Tag Archives: democracy

Wendy Chamberlain slams PM’s “appalling attempt to rig the rules”

You would think, wouldn’t you, that when the culture of your Government has been slammed in a report which outlined disgraceful behaviour, you would be absolutely mortified and would make sure that your actions showed that you were truly sorry. Especially when you had been saying so at length and you knew that nobody believed a word of your apology.

Well, you could think that of virtually any other PM than Boris Johnson. But the current incumbent’s capacity for brazen disregard for rules or accountability is second to none. We saw this when he tried to change the rules to save his mate Owen Paterson last Autumn.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson watered down both the Ministerial Code and the role of the so-called “Independent Adviser.” The Guardian reports:

The prime minister faced a barrage of criticism after he amended the rules on Friday to make clear that ministers will not always be expected to resign for breaching the code of conduct. Under new sanctions, they could apologise or temporarily lose their pay instead.

Johnson also blocked his independent ethics chief, Christopher Geidt, from gaining the power to launch his own investigations, and rewrote the foreword to the ministerial code, removing all references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability.

Our Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain is reported as saying that this was an:

appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook.

It seems the Conservatives have learned nothing from the Owen Paterson scandal.

It has been clear for some time that the Government doesn’t care that accountability and justice are seen to be done where its own behaviour is concerned. With these moves they are effectively giving themselves the right to mark their own homework. The legitimacy of any Government depends on having some sort of check on its power.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 3 Comments

Moran: Backsliding democracies from the USA to Ukraine

At the end of last year, the United States of America was added to the International IDEA’s annual list of “backsliding” democracies for the first time, pointing to a “visible deterioration” it said began in 2019.

Remarkably, the number of backsliding democracies has doubled in the past decade with more than a quarter of people alive today now living in one of these democracies. What’s more, in addition to “established democracies” such as the US, this list of backsliding democracies includes EU member states Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.

And it gets worse.

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance the number of people living in fragile democracies rises to more than two in three with the addition of authoritarian or “hybrid” regimes.

To put it more succinctly, democracy is in retreat.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 9 Comments

Review: Revolution of our Times

Revolution of our Times is a truly powerful film screened in London in March 2022.

The film shows real footage of more than one million people on the streets of Hong Kong protesting the introduction of the Extradition Bill about to be enacted against Hong Kong citizens whose only act was to upset the Chinese Communist State.

The spontaneous protest demonstrated how unpopular the proposed extradition law to mainland China was.  Witnessed by the arbitrary arrest of three booksellers in Hong Kong who dared to sell banned publications.  The people now called for the repeal of the extradition law as a breach of the Sino British Joint Declaration which guaranteed Hongkongers their freedoms for another 50 years from the handover of HK to China in 1997.

The crowds consisted of men, women, students as well as ordinary workers.  There were peaceful ranks of protesters with banners and umbrellas just using their voice.  As the numbers of protesters swelled, the main downtown districts of HK were filled with their chants for their five key demands: to withdraw the extradition bill; to stop labelling protesters as “rioters”; to drop charges against protesters; to conduct an independent inquiry into police behaviour; to implement genuine universal suffrage for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.

What started as peaceful protest soon became a standoff between the people and the police.  More and more strong armed tactics were being used including the use of teargas, rubber bullets, water canon and eventually live fire.  People were incensed and they went directly to the LegCo building where they broke into the main chamber causing damage to property.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

A Liberal Democrat Case for Universal Civic Duty Voting

Liberal Democrats are staunchly opposed to the Conservative government’s Elections Bill currently moving through Parliament. Its provisions of mandating photo ID at polling stations and imposing the use of First Past the Post for mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections are actively harmful to democracy and solely for the benefit of the incumbent government.

It should go without saying that this bill is diametrically opposed to our own party’s constitutional and electoral reform policies including the adoption of single transferable vote and removing barriers to exercising the right to vote. However, in the face of undemocratic legislation, we as a party should contemplate advocating for stronger protective measures, namely universal civic duty voting, otherwise known as compulsory voting.

