parliament

HOW ABOUT A ‘RIGHT NOW’ RULE?

There was an interesting development a few weeks back when the government decided to reduce the amount of time that passes before confidential papers are released from 30 years to 20 years. However, documents relating to the royal family will be exempt*.

This is all well and good as far as it goes you might think, but let’s think about the general mentality.

The justice ministry were quoted in the Guardian as saying…

“Compared to a reduction to 15 years, a 20-year rule substantially reduces the risk of both ministers and officials being distracted from their current roles by the release of information on significant decisions which they took earlier on in their careers,” said the justice ministry.

Ok, got it. So the thinking is that if (possibly) unfiltered information about what ministers and civil servants had done previously could come out when they are still in office, this means they wouldn’t be able concentrate on what they were doing now properly.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself why that would be.

One of the good motivations for it could be that the officials might be seen to be compromised if they were working for one administration with a certain policy and then working for the next administration who try to implement an opposite policy. Is there a conflict of interest there? Another motive is the catch-all “national security” excuse which they seem to apply to everything.

I don’t think you need me to spell out what the more nefarious motives for it could be.

Is it possible though, to think of all of this as just another proof of how badly governments tend to do their jobs? The most striking and visible aspect of this is the enormous level of security that surrounds politicians, prime ministers, presidents etc. I don’t deny that some of them need that protection as there are quite a lot of lunatics out there. But is it not a fair question to ask that if they really were doing their jobs well would they constantly need a massive level of protection? Would there be so many people with genuine grievances or so many loons…or even loons with genuine grievances?

For me, the physical security and the delay in publishing the documents for spurious reasons be it 20 years, 30 years or however many are just two different manifestations of the same problem. That problem is that they do their jobs abysmally and protect themselves from the consequences of that by whatever means.

Of course, with this ruling things have improved by 10 years (instead of the recommended 15) and it is a step in the right direction. Obviously though, one idea which was never on the table was telling the public what is going on now  without spinning it so many ways that no one can understand it, no one believes it or no one can be bothered with it. A lot of our (sic) representatives find talking to the public enough of a chore as it is, an informed public would just be an incredible bore for them.

Finally, I am not convinced about what we will learn from any particular released documents anyway. If you want an explanation of why then watch the vid. It is 5 minutes long and all on topic but the bit in particular starts around 3:20

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

*Lots to take issue with in this but that is another article.

“Of particular importance are the political impartiality of the monarchy, the sovereign’s right and duty to counsel, to encourage and to warn her government, as well as the right of the heir to the throne to be instructed in the business of government in preparation for the time when he will be King,” the justice ministry said.

THE MAN WHO HELD THE QUEEN TO RANSOM AND SENT PARLIAMENT PACKING

In the summer a fellow blogger gave me a book called The Man Who  Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing [1968] by Peter Van Greenaway [not to be confused with Peter Greenaway the film director].

It is a fantastic read.

An army captain called Wyatt organises and pulls off a more or less bloodless [one person is injured] coup in the United Kingdom. He achieves this by kidnapping the royal family and imprisoning them in the tower of London with the threat that if anyone attempts to reverse the coup then they will begin executing them.

By this method the organisers of the coup manage to hold power for a short time.

The book uses a style that we are quite familiar with now – using pieces of conversations, excerpts from newspapers and trial transcripts and so on from before and after the fact and bringing it all together at the end. At the time this book was written I imagine that this style was something of a novelty.

One of the things I liked about the book is that although big alarm bells are rightly ringing about the idea of a military coup, we are constantly kept uncomfortable by the fact that Wyatt talks a lot of sense and begins to put in place policies that a lot of people would support.

For example, he asks the US army to leave the UK, withdraws UK troops from Germany and places them under the control of the UN to act as a peacekeeping force [this move also forces the UN to recognise his new government]. He starts reforms of the criminal justice system some of which people might find a little strange but he is not the stereotypical military dictator and allows the press to say whatever they wish and there are no curfews and such like. His stated intention is to prepare the country for real democracy instead of the puppet show that we have at the moment.

