October 9th Conference, cost to members - A Party conference with no members? - A view of conference
October 2nd Voter Registration - Police Commissioners Election - Seat for a sister plan
September 25th Labour Democracy? - Remove 10million voters?
September 18th Legal Duty to register to vote? - Milliband Leadership Vote?
September 11th Should the Party run candidates for Police Commissioners?
September 4thThe beginning of the end? What do you make of this?
August 28th House of Lords, points to consider
August 21st Party Accounts - Nigel Farage
August 14th Peter Oborne on the Riots - Surrender or Disaster
August 7th Voice of the Grass Roots
July 17th Coalition Candidates - Goose for the Gander?
July 10th House of Lords Reform - Murdoch - Zac Goldsmith
July 3rd HS2 - Party Membership - Liberal Democrat Influence - Lord Adonis
Political parties could get more state funding to make up for donation caps
The funding, which would be shared out according to the number of votes each party receives in a general election, would be presented as a way of compensating them for a huge loss of income as a result of introducing new caps on individual donations to parties. It would also be seen as a way of repackaging state funding that already goes to opposition parties.
The Tories have argued that a £50,000 cap on individual donations would see their party lose as much as a third of its donor income.
The state funding idea has been pushed hardest by the Liberal Democrats, who currently have the least independent income and are likely to benefit the most from the proposals. The party has had to lay off staff and sell its HQ to cut costs.
The draft report is proposing that parties receive funding worth £3 per vote they receive. On the basis of the last election, the Tories would get £32m, Labour £25.8m and the Lib Dems £20.4m. The figures could be higher if tax relief were added.
One idea proposed by the recent Power Inquiry and supported by LibDem leader Nick Clegg was for voter vouchers allowing voters to tick a box saying they wanted £3 state funding to be given to the party for which they are voting. Those familiar with the report suggest the proposal is not in the draft.Critics are likely to argue that such a degree of state funding would provoke public uproar and make it harder for small parties to break the stranglehold of the big three. But it would also act as an incentive for parties to get their vote out in seats that they are not likely to win. State funding is seen by most sides as the only way to reduce dependence on big backers.
In the wake of the expenses scandal, the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the public appetite for state funding of political parties had largely evaporated, but he conceded it might be acceptable if it was seen as part of a package.
Attempts by the Brown government to secure a cross-party consensus on party funding collapsed amid a welter of recrimination and accusations of bad faith.
Nick Clegg, who is responsible for party political reform, said he was determined to try again and asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, to come up with a new formula acceptable to parties and public. All sides accept there is a need to take the perception of big money out of politics.
After a 17-month inquiry, a chairman's draft was presented to the committee on 15 September, but amendments from the parties are being drafted this weekend as they scramble to maintain their positions. The committee includes a representative from each of the three main parties and six independent members.
The Tories made a last-minute intervention, saying they could not accept a donation cap set as low as £10,000 – the figure proposed by the Liberal Democrats in their election manifesto.
Lord Feldman of Elstree, the Tories' co-chairman, said in a letter to the committee that the cap had to be £50,000 and even this would mean the loss of 37% of the party's donor income. He claimed: "A cap of £10,000 would hugely inhibit the ability of political parties to engage with the electorate."
The Conservatives are also continuing to press for a requirement that union members opt into affiliating to the Labour party, rather than the current system where they are required to opt out.
In Northern Ireland, where the opt-in system exists, only 35% of people do so – suggesting two thirds of union affiliation income to Labour would evaporate.
Labour has previously accepted that the system needed improvement. The Tories claim Labour receives a large proportion of donations from people who are not making a positive decision to contribute to the party.
The report is expected to recommend a small decrease in the current £20m cap on party election expenditure. The Tories outspent Labour by more than two to one at the last election. There may, however, be new caps on local election expenditure, caps that would be easier to police in the context of a fixed term parliament.
Democratic Audit told the inquiry on the basis of the Electoral Commission's register of donations, from 1 January
2001-30 June 2010, donations of £50,001 or more accounted for 41% of Liberal Democrat income, 54% of Conservative and 76% of Labour party declared donation income. The committee is likely to defend its proposals on the basis that state funding already exists but it is a patchwork including policy development grants, Short money paid to opposition parties, and indirect subsidies.
This is a disgraceful proposal. Why should the British public finance parties controlled by oligarchies?
Royal equality act will end succession of first born male - rather than older sister
David Cameron will hail the agreement of the 16 Queen's realms, the Commonwealth countries where the Queen serves as head of state, to amend "outdated" rules that also prevent a potential monarch from marrying a Catholic.
The prime minister will introduce legislation in Britain before the next general election to ensure that the changes will apply to any children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Officials say the changes will apply even if a child is born before the new legislation is passed.
Speaking before the opening of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth, where the agreement will be sealed, Cameron said: "These rules are outdated and need to change."
In a meeting in Perth this morning, to be chaired by the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, the leaders of the 16 Queen's realms will agree to amend rules that currently say:
• An elder daughter should be placed behind a younger son in the line of succession.
The order of succession will in future be determined by the order of birth. The immediate impact will place the Princess Royal, the Queen's daughter, fourth in the line of succession behind the Prince of Wales and his two sons. At the moment the princess is 10th. The Duke of York, who is fourth, will drop to seventh.