Turnout for British general elections during the twenty-first century has never surpassed 70%. This contrasts sharply with the 90%+ turnout rates in Australia and Belgium, with the former having adopted UCDV in response to low turnout of under 60% at its 1922 federal election. With FPTP skewing results and breeding voter dissatisfaction, no party in the UK having won more than 50% of votes cast since the Conservative did in 1935, governments are formed or decisions made via referenda that reflect the will of only a plurality of the electorate. For government to be more reflective of the will of the people, greater turnout should be encouraged, with UCDV probably being the most effective method of achieving it.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 19 Comments

UK Parliament Week and the Polish Saturday School in Welwyn Garden City

  • I did wonder whether I should bother
  • I did wonder, whether inspiring young people to learn and find out more about the role of the Parliament, makes sense
  • I did wonder whether I should simply “drop” my passion for the civic agenda and look for another “hobby”

The most recent events in the Houses of Parliament “wobbled” my desire to do my little part and absolute commitment to enhancing the democratic process. Another scandal, another U-turn, another opportunistic attempt from the government to change the rules. “One rule for us, one for them”, we heard a lot this week.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 1 Comment

How sound is our democracy?

The ongoing Paterson affair offers us the opportunity and motivation to analyse our fragile and imperfect version of democracy.

That MPs can, and sometimes do, receive large sums of money to represent the interests of organisations and individuals shows that, if unchecked and effectively unregulated, we are in, or on the way to being, a plutocracy and not a robust, deep democracy.

It would be more efficient to double the pay of MPs and ensure that they did not take monies from the fat wallets, individual or corporate.

The decreasing popular support of political parties makes them ever more likely to be taken over by the fat wallets, which also takes us along the path to plutocracy.

Limiting contributions to a ratio based on the minimum wage would limit this trend. Similarly, paying MPs on a ratio fixed to the minimum wage would bring a democratic facet to the relationship between the rulers and the ruled.

This might help mitigate the continuing inter-generational unfairness of recent decades. The “Deficit Myth” has been used to make tertiary education a commodity instead of an inter-generational gift. This has harmed tertiary education, of which there is not enough range, and impoverished recent generations who have been further harmed by rising housing costs, encouraged by HMG.

Democracy is more than an electoral system which returns a government for which the majority have not voted. One of the two parliamentary houses is not voted for.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 17 Comments

Democracy – now on the Risk Register

An appreciation of Lord Puttnam’s recent address – The Shirley William’s Memorial Lecture: POWER AND FEAR – THE TWO TYRANNIES.

Was anybody listening?

If so, what did they hear?

If they heard, then what, exactly, did they understand?

Timing is everything.

In the heat of intense political clamour, unleashed as one of their own was murdered, the calm authoritative voice may have been lost in that moment.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | Leave a comment

Lib Dems will oppose Elections Bill in Parliament today

How should decisions about how our elections are run be made?

You would hope that all the parties would get together and come up with something that we should all agree with. Or at least a truly independent body would annoy everyone equally by coming up with things that some like and some don’t.

Here’s how not to do it – let a Government which has more MPs than its vote share deserves change the rules to suit itself. That is far from democratic.

The Conservatives are looking to the example of the experts in voter suppression, the US Republicans, with their Elections Bill which comes before Parliament today. It is blatantly partisan in many aspects.

The first is that it compels voters to show ID to vote. They couch it in language around preventing fraud, which is pretty much non existent anyway. But you have to look at the impact that would have. Who would be most likely not to vote? People of colour, poorer people, younger people. In short, people who are less likely to vote Conservative.

The second is that it gives the Government more control over the Electoral Commission, which is supposed to be independent. Again, not a good sign.

The third is that it will constrain third party campaigners such as trade unions.

Don’t just take my word for it, take the word of someone who is both a former electoral commissioner and a Liberal Democrat. David Howarth was MP for Cambridge until 2010. He cautions us to make sure we don’t forget the other nasties the bill contains while we argue over Voter ID.