The best passages in the book however are not when Wyatt and the other coup leaders are putting policies in place but rather when Wyatt is speaking to those who were [nominally at least] in control before him and explaining the problems with the previous regime. Take this example from when he dismisses the parliament…

“There’s no doubt that the system has benefited property speculators, building tycoons, bookmakers and organised crime; there’s no doubt that under the system both parties have succeeded in running the country into the ground with the gay abandon of two frustrated spinsters daring their all in a cosy game of Monopoly.

“That you act with a cynical disregard for those you represent is the measure of your dishonesty. That you assume public apathy to your actions is total shows a blindness to reality suggesting outright stupidity.

“I am here to tell you that the country refuses to be led by the nose from the Right, by the hand from the Left. It is prepared to march forward in step with the times with whoever is prepared to give effective leadership. The House is no longer an effective instrument of government. Consequently it is my pleasurable duty to inform you that from this moment you no longer exist. You are free to leave.”

He also takes a great shot at some trade union leaders who are more interested in their upcoming peerages than helping their members and the leaders of both parties are made to seem like absurd cowards and puppets.

In some ways it is similar to the drama A Very British Coup that I wrote about before but in others no. In both cases there is a group of people in the shadows… the people that really pull the strings…waiting for the chance and scheming to ensure the downfall of the new regime. In this book however, unlike the drama,  we know from the first few pages that the coup is doomed to fail but that doesn’t detract from the story as it unfolds.

PODCAST ONE

I decided a while ago that I would like to try putting together a few podcasts just to see how it went.

So I bought the equipment and last month I went to London to speak to one of the funniest bloggers and writers you could come across.

I met with Philip Challinor, otherwise known as ‘The Curmudgeon‘, who is a writer as well as a blogger.

As I am very much learning this podcasting thing on the job I wasn’t able to add an introduction before the conversation starts on the mp3 file but in failing to do it this time I have learned how to do it for the next one.

This podcast was very much a conversation in the pub [with added rat]. There are a couple of conversations put together as we were variously interrupted by having to go to the bar or the rain.

Some of the subsequent ones might be conversations and some might be more formal. I am going to try to make them all different.

In this one we discuss the Scotland/England thing, Douglas Adams, Gordon Brown, Science-Fiction and a few other things too.

RIGHT CLICK HERE FOR DOWNLOAD

If you go to THIS LINK HERE then you can listen to it online or download it as an mp3. You want the VBR MP3 link where it says ‘Audio Files’.

You can also LISTEN ONLINE HERE

Hope you like it.

Finally, if you have any complaints about what we said you can write an email. But don’t send it to me.

THE TEDIOUSNESS OF DEMOCRACY

Don’t you realise that your poor leaders are tired? Every time they try to lead you a step closer to full on World War or complete the ecocide project you keep getting in their way and make them have to go through long drawn out mind control and propaganda campaigns. After that, when some of you still don’t believe them, they have to increase policing and clamp down on protest and dissent of any sort so you don’t step too far out of line. You might not be too effective at stopping them yet, but you certainly make them up their marketing and police bills.

Can’t you just leave them alone so they can get on with their project? Stop being so damn unreasonable!

Because of the obstinacy of the people of Europe, the new(ish) EU Treaty has been relatively quietly prepared. There has been a great deal less hullaballoo than when the EU constitution, in a sudden and unforeseen outbreak of democracy, was defeated by the people in the French and Dutch referendums.

Other referendums were cancelled against the wishes of public opinion in other EU countries, which was in favour of national referendums going ahead so they could register their disapproval – even though the constitution was already effectively dead.

Or was it?

I remember a few discussions I had when the constitution was thrown out. I simply wasn’t convinced that these little conglomerated men with their big congealed egos were going to let it go at that.391.jpg

When Chirac said in his national address “You have rejected the European constitution by a majority. It is your sovereign decision and I take note of it” I was slightly taken aback. ‘Take NOTE of it’ he said, not ‘act in accordance with it’ which would be the response if there was any semblance of democracy left in the upper echelons of government. Other politicians in Holland, France and around Europe more or less said that their fault was in not explaining themselves well enough rather than drafting horrendous policies that nobody wanted – even after an enormous campaign to convince them it was good for them.

In fact, because of this traitorous malevolence on the part of the people the European Council and the Council of Ministers decided not to explain themselves at all and get the civil servants to draft it and sneak it through, giving the document to member states only 48 hours before it was due to be signed. After this it can all be blamed on the European Commission and business can carry on with even more terrible leeway than usual.