• Anyone who marries a Roman Catholic is barred from succeeding to the crown.
This will end. The change will not affect the position of the monarch as the supreme governor of the Church of England, because Catholics will still be barred from the throne. The Church of England will remain as the established church.
• Descendants of King George II need the monarch's consent to marry.
This will be reformed.
Cameron will tell the meeting: "The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter, simply because he is a man, just is not acceptable any more.
"Nor does it make any sense that a potential monarch can marry someone of any faith other than Catholic.
"The thinking behind these rules is wrong. That's why people have been talking about changing them for some time. We need to get on and do it."
Downing Street has noted what would have happened if the rules had been different at key moments:
• Margaret Tudor would have succeeded Henry VII in 1509, denying the throne to her younger brother, who became Henry VIII. That raises the prospect that Henry VIII would not have been responsible for the greatest example of Euroscepticism: the break with Rome in 1533.
• Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen of Bohemia, would have succeeded her father James I in 1625 instead of Charles I. The civil war, in which Charles was executed, might have been avoided.
• Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Victoria, would have succeeded in January 1901, rather than Edward VII. The new queen would have died less than seven months later, handing the throne to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Britain would have been ruled by the German emperor during the first world war.
The announcement in Perth comes after Cameron wrote last month to the other leaders calling for change. Legislation will have to be introduced in Britain and some of the other 15 realms to amend laws including the Bill of Rights 1688, the Act of Settlement 1700, the Act of Union with Scotland 1706 and the Coronation Oaths Act 1688.
Primary legislation will be necessary in Antigua, Canada and Saint Lucia. Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu will not need to enact their own legislation.
Gordon Brown was keen to introduce the reforms but did not feel he could set aside enough parliamentary time.
Earlier this year Cameron played down the prospect of an imminent change in the rules of royal succession, partly because of concerns that constitutional tinkering could revive the campaign in Australia for it to become a republic.
But Downing Street believes that the Queen's diamond jubilee next year and the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April show it is time to "secure a breakthrough".
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, also supports the change. "If Prince William and Catherine Middleton were to have a baby daughter as their first child, I think most people would think it fair and normal that she would eventually become queen of our country," he said this year.
Buckingham Palace is understood to be supportive. One No 10 source said: "Downing Street has been working on this for five years. Buckingham Palace will not have been taken by surprise. This will welcome the crown into the modern age."
The changes have to be introduced by all 16 realms at the same time. Failure to amend the legislation in one or more could lead to a situation in which there were different monarchs, possibly both from the House of Windsor, in different countries.
A working group, to be chaired by New Zealand, will co-ordinate the legislation to make sure it is acceptable to all countries.
Cameron has been astonished that it has taken so long to amend such antiquated legislation. In 1955, when Anthony Eden succeededWinston Churchill, a civil service brief concluded that it was time for a change.
The brief said: "It is unsatisfactory that personal and constitutional questions of such high importance should still depend on the operation of an 18th-century statute which was admittedly passed hurriedly, and in the face of considerable opposition, to deal with an ad hoc situation created largely by the unsatisfactory conduct of King George III's brothers."
Successive governments have failed to act. In 1964 the then home secretary, Henry Brooke, declined to "proceed with legislation … at the moment" because of the challenge in winning agreement with other realms.
The bar on marrying a Catholic meant that Prince Michael of Kent, the grandson of George V, had to forfeit his place in the line of succession in 1978 when he married an Austrian Catholic, now Princess Michael of Kent. Autumn Phillips, the wife of the Queen's grandson Peter, converted to Anglicanism from Catholicism to preserve her husband's position in the line of succession. He is currently 11th in line but will jump to fifth when the first changes are introduced.
The leaders' group will also debate a report recommending that homosexuality should be legalised across the Commonwealth. Peter Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner, said last week that 40 Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexuality.
Expert view: Paul LayIn our age of gender equality and religious tolerance there will be no further hindrance to an elder daughter succeeding to the crown before her younger brothers. Yet in one of those contingencies that makes history such a delight, the three most successful monarchs to have ascended to the English and then British throne have all been women.
Elizabeth I only gained the crown because her elder half-sister, Mary – a woman and a Catholic – died young and childless. She in turn had only become the first queen of England because there were no males left in the Tudor line once young Edward VI passed on in 1553. Three centuries later, Victoria, less glamorous but more fertile, was to preside over the high noon of empire. The present incumbent, currently enjoying adulation in the antipodes, personifies dignity and cool judgment. Things could have turned out worse. They could also have turned out better.
The Act of Settlement was passed by parliament and signed on 12 June 1701 by William III, a childless widower pushing 50, in poor health and largely immune to female charm. The question of succession had become desperate owing to the death in July 1700 of the 11-year-old William, Duke of Gloucester, the only surviving son of the heir to the throne, Princess Anne.
The exiled Stuarts may have been the divisive agents of a bloody civil war, and papists to boot, but they had male heirs, and James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, was ready to pounce, with the aid of Louis XIV of France, who acknowledged him as James III. Had English rulers taken a more enlightened view of gender issues they might not have got into such a mess. Charles I, the fount of all the troubles of the 17th century, had an elder sister, Elizabeth, the Winter Queen of Bohemia and heroine of Protestant Europe.