In an article for Open Democracy he sets out why the “poisonous” bill would cement Tory rule.

He describes how the Bill hands control of the Electoral Commission to Government ministers:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Observations of an Expat: Free and Fair Elections in America

America believes in exporting its Democracy. And it has sought to do so right from the start. Congress regularly ties aid and trade packages to political change in developing countries, too often ignoring local conditions.

For many years America was seen by other countries as that “Shining City on the Hill” first mentioned in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and later repeated by Puritan leader John Winthrop and, more recently, by President Ronald Reagan.

Its War of Independence inspired the French Revolution, liberation movements in South America and elsewhere in the world. The stirring words of the Declaration of Independence are mirrored in similar documents across the globe.

But changes in American electoral politics means that the rest of the world is now questioning America’s claim to the moral high ground, and those questions undermine the success and stability of democracy elsewhere in the world.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments

Defending Liberalism from the culture warriors

‘Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it.’ President Biden said that in his virtual address to the Munich Security Conference last week. He was talking explicitly about threats to Democracy across the world, but implicitly also about the threats within the United States. We should worry that liberal Democracy, open society and constitutional government are not to be taken for granted in Britain, either.

None of us should under-estimate the extent to which the US Republican Right has effectively colonised the Conservative Party. Our right-wing media takes its cue from American campaigns – on culture, free markets, ‘family values’, suspicion of government as such. Tory MPs interact with US politicians and think-tankers far more than with conservatives across the Channel. Funds flow into the UK from right-wing US foundations, companies and lobbies, supporting similar groups and promoting like-minded causes over here. The denigration of liberalism that grips the American right is echoed in London seminars on ‘post liberalism and endless attacks on Britain’s allegedly ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ – by well-connected and well-paid Conservative intellectuals who live in London themselves.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 56 Comments

The latest peerage announcements are yet more evidence that the system is broken

Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. And, in the case of this government, that means we need to be much more direct in tackling a problem at the heart of our democracy: corruption.

I write not as a conspiracy theorist wearing a tin foil hat, frantically scrolling through obscure online message boards and Facebook groups. My observations are made as a liberal who is fed up of the broken system that governs our country.

The appointment of sixteen more unelected lawmakers to our bloated parliament might be enough to prompt anger, but there’s more. The Prime Minister has brazenly overruled independent advice and given a life peerage to a Conservative party donor.
He’s not just a donor, he’s a man who has given several million to the party and previously had to quit as its treasurer. Boris Johnson has, of course, rightly pointed out that an internal Conservative party investigation found no wrongdoing…

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 15 Comments

Elective dictatorship

You may hope – with Trump on his way out – that his UK protégé may have given up the tricks of the Trump playbook. However, take a look behind the Brexit and Covid headlines this week, and you will get a glimpse of some devious destruction of our constitutional conventions.

In his Dimbleby Lecture of October 1976 former Lord Chancellor Viscount Hailsham – a true Tory if ever there was one – warned against Britain’s slide towards “elective dictatorship”.

With the recent publication of a draft Bill to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, his illustration of the power which then …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 7 Comments

Burmese Days

The election is more important than COVID-19.

Not the words of Donald Trump but the words of the State Counsellor of Burma, Aung San Su Kyi. Yes, I know the name of the country was changed by the State Law and Order Restoration Council-SLORC but Burma is still Burma in the eyes of many.

The election will be held on November 8th with various challenges. There are of course security challenges. Conflict zones in the border areas where voting is suspended and COVID-19. This election will have suspensions in Rakhine state with no vote taking place in a number of townships due to the fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military. Of course, very few of the Rohinyas that remain in that area will be eligible to vote as they are without national identity cards. Many of the displaced people in other parts of Burma face a similar problem as they lack documentation.

COVID-19 is another major problem. Burma has seen increasing number of infections and fully implementing prevention measures at the polling stations is going to be difficult. The question of postponing the election was raised but the Union Election Commission (UEC) is proceeding as scheduled, a decision supported by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Paul Tyler writes…..Listening is just the start…

Once we have honed our listening skills we should surely seek to improve ways in which people are themselves empowered.  How can they make their voices and their votes more effective ?

