Independence And The Westminster Paradigm
(Excerpt from The People Business)
“The role of Nature accepted, we then have to ask; whether in the affairs of humanity, any concept, system, practice or ideology which fails to improve the wellbeing, contentment, security and advancement of the majority of the species and its survival, has any claim to legitimacy or continuance by establishment or custom?”
Governed or Controlled?
Generally my rambles into the horizons of commentary are aimed more at the integrity or the lack of it that we presently class, or are told is democracy. It is a word easily claimed but hard to define and almost impossible to morph from theory into practice. Yet that ‘almost’ is the key that makes the impossible possible and should be the defining principle any government who claims to be democratic should be judged on.
Part - In practice, control is vested in elected officers as representatives who may be upheld or removed by the people.
If these words define the first principle of democracy, the Westminster model has failed to grow the legs in order to leap the first hurdle of representation. Perhaps the crawl of history has taken it to the start line but from then until now it has chosen to ignore the challenge of the democratic hurdles for the crawl and bum-shuffle comfort zone called politics.
Politics – another strange word and one that’s almost indefinable as to its purpose. My favourite definition, again from the many included in Webster’s is – “To speak or act for political reasons; hence to scheme for an advantage.”
Not exactly a characterisation most of us would be comfortable with but as a trait we have to admit it’s pretty generic within the human psyche and one we use at home, work and play. Yet in our everyday world the ‘take’ of advantage is usually balanced by the ‘give’ from the purpose behind it on the home and play front, though the work scenario is often less innocent and more materialistic in purpose. So if the latter applies to our everyday work what can we expect from politicians whose everyday work is politics –and in an environment where all of them are scheming for an advantage?
Now if all their scheming was to whittle down that ‘almost’ and improve our democracy there might be a purpose to their posturing. But the constancy of cyclical failure has relegated their relevance to that of an annoying but potentially fatal distraction – like the wasp in a car, you need the grit your teeth till you can safely get rid of it then get on with your journey. Unfortunately the Westminster ‘wasp’ is far more cunning in its distractions and precise in its malevolence in order to prevent the journey to democracy.
The Westminster paradigm is based on systematic deceits and statistical distortions nurtured off hysterical promises every few years when we are supposedly given a choice, but that choice and the promises that influence it rarely, if ever, materialise. The major reason for that failure is instead of democracy developing from the ballot box it ends at the ballot box and from then on becomes a manipulation so contrived it would make a tyrants mouth water.
They call it ‘first past the post’ and claim it leads to strong and decisive government. It doesn’t. In truth what it leads to is lazy, sloppy, sycophantic self deluding hegemonies of free loading placemen claiming through the ‘majority’ of a minority and the sovereignty of a corrupted parliamentary system to rule and possibly – no, make that probably – ruin the lives of the majority for the years they hold power. The sad reflection on this is the fact they rarely hold power through what they have achieved but on the amount - hopefully little - damage they’ve done. Meanwhile the loyal opposition goes into hibernation on an undeserved sabbatical of rest, recuperation and networking their lobbyists and career prospects.
This might be a comfortable way to run a gentleman’s club for ideological tyrants but it’s not a way to run a democratic government designed to enhance and prosper a democratic nation.
Their next failure is when they sold out the nation – they used a euphemism to disguise it as smaller less intrusive government. Since then it hasn’t got any ‘smaller’ or less intrusive, just less democratic; and where the government takes less responsibility for the results of their actions – or more often inactions. It started small with the privatisation of BT and the utilities of gas, water and electric and sold it by selling shares to the middle herd in £1.5 thousand lumps. Suddenly Britain was in the grip of a sure fire gamble until the middler’s grew disenchanted with their £12 dividend cheques and cashed in the shares for ten days of Sun in Majorca. Then the circle of deceit was complete and the promise of cheaper utilities could be morphed into the profits of the conglomerate and financiers by socialising the costs while leaving the conglomerates and financiers free to juggle their corporate hierarchies and create cartels they euphemistically call ‘free markets’.