Having endured decades of religious and political turmoil, and fearful for the Protestant succession, it was to the descendants of this Stuart that William III's supporters went in search of a monarch to keep the other Stuarts out. They wanted the young elector George Lewis of Hanover, Elizabeth's grandson. He didn't speak English but was a Protestant and hated the French – qualifications suffice to make him king.
George and his Hanoverian successors were never popular and the monarchy was at a low ebb when Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 in the absence of legitimate male candidates. Though the elderly Victoria came to symbolise a dowdy puritanism, the early years of her reign were marked by scandal and assassination attempts. Even her saintly consort Prince Albert only became popular after his premature death. But she made female rule acceptable.
Victoria's eldest child was also female and also named Victoria. She may well have proved a wiser monarch than her younger brother, the corpulent and foolish Edward VII, had she been allowed to succeed in January 1901. His love affair with France (or, at least its women) helped forge the entente cordiale with devastating consequences for Anglo-German relations, until then rather good.
Princess Victoria also happened to be the Empress of Germany and Queen of Prussia and would have united the crowns of the greatest military and industrial powers of the age. Her son, Kaiser Wilhelm II, would have been King William V, the first and second world wars would never have happened and we would all be driving top-of-the-range Audis and embracing low levels of personal debt.
Paul Lay is editor of History Today
Cameron consults Commonwealth on royal succession reforms
The proposed law change would apply to any children produced by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, even if a child was born before the revised law had reached the statute book. An elder daughter would therefore take precedence before a son.
In his letter, sent last month, Cameron wrote: "We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority."
The prime minister had previously played down the prospect of a change in the rules of royal succession amid concerns that constitutional tinkering could spark a fresh campaign in Australia for it to become a republic.
Cameron is also proposing that Catholics should continue to be debarred from being head of state, but that anyone who marries a Catholic should not be debarred. The family would be entitled to bring up their children as Catholics as long as heirs do not seek to take the throne as a Catholic.
"This rule is a historical anomaly – it does not, for example, bar those who marry spouses of other faiths – and we do not think it can continue to be justified," Cameron wrote.
The head of state is in communion with the Church of England under the Act of Settlement. The Roman Catholic church forbids that communion. Successive governments have looked at the issue and reflected on the anachronistic nature of British laws, but Cameron is taking the process further by tabling the plans ahead of the Commonwealth summit in Perth this month.
Cameron is also proposing the abolition of legislation that requires descendants of George II to seek the approval of the monarch before they marry if they are below the age of 25. In practice there may be thousands of married descendants of George II in the UK who may be unaware that they should have first sought such approval.
There is a broad hope at No 10 that the 16 Commonwealth heads of state would at minimum agree in principle to consult their domestic parliaments on the proposals.
The legal changes would require wide-ranging reform to UK laws including the Bill of Rights 1688, the Act of Settlement 1700, the Act of Union with Scotland 1706 and the Coronation Oaths Act 1688.
Cameron now needs to consult with countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.
Downing Street said the royal wedding in April and the Queen's diamond's jubilee had put the issue of male primogeniture back into the spotlight.
Andrew Boff: The removal of the clauses from the Localism Bill allowing local people to originate policy, is a victory for the political class, not the public
My faith in the radicalism of our party was rejuvenated when I read “Control Shift”, the party's green paper on localism in 2009. I was even more heartened when many of its provisions made their way into the Localism bill. Last night the LibDems eviscerated it in the House of Lords.
The removal of the clauses from the Localism Bill to allow for local referenda means that the political class, through its agents the LibDems, has scored a victory over the people. The clauses would have allowed residents, on securing a petition of 5% of the electorate, to force local referenda on local authorities which, whilst admittedly only advisory at this point, would have been one small step in putting a hand break on the excesses of elective dictatorships up and down the country. It would also have given the people the chance to originate policy rather than just be dependent on what a party puts in its manifesto.
If ever there was any doubt that we are in coalition with a bunch of statist control freaks then LibDem Lord Greaves, who proposed the amendment in the Lords last night, removed it completely. The irony of his hatchet job coming directly after a debate which bemoaned the lack of involvement of young people in politics was beyond parody.
He was seconded by another good reason for the abolition of the Upper House, Lord Tope, who, wearing his smugness like a starlet wears a mink, said “I personally believe that there are better ways of testing public opinion fairly than using the very suspect means of a referendum” Suspect, I suspect, because they might disagree with the noble lord's 'progressive' leanings.
LibDems think their democratic credentials are boosted by their belief in PR once every four or five years at elections. They also think that the electorate are a bunch of ignorant bigots who can't be trusted to formulate a cogent opinion. Our party's credentials must be the belief in real democracy between elections. The Tory party is about liberation or it is nothing.
I'm bitterly disappointed that we didn't win this one and it will take an enormous amount of self control on my part to not spit in the eye of the next LibDem who tells me they “trust the people.”
This was a party conference without party members
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This morning I want to briefly focus on the fact that there were hundreds of empty seats at the back of the hall for Cameron's speech. I've never known this before. In previous years it's been standing room only. In the early years of Blair's premiership the Labour Party organised overflow events in cinemas so delegates could watch the leader's speech.