Here are a few immediate and urgent opportunities:

Fair Votes 

Despite the Conservative manifesto promise to make sure “every vote counts the same – a cornerstone of democracy” the current inequality is outrageous.  It takes 33 times as many votes for Green Party supporters to elect an MP as for SNP supporters, with big differences for Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats in between. Voters are cheated by the First-Past-The-Post system.

Ed Davey has committed himself to the cross-party campaign.    But what should be the first priority?   Persuading the Labour leadership to wake up, and accept the strong support of their membership for reform of elections to the Commons?   Or concentrate on extending the STV success in local authority elections in Scotland – now to be repeated in Wales – to ensure voters in England do not miss out?  

If the electoral system is the bedrock of our democracy, then surely some consistency throughout the UK is essential ?

Who Votes?

Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for votes for all citizens when they reach 16.  We led national efforts to extend the franchise for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and were only thwarted by combined Conservative and Labour Peers when we pressed then for 16-year-olds to be able to vote in the 2016 EU Referendum.   Again, Scotland and Wales are leading the way, and the case for UK consistency is now overwhelming.

UK citizens working or living abroad are often affected by political decisions taken here – most notoriously on Brexit – but their representation is inadequate.  We want them to vote in separate constituencies so that they have MPs who are committed to looking after their particular interests.

Similarly, EU residents working and resident in the UK make a substantial contribution, not least with various local taxes, and should continue to be allowed to vote in local elections.

Subsidiarity

The imminent Devolution White Paper, we are told, will force through the amalgamation of two-tier councils to create more unitary authorities, all with the compulsory addition of elected mayors.   This looks suspiciously like centralisation rather than decentralisation, and is certainly not devolution. Whitehall retains the financial stranglehold, treating elected local representatives as simply a delivery mechanism for national policy priorities.

We have long championed subsidiarity = bringing decisions as close as possible to those who will be affected by them.  The present Government is moving in the opposite direction. 

The example of the SNP Government is also salutary.  Concentrating power at that level, with little devolution to lower tiers of governance at community levels, is no way to spread empowerment.

Transparency

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 31 Comments

Ditchley Lecture – Saturday, June 27th

Democracies can die. We’re witnessing authoritarian governments elsewhere in Europe undermining judicial independence, manipulating media, limiting parliamentary scrutiny of government actions and hobbling opposition activities. It couldn’t happen in Britain, could it? Are you sure?

Commitment to open society, toleration of diverse opinions and opposition, and effective checks and balances on government, are core elements in political liberalism. Constitutional and limited government was also a core element in Edmund Burke’s concept of Conservatism. Constitutional Clubs in English towns institutionalised the association between Conservative values and our unwritten conventions. But the government we have now has thrown much of that side of Conservatism away.

Michael Gove’s long and carefully-prepared Ditchley lecture, on Saturday, June 27th, had a populist and authoritarian tone. ‘This government was elected on the basis that it would be different from its predecessors’ – from Theresa May’s government as well as the rest. As David Frost explained in a similar lecture four months ago, the majority that Boris Johnson won last December (of seats, but not of course of votes) has given them the mandate to reject the Brexit package May was negotiating, and insist on a hard defence of the UK’s sovereignty from European influence. Gove sees this government as representing ‘the people’ – explicitly, the ‘forgotten’ people who provided the majority in 2016 – against the metropolitan elite: the ‘somewheres’ against the ‘anywheres’ (he quotes David Goodhart) who ‘tend to have different social and political values from other citizens.’

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

Mike German writes: Democracy, digital technologies and trust

A new report from the House of Lords has shone a searchlight on the effect of online activity on the health of our democracy. Over the past year Paul Scriven and myself have been members of a Select Committee taking evidence, investigating the level of harm, and developing proposals for tackling this critical issue. As Liberals we see technology can be a tool to help spread power, and improve democracy. But that can only happen with the correct framework around it.

