Monday, 31 July 2006

Left And Right Must Unite And Fight: Part IV

But what are we to do?

First, we need to recognise all of the above as the facts of the matter, with everything that then follows, not least the realisation that the differences between Labour and Conservative people are largely regional, with a certain amount of class and its affectation (in various directions) thrown in, leading to terminological differences for what are often basically the same things.

Secondly, although this might have to wait for the third reform below to take effect, the supremacy of British over EU law must be re-established by statute, this re-establishment must first be used to restore Britain’s historic fishing rights, and Britain’s European Commissioner must be elected by the whole electorate from a shortlist consisting of the two highest-scoring candidates in a secret ballot of MPs.

Britain must adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy in the Council of Ministers until that legislative body of elected politicians meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. Any ruling that a statute, or an act pursuant to statute, breached either the European Convention on Human Rights or the Human Rights Act must be made effective only by specific resolution of the House of Commons.

Any foreign military presence must be removed from British territory and territorial waters, thus removing the elephant that has sat (but never slept) in the British political drawing room for the last six decades: the unspoken but unmistakable threat that that presence, already here, would be turned onto our streets and against our people if a British Government stood up for Britain.

Thirdly, we need to change, from the bottom up if necessary, both how parliamentary candidates are selected and how Party Leaders are elected. During each Parliament, as matter of course, each constituency party should submit its internal shortlist of two potential parliamentary candidates to an independent and binding ballot of the every registered voter in the constituency, and each national party should submit its internal shortlist of two potential Leaders (i.e., putative Prime Ministers) to an independent and binding ballot of every registered voter in the United Kingdom. However, until such time as the parties adopt this practice, at least Real Tories in safe Conservative constituencies and Real Labourites in safe Labour constituencies should seek to organise such ballots anyway.

Furthermore, any such potential candidate should promise to be A Workers’ MP On A Worker’s Wage, undertaking to accept only the national average wage for full-time work (The Real Rate For The Job), and to donate the rest of the MP’s salary (plus the whole of any ministerial salary) to political and community causes, so as to rise with the British People rather than above the British People. Not least, this would be with a view to creating a situation in which every constituency organisation, of whichever party, would not shortlist anyone who did not give this undertaking, including any sitting or former MP who had failed to honour it.

Fourthly, there is the matter of how political parties are funded. Each MP who takes his or her seat should be given a tax-free allowance of a fixed sum of money, publicly transferable to the registered political party of that MP’s choice, conditional upon matching funding by resolution of a membership organisation. The name of that organisation would then appear in brackets on the ballot paper after the party designation next to that MP’s name (or the name of his or her successor as that party’s candidate). Party spending should accordingly be limited to twice the number of MPs, multiplied by the amount of this allowance.

The trade unions are the obvious contenders, but the National Farmers’ Union and the Federation of Small Businesses would also be welcome contributors to the electoral process in this way. The Confederation of British Industry or the Institute of Directors might also give it a go, if they thought that anyone would vote for their candidates.

And fifthly, the influence of the BBC needs to be addressed. The BBC’s over-hyping, and generally biased coverage, came within inches of creating a situation in which not only did all three Party Leaders share its prejudices (the opposite of almost everything set out here), but all three went from major public schools to Oxford, two (Blair and Huhne) during exactly the same years, and two (Cameron and Huhne) to read for the same degree. Since Sir Menzies Campbell beat Chris Huhne for the Leadership of the Liberal Democrats, he has been subjected to endless BBC sniping. Meanwhile, the BBC simply ignores any younger politician who did not go to Oxford, as if even Cambridge did not exist.

The BBC Governors should be elected by and from among the license-payers of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the nine English regions (for want of anything better). Each license-payer would vote for one candidate (of sufficient political independence to qualify, in principle, as a member of a local authority’s Remuneration Committee), with the top two per area declared elected at the end, giving eighteen in all. A Chairman would be appointed by the Secretary of State, subject to the approval of the relevant Select Committee of the House of Commons. Like the other Governors, the Chairman would have a fixed four-year term of office.

This would set the pattern for the reform of many other bodies, though involving the whole electorate rather than just those who pay the television license fee. Ofcom, the Press Complaints Commission, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and (while there is need of such a thing) the House of Lords Appointments Commission are only the obvious places to start, and certainly not anywhere to stop.

The securing, first of these reforms and then of the consequent election of the right candidates, would provide numerous future opportunities for co-operation on the basis of all the foregoing.

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