I was told by Tory HQ that only 4,000 of the 11,500 people attending the conference were grassroots members. One Conservative minister actually claimed that the number was closer to 2,000 than 4,000. Matthew Parris told me that he struggled to find Tory activists when he went round the exhibition hall trying to make a video. At fringe event after fringe event (with the exception of Simon Richards' brilliant Freedom Zone) 70% and more of questions are asked by NGOs, business representatives and journalists. The party makes a huge profit from conference but it is a great shame that it's now hard for ordinary members to afford to come to what should be a festival of politics. I've had talks in the last few days about ConservativeHome setting up an affordable and very political centre right conference where we bring together conservative historians, academics, journalists and elected representatives to discuss big ideas. Watch this space.
Why the Electoral Commission disagrees with Harman on voter registrationby www.politics.co.uk
Voter registration isn't the most straightforward of matters
Thursday, 29 September 2011 2:50 PMHarriet Harman wrapped up today's Labour conference with a speech attacking the coalition's planned voter registration changes. What she didn't mention is that the independent Electoral Commission is broadly in favour of the idea.
I've been going through its submission to the Commons' political and constitutional reform committee, in which it states, in no uncertain terms:
"The Electoral Commission is clear that introducing IER is the right thing to do, because of the need:
• to improve the security of the system, making it less vulnerable to fraud
• to recognise people's personal responsibility for this important stake in our democracy
• for a system that people recognise as up-to-date, not rooted in Victorian ideas about households and 'heads of household'"
There is another reason to change the system, too. Here's the Commission again:
"'Household' registration system means there is no personal ownership by citizens of a fundamental aspect of their participation in our democracy - their right to vote. This is too important to be left for anybody other than the individual citizen to register."
This is the direct opposite argument to that deployed by Ed Miliband and Harman in Liverpool this week.
"One of the most basic democratic rights of all is the right to vote," the leader told delegates. "We should be making it easier, not harder."
Miliband placed great emphasis on the "civic duty" to register to vote in the current system, in which it is a legal obligation to register. Under the coalition's changes, participating in the electoral process becomes a voluntary one.
Voter registration is a complex area which both parties have a predictably skewed view on. There are all sorts of complications which changing the way the electoral register works will have, which are set to muddy the debate still further. The Electoral Commission is worried about the edited register (it wants it abolished), the implications for selecting juries, concerns over personal data under the new registration system, the tick-box opt-out and even cuts faced by local electoral registration teams. Much to keep an eye on, it seems.
Conservatives should stand candidates for the police commissioner electionsby www.conservativehome.com
Yet all the three main political parties are showing reluctance to field candidates. There is a sense that independents might be better suited. Paul has already written aboutthis.
Perhaps there will be independent candidates with tough and effective crime fighting credentials that will come forward. But can we be confident there would in all 41 areas? I think the electorate should be offered a choice that includes a Conservative candidate. The problem of splitting the vote does not arise as the Supplementary Vote method is being used (the same as for the Mayor of London.) So Conservative supporters could offer an independent they were impressed with their second preference.
The Local Government Chronicle reports (£) Labour MP and Shadow Policing Minister Vernon Coaker says Labour's "default position" is to run candidates but adds: “If the Tories don’t, we need to consider that carefully."
The confusion should end. We should declare that we are running candidates and an effort should be made to get some of the highest calibre.
What about David Davis as the Police Commissioner for Humberside, asks Political Betting? Good idea. Not just for Humberside but for the rest of us who could see what he comes up with it and copy it if it works.
Come to that what about Lord Howard of Lympne as the Police Commissioner for Kent? He cut crime when he was Home Secretary. Perhaps Ann Widdecombe could give it a go if he wasn't interested..
What about Lord Ashcroft, who has done such a tremendous job with Crime Stoppers, as the Police Commissioner for Thames Valley?
Edward Boyd, Rory Geoghegan and Blair Gibbs wrote an excellent report for Policy Exchange about value for money in policing. So let's see them come forward as candidates. Blair says someone like Nick Ross would be a good independent candidate - but Ross can't stand everywhere. He may not stand anywhere.
It may well be that lots of independents are returned. But the Conservatives have a strong law and order brand. We have within our ranks lots of people who would make excellent Police Commissioners including some with a high profile and others less well known but with considerable expertise. they will cretainly include councillors who have served on Police Authorities but they shouldn't be limited to this category.
These are important elections and we should not be spectators.
Harriet’s seat-for-a-sister planby Women On.
In the ultimate act of positive discrimination, Harriet wants to make sure there is a seat-for-a-sister, a place for a women on top.
This ridiculous act is based on two assumptions: that a women will always act in the best interests of other women, which is clearly untrue, and that there will always be a woman up to the job. Despite years of tinkering, culminating in all-women shortlists, less than a third of Labour MPs are female, so either the leader or the deputy leader will be selected from a smaller pool.
Yet again, Labour are attacking men by giving women greater rather than equal rights. Assuming that men can’t or won’t act in the best interests of women. What does that say about their ability to empathise with any group?
Must a leader be poor to empathise with the poor? Must a leader be a Muslim to empathise with Muslims? Must a leader be black to empathise with ethic groups? Clearly not.