Trust in our democracy is being eroded. Our key conclusions are that democracy should be supported rather than undermined by technology platforms, and that misinformation poses a real and present danger to our democratic processes.

There have clear examples of dangerous misinformation online during this Covid-19 pandemic. The online references to the 5G network and its connection with the virus, led some people to damage the telecommunications infrastructure. Other spurious medical advice has abounded. In the last General Election the Tories changed their website for the day. They claimed it to be an authoritative source of independent information in which -guess what – the Tory policy was the only right course!

The net effect of online misinformation is to threaten our collective democratic health. It is damaging trust in our democracy and takes us on a downward path where no-one listens, and no-one believes what they read and see. The government has promised an Online Harms Bill, but progress is moving at a snail’s pace. Ministers have been unable to even say whether we will get the new law before 2024. It is clear to us that the Tories are running scared of tackling the big online platforms. Our report calls for OFCOM to be given the power to hold these platforms legally responsible for content which goes out to their huge audiences in the UK.

Trust in what you find online has declined. People, particularly those coming up to voting age (16 in Scotland and Wales – catch up England!) need the skills and confidence to navigate online and find sources they can rely on. Too much of our education curriculum is about computing skills and not critical digital literacy.

There are lessons for all political parties as well, but the report singles out the Tories and Labour for their inability to see problems within themselves. Political parties must be held accountable for what we say, if we are to gain and expect the trust of the British people.

Electoral law has simply not caught up with the impact of online activity.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 6 Comments

Paul Tyler writes: The Peers are Revolting or Who is Taking Back Control ?

A pause for thought: during the weekend of VE Day memorabilia were we celebrating 75 years of European peace, the retreat of fascism and the advance of parliamentary democracy ? Hopefully yes: realistically – in the case of the Brexiteers and their newspapers – NO !

And yet we have no cause for complacency. The UK is already looking as if we have reverted to being “the sick man of Europe” in terms of both our public health and the health of our democracy.

While in those 75 years the dictatorships of Western Europe have all collapsed, and effective representative democracy has taken their place, voters in Britain are increasingly marginalised and cheated. The Conservative manifesto in December 2019 aspired to make all votes of equal value: the actual result produced a ratio of inequality at the extremes of 33:1.

However, it is not just at elections that our representative democracy is under attack. Boris Johnson may choose to give a presidential-style address to the nation on a Sunday evening – to avoid questions and challenge from MPs – but we do not have a presidential constitution. He and his Government should be accountable to our Parliament, not the other way round.

No 10 obviously finds this inconvenient. Dominic Cummings is notorious for his disdain for Members of both Houses. MPs are already chaffing at the constraints that the combination of “virtual” exchanges and the business managers’ politicking are imposing.

The position in the Lords is far worse. Here, of course, there is no substantial Tory majority with plenty of lobby fodder to bully, and the response of Ministers to the Covid-19 emergency is under constant, sustained examination. And yet, there is no provision for effective scrutiny of legislation, let alone for votes on amendments, and the majority of Peers have been frozen out of debates or ludicrously squeezed by derisory time limits.

The response from Big Brother Cummings (the much more powerful BBC) has been to threaten that all Peers over 65 should be forcibly excluded.

That was too much for even the most tribal of Tories, and – led by former Cabinet Minister Michael Forsyth – a cross-party revolt resulted. Mr Cummings may think he can casually rip up the constitution, but that requires legislation.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 29 Comments

Now is the time to stand up as champions of deliberative democracy

Our party is back on the right track. Covid seems to have brought us to our senses: the reaction of local parties, of MPs, and of peers to Covid has been impressive, and it does seem that there is a renewal of our central commitment to the idea of the empowered citizen as the most important element in a healthy politics.

The next step is to make ourselves the party of deliberative democracy, and to do so right now, by calling for a Covid Citizens’ Reference Panel to deliberate on and input into government policy as we transition over the …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 23 April 2020

On this day in 1516, the Reinheitsgebot was enforced across all of Bavaria, stating that beer must be brewed from three ingredients only – water, malt and hops. And yes, Wilhelm IV, Duke of Bavaria was a bit of a stickler for purity, but that wasn’t a bad hill to die upon, was it?