Take British Gas as an example. Shortly after the bulk of middler’s had sold off their shares, Centrica was formed and the extraction facilities and their marketing were handed over from British Gas for Centrica to raise capital from the money markets against its assets and potential earnings. British Gas was now in effect no more than a domestic gas distributor and one where its profit or loss is largely controlled by the amount it has to pay Centrica and the free market cartel. That’s not to say they’re not still fused together in the maze of conglomerate relationships, (they had to be otherwise Centrica would have had to pay a fortune to BG when the assets were transferred – which they didn’t) but for the purposes of profit manipulation they had to be seen as separate entities. Now the purposes behind this are varied but in essence they boil down to – any excuse is good enough - once a cartel can operate as a monopoly. And when the price of oil goes up for equally mysterious and irrational reasons, then the price of gas must follow to keep the moneymen happy. The result British Gas buys from its monopoly supplier then claims it has no option other than to pass on the increase to its customers in the game of pass the buckin –profit. The fact two hundred or maybe that many thousand of their customers will have to freeze through the winter is not their problem.
This is the world of capitalism where the only responsibility is to raise the ratios of profits and maximise the exploitation of resources rightfully owned by a nation, and that’s before adding insult by evading or avoiding tax on the profits earned to the injury of overcharging for the products use; and all the while, they whinge on and on like demented sirens about the restrictions of regulation. They’re not worried really, it’s just a tactic of distraction – and neither are the politicians, who lighten the load of regulation then turn a blind eye to the paucity of their tax payments, taken in by it – they’re more interested in safeguarding their seat on the board of a subsidiary or the consultancy fees they’ve been promised.
If we leave the surreal world of Tyrannical Oligarch Capitalists for a moment and return to the mundane of their political acolytes and the effect they have on our governance, we’re faced with a bit of a conundrum. These business type/plc representatives we have – the millionaire cabinet governing our nation – seem to apply a different set of rules to the job they do for us than those they would use in their businesses. I’m referring here to marketing.
Market share is the Holy Grail of business. No businessman will be a businessman for long if he ignores the marketing of his business. Especially when he’s only captured 26% of the potential market and 40-45% of the market isn’t interested in his or his competitors’ product. For any business capturing this potential is a must – any business that is except the political business. There the political CEOs seem to be quite happy leaving that potential dormant. I wonder why that is?
Take Labour as an example. At the moment they’re quite worried they may not have in the near future, forty or so acquiescent lumps coming down from Scotland. But were they to entice half of that 45% into their fold it would more than make up for the loss – perhaps that wouldn’t apply proportionately to bums on green leather due to the systems distortions but it would certainly be relevant to the vote share. And wouldn’t you as a CEO, marketing director or lowly salesman be desperately researching to find out the style, capabilities, cost and performance they wanted from your product that would entice them into your fold?
Any body else would, but not the politico’s, they’re quite happy playing musical chairs with majority prizes prized from minorities. It’s the mud –thick-mindset- of conservatism that is the cholesterol sludge that slurps through the arteries of Westminster and its establishment, and in the lexicon of business – the products crap - not fit for purpose - fit for neither use nor ornament. So the true majority of the populace have made their mark by ignoring their product and the demographics of democracy demand change.
This week in Newsnet Scotland one of the contributors had an article where he attributed the SNPs election result to the “Feel Good Factor” he then went on in some detail on the percentages of unemployment being down and job vacancies up etc – the differences weren’t large, a couple of points here a fraction of a point there. In my opinion the differences were too subtle to contribute to a ‘feel good factor’; but I agree with him that that factor does exist. In my opinion Scotland ‘feels good’ because it has re-established the democratic link between its people, and the people they have chosen to represent them; in a government that is not there to lord it over them but to serve them.
It’s pretty heady stuff. Will it last? No reason why it shouldn’t. But one thing I’ll tell you as fact – at the moment Westminster’s looking as attractive as a sour faced whore sucking a sour plum. But enough of that – though more later.
So enough of the partisanship. As a proponent of democracy what do I reckon Westminster has to do in order to win back legitimacy?
Well if I were to start from a dream, I would say start building a parliament up round Stoke on Trent. God knows it needs it and you know who caused that need. Who knows, it might wean you off the notion of London Centric and give you a feel for the country you govern, and the separation might re-form a backbone to control and discipline the banks and see through - and recognise the people already do- the glitzy bling of the financial shamans.
Sell off the palaces of the establishment, without depressing the market, they are too steeped in tradition and reminiscent of upstairs –downstairs, and the broom of the past needs to be replaced with the cyclone vacuum of the future. But if, as I suspect, that’s too radical, then simply put the people who have awarded you the privilege of their governance above all else.