Labour members and the Unions should reject Harriet’s ridiculous seat-for-a-sister plan as an out-dated idea from a radical feminist which is patently anti-men. Will ‘honorary woman’ Ed Miliband stand up to her?
Ed Miliband to open up Labour leadership elections to the public?
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Will Ed Miliband open up Labour's leadership elections to the public? Not quite. Mr Miliband has tabled proposals at a meeting of Labour's National Executive Committee to create "tens of thousands" of "registered supporters" who will be eligible to vote in future leadership elections. However, the "registered supporters" would be included in the part of Labour's electoral college which includes the unions and affiliated socialist societies (the Fabian Society, Christian Socialist Movement, Labour Students, etc), which means - on the face of it - the unions’ share of the leadership votes will be cut.
Contrary to how this news might be reported, the proposal is modest and does not mean ordinary folk will really be able to influence elections. The reality is that non-party members have always been able to vote - the affiliated societies section can include non-members, and the trade unions section already includes plenty of non-Labour members. For example, members and supporters of the Conservatives, who were also union members, were allowed a vote in last year's Labour leadership election.
Shocked MPs told electoral plan could remove 10m voters
The changes will pave the way for a further review of constituency boundaries that will reduce the number of safe Labour seats before the 2020 election.
MPs on the political and constitutional reform select committee only realised the implications of the plans following three evidence sessions with election experts over the past week to examine the white paper which proposes to introduce individual electoral registration rather than household registration before the 2015 election.
The committee chairman, Labour MP Graham Allen, said they were "genuinely shocked". Even Tory members such as Eleanor Laing expressed surprise.
The policy has been described by Jenny Russell, the chair of the electoral commission, as the biggest change to voting since the introduction of the universal franchise.
Ministers have unexpectedly proposed that it should no longer be compulsory to co-operate with electoral registration officers (EROs) when they try to compile an accurate register, in effect downgrading the civic duty to engage with politics.
Russell warned: "It is logical to suggest that those that do not vote in elections will not see the point of registering to vote and it is possible that the register may therefore go from a 90%completeness that we currently have to 60-65%."
John Stewart, chairman of the electoral registration officers, said the drop-off was likely to be 10% in "the leafy shires" but closer to 30% in inner city areas. He said there would be an incentive not to register as the list is used for jury service and to combat credit fraud. He said he expected large numbers of young voters would not register.
The Cabinet Office, overseen by Nick Clegg, which had already decided there would be no household canvass in 2014 to save money, is introducing individual registration before the 2015 general election. The Electoral Commission said the change would mean 10% of the electorate could fall off the register in as many as 300 local authority areas.
The full effect of voluntary individual registration will be felt at the 2020 general election because the constituency boundaries for that election will be based on a voluntary individual register compiled in December 2015.
The projected 30% fall off in registered voters, weighted towards poorer voters, would require the boundary commission to reduce the number of inner-city Labour seats because the Boundary Commission is required to draw up constituencies with the sole objective of equalising the size of the electorates and not to take into account natural or political borders.
It is already estimated that as many as 3 million people currently eligible to vote do not register even though it is compulsory to co-operate with the compilation of the registry.
Although individual registration will be introduced before the 2015 general election, ministers have said the names on the existing household register can be carried over on to the election register, so reducing the impact.
Tristam Hunt, a Labour committee member, said: "These plans show how little this government really cares about democracy or fairness. If they get away with it, the effect on the 2020 general election will make the chaotic boundary review published this week look minor. This is designed to wipe the poor and the young off the political map.
"We are moving from a notion of registering as part as a civic duty to something akin to personal choice like a Nectar card or BA miles."
Russell said the government's plans had "unforeseen consequences".
It is currently an offence, liable to a maximum fine of £1,000, to fail to comply with a request for information from an ERO or to give false information.
The Cabinet Office white paper, published in the summer said: "While we strongly encourage people to register to vote, the government believes the act is one of personal choice and as such there should be no compulsion placed on an individual to make an application to register to vote."
Roger Mortimore from pollsters Ipsos Mori warned: "It is a very dramatic change and I am opposed to it. So far there is a political effect, it is most likely to disadvantage Labour", because "people that are least engaged in politics — the poor, the young and the ethnic minorities and all those groups, when they do vote at all are more likely to vote Labour".
Government plans could disenfranchise millions
Miliband leadership vote 'was not free and fair', claims studyBy Isabel Hardman on "politicshome"
Ed Miliband will today come under renewed pressure to reform Labour's leadership elections after a study claimed his own election was not a "free and fair democratic" contest.
The research from academics at the University of Bristol, seen by PoliticsHome, claims the 2010 Labour leadership election did not meet the definition of a "free and fair democratic election". It also shows how the trade unions created a 'block vote' in favour of their preferred candidate – Mr Miliband - in Labour's leadership election last September.
Members of Mr Miliband's own campaign admitted to the authors during their research that the way he won the election, beating his brother David by 1.3% of the vote, created a problem of legitimacy.
The report, Reinventing the block vote? Trade unions and the 2010 Labour party leadership election, by Richard Jobson and Mark Wickham-Jones is likely to provide embarrassment for Mr Miliband as he addresses the Trades Union Congress this week, and considers plans to make his party more democratic ahead of its conference in Liverpool in a fortnight's time.