2 big stories

Whilst the Job Retention Scheme appears to be operating smoothly thus far – noting that payments aren’t due to reach employers until next week – for the self-employed, there’s no news as to when their scheme will start. And the decision to have a ceiling …

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

LibLink: Chuka Umunna: Dark and dangerous threats against MPs like me are a sign that No 10 and Cummings are getting utterly brazen

The Government is reportedly investigating MPs who have had dialogue with representatives of foreign governments. It also intends to introduce legislation to stop MPs talking to foreign governments. In an article for the Independent, Chuka Umunna said that this had a whiff of the 1930s about it.

However, the right-wing nationalists running the government are now taking things to an altogether different level – this is quite frightening, particularly if they were to get a majority at the general election whenever it comes. They are seeking to persecute and harass MPs by falsely accusing them of colluding with EU governments over Brexit. It is an absurd proposition given that the EU27 and the UK government are all working to ensure the withdrawal agreement Johnson has negotiated with the EU is delivered, and he himself wrote to them over the weekend urging them to ignore parliament’s desire for article 50 to be extended.

This, he said, was a brazen attempt to suppress dissent.

These accusations are made to call into question our loyalty and patriotism. Former Conservative backbenchers and ministers Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve, and Brexit Select Committee chair and former Labour minister Hilary Benn are reportedly under investigation.

This has a strong whiff of the 1930s about it – it is a brazen attempt to suppress dissent and persecute political opponents in parliament by this right wing, nationalist government.

One foreign office official put it well today when they said: “Threatening MPs with investigation is something you would expect the government to be stopping abroad, not encouraging at home.”

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

The irony of the Tory Voter ID plans

Our democracy in this country is pretty much broken.

On one hand we have a government that constantly bangs on about the will of the people, whilst simultaneously doing its damnedest to undermining it.

The irony of that is not lost on me.

A Government that actually did care about the will of the people would make sure that the people got the parliament they asked for, for a start, by introducing a proportional system of voting. This is not boring constitutional stuff – we should be doing more to frame it as a fundamental issue of trust.

In recent years, the introduction of individual electoral registration has led to a severe democratic deficit. Just last month, Electoral Commission research showed that 17% of voters were not correctly registered.

That’s not far off one in five people, who are more likely to be young or from marginalised groups – and least likely to vote Conservative.

That is, surely, a much bigger problem than some confected spectre of “voter fraud” which is being used as a justification to bring in this measure.

The Electoral Reform Society has this to say on that subject:

Thankfully electoral fraud is very rare in the UK. Where voter fraud has occurred, it has been isolated and therefore is best tackled locally.

Out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – that’s 0.000063%. Adding a major barrier to democratic engagement off the back of this would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

And our Tom Brake said that this measure was a blatant attempt at voter suppression and rig future elections:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

LibLink: Luisa Porritt MEP: Britain’s Democracy Gap

In an article for Politico, Deputy Leader of Britain’s Lib Dem MEPs Luisa Porritt argues that the behaviour of the British Government is damaging democracy in this country.

A British government that is threatening to march the country out of the European Union because it claims its institutions are “undemocratic” shut down its own country’s parliament last month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson uses incendiary language and accuses those who disagree with his Brexit policy of “terrible collaboration” with the EU.

Britain today is increasingly out of step with the basic principles of democracy it once would have championed.

The Brexiteers, ironically, decry the EU as undemocratic. That’s simply not true:

Compare that with what’s happening in Brussels. While my British parliamentary colleagues were shut out of their chamber against their will, members of the European Parliament have been pressing on with urgent issues.

The European Parliament is scrutinizing the incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s new team and has taken a strong stand against nominees with potential conflicts of interest. MEPs have also set an ambitious agenda to tackle the climate emergency and ensure that the EU’s member states uphold the rule of law — something our own government needs reminding of.