This neatly sidesteps all that tedious business about democracy.

Indeed Valery Giscard d’Estaing, one of the main authors of the constitution said…

“All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.”

Former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato…

“They decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception… Should you succeed in understanding it at first sight there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht….

“The aim of the Constitutional treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable… The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.”[1]

But never fear, our new Prime Sinister says that the UK will retain important opt-outs. Even the BBC are reporting this. What they don’t say (properly) in this article is that some of those opt-outs include opting-out of human rights legislation that would impede the war on the abstract noun.

It is unusual for me to agree with the Conservatives but they are calling for a referendum on the treaty as they believe it is about 90% the same as the aborted constitution.

A comparitive text with the two documents side by side can be viewed here. I suggest you look at it to see just how similar the two documents are. It might serve as a useful reminder that our supposed representatives have nothing but comtempt for us.

Joe Carpenter said…

I’ve never understood the idea of speaking truth to power. The truth, surely, is that in almost all countries of the world, political and economic systems are designed to benefit only the rich and powerful, at the expense of those with less money and power. This is how the world works, and I see no reason to think that the powerful don’t already understand that. After all, they designed it; they maintain it.

[1]Three quotes from http://www.openeurope.org.uk/media-centre/pressrelease.aspx?pressreleaseid=53

PRIME SINISTER’S QUESTIONS

houseofcommons.jpg

 Also published at opednews

There is something in the UK that the media, politics professors and a whole host of politico’s froth over – Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs).

Roughly defined, this is a single half hour on Wednesdays at 12pm where Members of Parliament get the chance to question the Prime Sinister about anything they choose to. The political classes trumpet this piece of political theatre as proof positive of the virtuosity of the UK political system. You can hear them asking questions like “Where else would a leader subject themselves to this ‘ordeal?'” and “isn’t our PM fabulous for doing it?”

It is often suggested that this is the only country in the world where a leader has to deal with such a thing. That is only one of the things that are misleading about the way this event is presented to us.

I want to make this clear…it is not an ordeal and it doesn’t mean anything.

For the Prime Sinister really to be given a hard time at PMQs, a few things would have to change.

Firstly, they would have to stop planting questions with ambitious MPs. This trick is often used. Prime Sinisters like it because it eats up time and they can use the question to make a prepared statement at a moment when a lot of the country’s political classes are looking on. Some of the questions are so fawning as to make one sick. Take this example….

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage) (Labour): Will my right honourable friend accept an invitation to visit the Rutherford Appleton laboratory in my constituency to see the new Diamond synchrotron, which is nearing completion there? It is the biggest single investment in the history of British science, made by this Government, and it is a very apt symbol of the commitment that this Government-and the Chancellor and the Prime Minister-have made to the future of British science.

What an ordeal eh? Imagine having to answer a question like that, the poor poor Prime Minister. Quite a bit of the half hour is taken up with this sort of nonsense. MPs like it because it gives them a chance to cosy up to the cabinet in the hope of getting a cabinet post in the future.

It all runs according to a formula. Questions are sent in two weeks in advance. This means that the PM will have all the answers worked out by some of the staff. All the PM has to do is read the answer. The PM will also sit with some of the staff and work out which unsubmitted questions might come up. MP’s are not strictly supposed to do this but they occasionally do. The PM does not have to answer these questions if s/he doesn’t want to. If the PM does not answer the question then the worst that will happen is that the PM will look bad in front of the public for about a minute and may get a bit of hostile coverage.

The leader of the main opposition party is allowed to speak or respond 6 times, the leader of the third largest party is allowed to speak twice. This means that whatever the opposition leaders (or anyone else) say to the PM, the PM will ALWAYS have the final word. If the PM is a reasonable debater then it is highly unlikely they will ever lose the debate.

The final, and most important thing that would have to change is that MPs would have to not be the spineless little corporate turds that, for the most part, they are.

Prime Sinisters questions is just a piece of political theatre that helps to maintain the illusion that we are being given any choice other than rampant and rapacious capitalism. I am utterly fed up of people crooning about this event as if it meant something other than a few politicians stroking their ego’s.