It argues that the leadership contest does not meet the definition of a free and fair election because the candidates did not secure equal access to the electorate in their campaigning, voters were not fully informed about the five candidates and their policies because the unions distributed information about only their preferred candidates alongside ballot papers, and the union contribution to certain campaigns meant an unequal distribution of resources between those standing.
The report says: "It is because of these conditions that we question the normative legitimacy of the process by which Ed Miliband was elected. Legitimacy is clearly a contested and normative concept. A legitimate election, we believe, is one conducted under fair procedures and one in which participants consent to the result on the basis that the contest was handled on an even-handed and non-discriminatory basis, irrespective of the result.
"In other words, we conclude that the 2010 leadership contest does not meet the criteria mapped our in our introduction as to what is a free and fair democratic election."
Membership listsOne team member told the researchers that preventing other candidates from using the membership lists was like “running a national election campaign with someone deciding who to give the electoral register to... you can't [campaign], you have no list, you can't tell, you have no access.”
Another campaigner working for David Miliband claimed: “We didn't have access to union lists because we didn't get the union nomination.”
The influence of the unions over how their members voted was powerful, with 49% of voters following their union's recommendation. In a private interview with Mr Wickham-Jones and Mr Jobson, a member of Mr Miliband's campaign team admitted that had he also won the membership section, rather than simply the union vote, it would have “transformed the legitimacy of his win”.
The report's authors argue that they are not attempting to criticise Mr Miliband's own role in the electoral process. But they add: “However, the circumstances of his election can hardly have assisted him in his new post and may in part explain the rumblings of dissatisfaction that have been commonplace concerning his performance since his victory.
“It may also go some way to explain his difficult relations with the trade unions over the issue of public sector strikes in the summer of 2011 – by way of the need for a counter-reaction. Legitimate electoral processes confer authority upon the winner.”
ReformThey call for reform of the party's electoral college, arguing that "at the very least Labour needs a set of clear rules, which prohibit trade union leaderships from exercising the kind of interventions that had such an impact in 2010."
Mr Miliband is reported to be mulling over plans to force the unions to hand over their lists of 3m political levy payers to enable leadership candidates to contact them directly. Yesterday, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said he was willing to discuss any plans to make the party more democratic.
He told the Andrew Marr Show that plans to change the voting process were “not particularly a worry for me, I mean the issue of Refounding Labour and the question of trying to make the Labour party vibrant is something I'm happy to look at. If there's some perceived democratic deficit, I'm prepared to look at it.”
Should the Party run candidates for election as Police Commissioners?
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The first tranche of elections for police commissioners is expected to take place next spring. A reader asked recently whether the Party intends to stand candidates for them - and, if so, how the selection process will work.
There is obviously an option at either extreme. The first is that Downing Street and CCHQ could decide that Conservative candidates should stand for every vacancy, and devise an interventionist selection procedure like those that help shape the choice of candidates for Westminster and the European Parliament.
The second is that both conclude that police commissioners should be independents, and announce that no official Conservative candidates will contest the elections.
Nick Herbert, the energetic Home Office and Justice Minister, has long been an enthusiast for the emergence of independent candidates with robust views on law and order - and perhaps some policing expertise, too - in the police commissioner elections.
Obviously, he and other Ministers will want such candidates to have vigorous support from and excellent relations with local Tories. But the itch for these independents is understandable.
I understand that discussions are taking place at the moment about what exactly should be done. And that no-one in Downing Street, CCHQ or elsewhere is pressing for the first option - Conservative candidates for every vacancy.
Instead, there is likely to be a localist solution. If Conservative Associations in one area want to run a candidate, they'll be able to do so. And if they don't, no-one will force them to.
This solution, though elegant - and I think correct - raises a practical question and a more philosophical one. The practical one is: if Associations in any area (for example, the Thames Valley, with which I've some familiarity) want to select a candidate, how will the process work?
The philosophical one is: while the desire for independents fits the anti-establishment mood of the times, shouldn't it be questioned? After all, what's the point of a political party that doesn't stand candidates?
To continue with this way of thinking: if independents who have good relations with local Conservatives are suitable to be police commissioners, why aren't they suitable to be MPs? And if they are, why bother standing Tory candidates in constituencies at all?
The narrow question of whether the party, at both a national and local level, should back Conservative or independent candidates for these elections thus turns out to have very wide implications.
The Liberal Democrats, we read, are already advertising for candidates - while simultaneously plotting to halt the elections altogether. I'd like to see local Conservative decision-making on the matter - and hope that in most areas party members either select a Tory candidate or support a strong centre-right independent.
Discuss this issue at the next COPOV Forum on 24th September
Will Wales and Northern Ireland be next and after that will the Tories realise that they do not have enough members to fight a National campaign and abandon all seats North of Birmingham? Instead of creating a new Party why will they not solve the real problem, which is the decline in membership? The writing is on the wall. Without action now this is the beginning of the end. What the Tories desperately need to do is to create a democratic Party, but will they? We shall see.