How far, she notes, we have fallen:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 9 Comments

Narcissm – Democracy’s Nemesis?

Jacinda Ardern’s empathic response to the bombing of a mosque in New Zealand in March this year made international headlines. The press went into a frenzy over her sensitive and visibly moved reactions to those affected by the tragedy.

It’s really telling of our age, that Ardern herself became the subject of the news when she was doing what any decent leader should be doing. We elect politicians to represent us, so surely the ability to sympathise and to imagine who we, the electorate are, what our needs, aspirations and vulnerabilities are, is a basic requirement of the job?

Why are we putting up with Johnson and Trump when we could have Ardern? We are living through an epidemic of manipulation on a global scale and there is a pattern to how we got to this point. It didn’t happen over night.

While some of my Brexit-weary friends are turning to G&T, baking or prayer, my pick me up has been Ramani Durvasala. Durvasala has been studying Trump’s seemingly erratic behaviour and is finding that it follows a set pattern. Each time Trump gets away with something outrageous, he goes one step further and the next unthinkable thing happens. Liberals are in a permanent state of shock and disbelief.

Trump, like his friends Johnston and Farage are narcissists. We hear the word bandied about quite a lot at the moment and while each of us has some degree of narcissism, at their most extreme, sociopathic narcissist have key behaviours in common. They:-

• lack empathy and compassion.
• are manipulative and will distort the truth to suit themselves
• think the law and rules are for others, not them
• are highly critical of others but don’t take criticism well themselves • are entitled and often pompous
• are quick to anger, rage and outbursts
• are superficial and shallow

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

We nearly lost our temper. But it worked out.

I was recently at an event speaking to a couple of Liberal Democrat friends – let’s call them Tim and Fiona. A friend of mine, Roland, who is a Conservative Party supporter walked up to us with a broad grin on his face. “Well, your party’s gone and done it. It’s abandoned any pretence of being democratic; promising to reverse the result of the greatest democratic exercise this country has ever undertaken. Good for us. You’ll lose.”

I introduced Tim and Fiona and Tim started to respond.

He started talking about only implementing the change if the party got an absolute majority. …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments

It’s time to fix our democracy, before it’s too late

Sorry, folks, but is anyone else getting pretty fed up with People’s Votes, Brexit and Leadership Hustings in LDV? Of course these things are important; but there really IS more to life! Even if all that gets sorted out in the next few months/years (fat chance of that, most of you will probably say) we are still left with a democracy which, while currently in A & E, might soon be heading for intensive care unless we wake up. I know that this kind of esoteric musing appeals to the political anorak rather than a hardworking citizen trying to keep …

Posted in Op-eds | 45 Comments

The Brexit Party is undemocratic!

Apparently, we Liberal Democrats hate democracy. Or so I’ve been told by those who support an exit from the EU.

Apparently, we don’t respect the result of the 2016 referendum.

I hear it’s now undemocratic to hold any other view. It’s undemocratic to spend nearly three years campaigning for and building a massive consensus for that view, to the point that going into any People’s Vote referendum campaign, there would be every reason for us to be optimistic.

It’s undemocratic, I’m told, for us to rebuild the Liberal Democrat Party as a people’s movement against Brexit and for an open and tolerant Britain.

It’s …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 105 Comments

What should we do with the Palace of Westminster?

The Houses of Parliament currently function as the location in which Parliament expresses and exercises its sovereignty. It seems obvious that they no longer fit that function well: archaic logistics, terrible accessibility, lack of office and meeting space, and chambers designed perfectly for the cheap game show otherwise known as PMQs, but not for deliberation or wise governance.

Soon the buildings are to have a very expensive makeover during which time MPs and Lords will have to decamp. Perhaps we should make the decampment permanent. Build a site suitable to house the legislative body of a modern democracy.