On a contemporary side note, stop telling lies Mr Cameron – we know you love the NHS but it’s not in the way you insinuate. You love it for the opportunities it brings to the market of privateers and the profits they’ll leech from the public purse.
It may be a grimed diamond on top of a tarnished crown but you take the chisel to it Cameron and you’ll be out with a very thick ear.
But here’s my suggestion on what you can do. You extend the development of democracy from the ballot box by reforming the make up of the government and the cabinet.
Stick to first past the post and whichever party wins the most seats its leader becomes the PM, but from then on the share of the vote is matched to a cabinet position in the acknowledgement that whole areas of the country would have preferred your opponents to win. Obviously there will be more potential candidates than there are cabinet posts. But with considered consultation with the other party’s leader (who incidentally should have no place in the cabinet) over the choice of region and the experience and qualities of the candidate, would at a stroke by balancing the cabinet to the ballot, give credence to the voters choice.
My reasoning for not allowing other party leaders a role in the cabinet is as follows. Since taking office through coalition in 2010, the mantra constantly touted by both of the parties is –“Once we got into office and discovered the position left to us by Labour we had no alternative other than to take the measures (austerity) we have.” This pathetic position is not only a vacuous excuse it’s also an indictment on both the parties involved in the coalition. Where were you Messrs Cameron and Clegg and your cohorts from 97 to 2010? Weren’t you all on the public payroll, with some acting as shadows as HM’s loyal opposition. What did you achieve during the whole of that time, and by argument and persuasion of logic, social, moral or purely ideological which, if any, policies did you force change on in any meaningful way?
Did you attack, or even question the commitment to Iraq, Afghanistan, The Trident Adventure, the PFI Debacle, The Gold Squander, The Pensions Raid, The Money from Nothing Spivs? Just what the hell were you doing Messrs Cameron & Clegg during these thirteen years – what lies were exposed or ministers forced to squirm during the course of your sabbatical from responsibility?
Seemingly each MP costs, on average, quarter a million per year. Let’s say three hundred are not in the governing party that takes us to £75 million per year as a handout to ineffectual losers. Multiply that by the years in opposition and it comes to £975 millions – call it a £1billion because in all probability it’s more than that – that’s a lot of cash to shell out on a concept that creates no return and falls short in the role of checks and balances. And that’s before we add in the ermine club of the ludicrous second chamber. What is it they get - £180 per day plus expenses and there’s seven hundred of them, what do they costs each year £40 – 50 million? Gee, Messrs Cameron/Clegg that’s a thousand swindlers a year costing on average £125,000 each and all that’s required of them is to play by the rules, not rock the boat and keep quiet about it. And that’s before we add the far greater costs directly attributable to their apathetic incompetence.
Perhaps you should install a ‘hotline’ for the reporting of representative swindlers? That apart, it does show there are more ways than one of skinning a cut.
So in order to achieve an effective opposition the one party rule should go and in its place a shadow cabinet formed, equal in number from firstly, all the regions not covered, then from every party that’s won a constituency. Now all this may seem like rearranging deck chairs, but here’s the crunch, every one of these shadow ministers has to have an office in the ministry he/she is shadowing and all the information made available to the minister has to be made available to the opposition shadow. Never again do we want to hear the whinge of ‘not knowing’ as an excuse for lies and deceptions and promises that will never be kept.
Again there is no role in the shadow cabinet for the party leaders. Their role is to keep their ministerial colleagues on top of their game and to fight for their positions in parliament.
And, no more party whips. If MPs in general haven’t the commitment to attend to their responsibilities without being bullied they should be sacked. Equally MPs who through conscience disagrees with the position adopted by their party should have the same freedom of choice as enjoyed by any free person to vote against it.
Finally, direct Lobbying would be banned. If any special interest group or lobbyist’s want to present their case to parliament they should submit a request for a hearing to an administrative department and if the request is granted the MPs (minimum three) should be randomly chosen to consider the application.
To bring this section of essay to a close I would add. Neither as individuals or political bodies are you our leaders or mentors. You are in fact our representatives and to carry out that function competently it’s time you grew up.
It’s that ‘growing up’ we intend to initiate in Scotland.
John Souter – 18/06/11