- If you could fit the entire population of the world into a village consisting of 100 people, maintaining the proportions of all the people living on Earth, that village would consist of
14 Americans (North, Central, South)
52 women and 48 men
30 Caucasians and 70 non-Caucasians
30 Christians and 70 non-Christians
80 would live in poverty
70 would be illiterate
50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
1 would be dying
1 would be being born
1 (yes, only one) would have a university degree
- If we looked at the world in this way, the need for acceptance and understanding would be obvious but consider again the following:
- If you woke up this morning in good health, you have more luck than one million people, who won't live through the week.
- If you have never experience the horror of war, the solitude of prison, the pain of torture, were not close to death from starvation, then you are better off than 500 million people.
- If you can go to your place of worship without fear that someone will assault or kill you, then you are luckier than 3 billion (that's right) people.
- If you have a full fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are wealthier than 75% of the world's population.
- If you currently have money in the bank, in your wallet and a few coins in your purse, you are one of 8 of the privileged few amongst the 100 people in the world.
- If your parents are still alive and still married, you are a rare individual.
- If someone sent you this message, you are extremely lucky, because someone is thinking of you and because you don't comprise one of those 2 billion people who can't read.
- WORK like you don't need the money
LOVE like nobody has ever hurt you
DANCE like nobody is watching
SING like nobody is listening
LIVE as if this was paradise on Earth
SEND this message to your friends
Bypass those who are determined to see the worst in the world no matter what.
- If you don't send it, nothing will happen.
- If you do send it, someone might smile while they are reading it, and that will be positive.
AND APART FROM THAT SIMPLY HAVE A NICE DAY
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- There are about 130 active members of the House of Lords and they are mainly former politicians.
- There are 92 hereditary peers
- There are 26 Bishops representing the Church of England. Note the Church of Wales and the Church of Ireland have been disestablished.
- 79 Peers did not attend a single session of the House in the last year.
- At the time when Tony Blair ceased to be Prime Minister over half the members of the House of Lords had been appointed by one man - Tony Blair.
- The House of Lords has almost 800 members - other than the Peoples Congress of China this is the biggest parliamentary body in the world.
- The United States Senate has 100 members
- 61 countries in the world have elected second chambers
- Criminals can sit in the House of Lords and when they finish their prison sentences they can go on sitting in the House of Lords. Remember Lord Jeffrey Archer, Lord Taylor of Hanningfield, Lord Conrad Black(at present in prison in Florida)
- Those members of the House of Lords that have been convicted of theft regarding their expenses can go back into the House of Lords when they finish their prison sentences.
- Some members of the House of Lords owe their allegiance to the European Union. In order to get their pensions that allegiance is paramount. e.g Lords Kinnock, Patten, Brittan.
- Lord Heseltine has sat in the House of Lords for 11 years and has yet to make his maiden speech.
- 9 members of the House of Lords have never made a speech there, but that does not stop them from claiming their expenses.
- Lady Falkender has been in the House of Lords since 1976 and has never made a speech there.
David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the entire British political class came together yesterday to denounce the rioters. They were of course right to say that the actions of these looters, arsonists and muggers were abhorrent and criminal, and that the police should be given more support.
But there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.
It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington. A few years ago, my wife and I went to a dinner party in a large house in west London. A security guard prowled along the street outside, and there was much talk of the “north-south divide”, which I took literally for a while until I realised that my hosts were facetiously referring to the difference between those who lived north and south of Kensington High Street.
Most of the people in this very expensive street were every bit as deracinated and cut off from the rest of Britain as the young, unemployed men and women who have caused such terrible damage over the last few days. For them, the repellent Financial Times magazine How to Spend It is a bible. I’d guess that few of them bother to pay British tax if they can avoid it, and that fewer still feel the sense of obligation to society that only a few decades ago came naturally to the wealthy and better off.
Yet we celebrate people who live empty lives like this. A few weeks ago, I noticed an item in a newspaper saying that the business tycoon Sir Richard Branson was thinking of moving his headquarters to Switzerland. This move was represented as a potential blow to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, because it meant less tax revenue.
I couldn’t help thinking that in a sane and decent world such a move would be a blow to Sir Richard, not the Chancellor. People would note that a prominent and wealthy businessman was avoiding British tax and think less of him. Instead, he has a knighthood and is widely feted. The same is true of the brilliant retailer Sir Philip Green. Sir Philip’s businesses could never survive but for Britain’s famous social and political stability, our transport system to shift his goods and our schools to educate his workers.
Yet Sir Philip, who a few years ago sent an extraordinary £1 billion dividend offshore, seems to have little intention of paying for much of this. Why does nobody get angry or hold him culpable? I know that he employs expensive tax lawyers and that everything he does is legal, but he surely faces ethical and moral questions just as much as does a young thug who breaks into one of Sir Philip’s shops and steals from it?
Our politicians – standing sanctimoniously on their hind legs in the Commons yesterday – are just as bad. They have shown themselves prepared to ignore common decency and, in some cases, to break the law. David Cameron is happy to have some of the worst offenders in his Cabinet. Take the example of Francis Maude, who is charged with tackling public sector waste – which trade unions say is a euphemism for waging war on low-paid workers. Yet Mr Maude made tens of thousands of pounds by breaching the spirit, though not the law, surrounding MPs’ allowances.
A great deal has been made over the past few days of the greed of the rioters for consumer goods, not least by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who accurately remarked, “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.