Some argue that such …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 29 Comments

Theresa May’s abuse of power is the real threat to an already strained democracy

How dare Theresa May suggest that rejecting her deal is damaging to democracy? How on earth did we get to a place where a Prime Minister  of a minority government pushes the country to the brink, forcing false choice between two unpalatable options that most people don’t want. Two massive polls, of 25000 and 20000 people respectively, for the People’s Vote campaign and Channel 4 suggest that people want to remain in the EU.

Proceeding with Brexit without reference to the people, surely, is much more damaging to democracy. Andrew Marr could have challenged her forcefully on this to her face this morning but yet again he gave her pretty much a free pass.

She needs to be challenged as to why she is pouring billions into no deal preparations, some of them farcical,  for an outcome nobody wants, when she could go back to the people and ask them to mark her homework. It would be cheaper and would put some legitimacy back into the process. It seems she is scared of an outcome which will split her party.

She has every reason to lead on this. She is safe from challenge from her party. She has already said she’s not going to fight the next election. Does she really want her legacy to be driving the country off a cliff? Let’s be clear, her deal damages the economy, makes us all poorer and creates uncertainty. Although she didn’t actually say that she would proceed with no deal when asked to several times by Marr. MPs need to make sure that that option is taken off the table in the coming weeks.

May cannot be allowed to argue that she is defending democracy when all the evidence suggests that both her deal and no deal are unwanted by the majority of people. She needs to be ridiculed for saying that, often and publicly.

Anything less than People’s Vote is an abuse of power by a minority government. That point needs to be driven home by journalists, commentators and MPs. We can’t stand by and just let May get away with this.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s look at some things which are much riskier for democracy than, you know, asking people their opinion on the biggest issue in living memory.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 24 Comments

Biggest poll since EU Referendum says Labour will be punished if it enables Brexit

Labour would crash to a worse defeat than it suffered under Michael Foot if the party enables Brexit, according to a huge new poll. YouGov surveyed a huge sample of 25000 people and the results show that the party risks losing millions of supporters in two scenarios under which it either votes through some form of compromise deal or fails to order MPs to oppose Brexit.

These findings are consistent with the Channel 4 poll in November which showed that a majority of its 20,000 sample backed Remain.

The fieldwork was done over the Christmas holidays and was completed on Friday, so this is about as fresh as you can get.

It is amazing that current voting intention shows only 34% support for Labour, the main opposition party, at a time when the government is driving us over a no deal cliff that could see shortages of food and medicine.

The poll suggests that Labour’s vote would crash to 26 per cent – and 16 points behind the Conservatives if its MPs vote with the Tories to bring about Brexit. That would bring about Labour’s worst result since the 1930s. Maybe that’s the real reason that Corbyn has gone cool on a motion of no confidence.

The YouGov poll shows a majority for Remain under any scenario in a new referendum on the deal vs remain and no deal. 

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

If you were PM….

An interesting quiz popped into my inbox from those nice people at Unlock Democracy.  You have to imagine that you are PM – after all, that job may well be up for grabs in the near future.

You are presented with a series of policy dilemmas – would you rather do x or y? Actually, in some cases, I was a bit “NEITHER” or “NOT QUITE LIKE THAT” or “BOTH” but that is part of the fun.

It has a serious point:

Every day decisions affecting millions are made by a handful of ministers, while the rest of us struggle to have a voice. By taking the quiz and sharing it afterwards, we can spread the word about the need to bring power closer to the people.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 11 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • Steven
    Labour members but more particularly Labour MPs and Keir Starmer need to be constantly reminded that real electoral reform and the use of Proportional Represent...
  • Steven
    Of course, the fact that Labour members have endorsed the use of PR for general elections should be welcomed and their activists should be congratulated and enc...
  • Richard David Denton
    The vote for PR was overwhelming at Labour Conference and their chair of their PR campaign impressed with her comments on tv after the debate. The negativit...
  • Steven
    New Zealand had a pretty long and carefully considered, deliberative process to choose a new electoral system headed by a Royal Commission and then followed by ...
  • Jenny Barnes
    ". Mr Kwarteng and free-marketeers believe that it is the job of the central bank to control inflation" I wonder how you know this, it seems more likely that t...