there on Saturdays. This is a great convenience for the government. There is less parliamentary time and it is now much more difficult for the opposition to keep ministers out of bed all night and force amendments to ill-thought out Bills. The Lords do their best but the Commons have more or less given up on the real business of revising and amending. Some of the votes are now taken in the fashion of the EU parliament, in special voting sessions – at family-friendly times- completely separate from such guillotined debates as the procedures may have allowed and which very few of the voting MP s will have attended.

Blair's babes turned out to be the Stepford wives of New Labour rather than the monstrous regiment of women they were cracked up to be. It was really embarrassing in the early dawn of the Blair era to hear their breathless sincerity and pure devotion. After the opening of a new school or similar facility in her constituency, a dewy-eyed, new MP would conclude a supplementary question to the Prime Minister along the lines “Is the Prime Minister aware that everyone in Slowcombe-on-the-Mud thinks he's absolutely super?” and Tony would modestly agree.

That was the year zero of British politics and Mr. Cameron, in his haste to be “the heir to Blair”, seems to have accepted the new, revolutionary calendar – a very strange thing for anybody of conservative principles to have done. Whilst there are many odious features of the New Labour era, from its sheer financial profligacy to corruption on a scale unknown since the 18th century, perhaps the greatest evil has been its casual, thuggish, constitutional barbarism. The worst atrocities are the EU treaties which create a democracy bypass around Crown, Lords and Commons but these have been compounded by ill thought-out domestic “reforms”, influenced and sometimes required by these same treaties.

“We don't have a constitution” is the parrot cry of the new men, as they destroy the work of centuries. Of course we do, or rather did. It was just not codified. Whilst there were libraries full of learned books about it, it was easy enough to understand.


The late Sir Ivor Jennings condensed his large work “The British Constitution” into a slim, pocket-sized paperback, called “The Queen's Government” in the Fifties. It was not Janet and John stuff but nearly everyone could understand it. Most of us, I suspect, picked up the rudiments by osmosis from school history lessons. There was no need for instruction in “civics”.

Dumbed down and comprehensive education seems to have put an end to that and to have reached to the highest levels of the political establishment. William Hague was recently heard, demanding “an elected prime minister”. Of course, we have never had any such thing although the presidential style “Prime Ministerial Debates” on television fostered the fallacy. In the middle of the Foot & Mouth disease outbreak, Tony Blair actually referred to “My Minister of Agriculture”. I do not think any of his predecessors would have made such a faux pas. All the ministers are the Queen's, not his.

The new administration is just as thuggish and even more dictatorial in its constitutional ambitions. They are proposing to guarantee themselves five years in power but not just by establishing a fixed term for Parliament. No, they want to raise the bar against the possibility of losing a no confidence vote. If they have their way, it will no longer be enough for a simple majority of MP s to vote against the government. It will have to be an “enhanced majority”, perhaps 55% or maybe 66% of MP s- who knows what figure they will decide on? Will it be a percentage of the whole House or just of the number of members attending? Once the principle is established, you can set it anywhere you like – and so can any successor regime.

This is an utterly monstrous proposal. The financial fecklessness and recklessness of the previous administration will demand very severe and unpopular measures but that should not be permitted as an excuse for such a basic denial of the rights of Parliament. It was not even suggested during six years of total war, so why should our largely self-inflicted crisis be made the excuse for it?

This proposal is reminiscent of another parliamentary regime with problems of economic and political stability – Germany's Weimar republic. The democratic politicians of the centre parties passed a number of “Notstandsgesetze” (emergency laws) which permitted the government to carry on governing and disregard parliament. They were ready-made for the incoming Hitler regime.

Edward Spalton May 2010


Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

A new politics Dawns it just looks awfully like the old politics only worse.....

we now need an enhanced vote of no confidence(the old one suited Churchill)

Never trust smarmy smiley men in suits especially in the Downing street Garden...

Looks like David Cameron has found his 'Luca Brasi'

Indyanhat said...

The sad part is we have been living in a dictatorship for decades ,Lord Hailsham described it as an elective dictatorship , which though in place was little abused by honourable men, It was not until maggie Thatcher came along that the 'dictator started to use the powers inherent in the system for gain, Maggie used them for the countries gain and her own parties interests, Bliar on the other hand whilst still forwarding party interests and consolodating the powerstructure in favour of Liebore used/abused the system for his own ultimate ends , the ends of sheer unadulterated greed and gain. Brown poor fool and dupe took over a sinking ship, true he had made many of the holes in in the plankig below the waterline but essentially he carried the can for Tony, Many of the populace HATE brown but he at least has not used the dictatorial powers available for personal gain (as far as I am aware,thus he was indeed a dupe It remains to be seen what the newduo will do with it , my prediction is Cameron will not use it for personal gain like Bliar he is I think more in the maggie mould thanpeople realise, Clagg on the other hand will make as much capital as he possibly can and the party can go to hell with the country as far as he is concerned as long as he ends up like Tony, a multi millionaire.
So grasp the nettle folks this is not Oh look here comes the dictator, that moment has gone already years back it is more that the people finally coming to from some drug induced slumber are seeing the pain that surrounds them and in looking for a future see only a worsening of their position which they will blame on the one in their sights by scweeeming oooo look there lies the one who would be dictator of us all. The saddness is that they will string up the messiah himself to justify their fears of losing the 'easy life' they only think theyve been living so far because of the lies that have kept them both uneducated and ignorant of their own culpability in chasing the ephemera of tribal politics , instead of realising the one great truth to whit WE ARE ALL ONE TRIBE!!!

scunnert said...

For Indyanhat:

banned said...

Made me laugh when I heard Jack Straw accuse the Torylibs of acting 'uncontitutionally' with their proposals for a fixed term; "pot calling..."

While I now wish Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg well they would do well to remember that the problem is not how we elect MPs but how they behave once we have done so.

Indyanhat said...

Thanks Scunnert, A nice start to my day, normally I hate this voice squergling stuff but it actually worked this time Agood lesson for folks to learn!
I like this one as well,

@Banned Very true that is the problem hit squarely on the head!!

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