Yesterday, the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be “reclaimed” by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television.
Or take the Salford MP Hazel Blears, who has been loudly calling for draconian action against the looters. I find it very hard to make any kind of ethical distinction between Blears’s expense cheating and tax avoidance, and the straight robbery carried out by the looters.
The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.
The tragic truth is that Mr Cameron is himself guilty of failing this test. It is scarcely six weeks since he jauntily turned up at the News International summer party, even though the media group was at the time subject to not one but two police investigations. Even more notoriously, he awarded a senior Downing Street job to the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, even though he knew at the time that Coulson had resigned after criminal acts were committed under his editorship. The Prime Minister excused his wretched judgment by proclaiming that “everybody deserves a second chance”. It was very telling yesterday that he did not talk of second chances as he pledged exemplary punishment for the rioters and looters.
These double standards from Downing Street are symptomatic of widespread double standards at the very top of our society. It should be stressed that most people (including, I know, Telegraph readers) continue to believe in honesty, decency, hard work, and putting back into society at least as much as they take out.
But there are those who do not. Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians.
Of course, most of them are smart and wealthy enough to make sure that they obey the law. That cannot be said of the sad young men and women, without hope or aspiration, who have caused such mayhem and chaos over the past few days. But the rioters have this defence: they are just following the example set by senior and respected figures in society. Let’s bear in mind that many of the youths in our inner cities have never been trained in decent values. All they have ever known is barbarism. Our politicians and bankers, in sharp contrast, tend to have been to good schools and universities and to have been given every opportunity in life.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates.
The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation.
Surrender or disaster
By Robert Peston on the BBC
Let's just think for a second what is entailed by the kind of fiscal integration required to make a practical reality of euro bonds.
There would be a permanent surrender by member states of important rights over how much they could raise in tax and spend on public services. The new decision-making body would probably have to be some kind of finance ministry - which would presumably be in Brussels - for the whole of the eurozone, which would be headed by a European uber finance minister.
So the tax-and-spending relationship between - say - the French governenment and the new eurozone super finance ministry would be similar to the relationship between the Scottish and Welsh governments and HM Treasury.
Quite apart from the serious practical and technical challenges of establishing this new fiscal decision-making body for the eurozone, it is not at all clear that the citizens of eurozone countries would feel comfortable about even greater distance being put between their votes and decisions that have a direct impact on their quality of life and prosperity.
It is difficult to see how eurozone fiscal integration designed to close a financial deficit can be achieved without enlarging Europe's democratic deficit.
A musing on the death of the Tory Party ...
I suspect that when Tory MPs return home to their constituencies on a Friday evening they wish it didn’t exist. Tory activists like Tory voters are not happy bunnies. They share the frustration increasingly being voiced by the righty-wing media. What has happened to the Tory Party? Where has it gone? Why is the coalition government not pursuing a Tory agenda?
Take Baroness Warsi who is supposed to be the Chairman of the Tory Party. In a disappearing act worthy of the great Harry Houdini she has quite simply vanished. Has she become shy? Has she got a very bad dose of tonsillitis? It is more than just counter-intuitive to have a Tory Party Chairman who is never seen or heard. I will buy lunch or dinner for the first person who can prove to me that Baroness Warsi still exists.
At a time of coalition government (and I remain a fan) it is all the more important that the Tory Party has a voice. Our values are important values. We believe in the family but embrace diversity. We believe in a small state and empowered citizens. We believe in strong defence and we support the police. We believe in low taxes and choice. I could go on …
There is part of me which believes that the PM and his key aides aren’t that bothered about the Tory Party. He is clearly a Whig and puts pragmatism before conviction or ideology. I am not even sure that he cares very much about the Tory Party and its quaint ways. I was brought up in Putney Conservative Association. The local branch structure. The formidable Women’s Committee. Executive Committee Meetings. Jumble Sales. Political Suppers. These are what make (or rather made) the Tory Party so special. Like Tony Blair I think that the PM doesn’t have much time for any of it.
When God created the world he spent a whole (coffee) morning creating a creature called ‘Tory Woman.’ There is nothing quite like them in the whole animal kingdom. Perhaps David Attenborough should do a series about a species that was created to organise coffee mornings, political suppers, Tory Balls and run committee rooms on polling days. I do not mock Tory Woman. Over the years I have grown very fond of them. I love them dearly. They must be despairing about what is happening to the party they have devoted their lives to serving.
If we aren’t careful the Tory Party will wither on the vine and then die. In many parts of the country it is already the case that Tory activists are, to quote W S Gilbert, in the autumn of their lives. There are far too few young activists. This situation will only get worse if there is not a cogent, populist and compelling Tory case being made to the public. We are witnessing the slow painful death of the Tory Party.
Why is the Tory case not being made? Does anybody really care? When will Baroness Warsi be replaced by somebody who actually exists? Is the Tory Party finished?
Law change paves way for Coalition candidates
Planned changes to electoral law which pave the way for Coalition candidates to stand at the next election have been quietly slipped out by ministers, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
Row breaks out as Labour backs proposals to elect all AMs by first-past-the-post
The change in policy – announced by Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain – breaks a consensus between the parties which has lasted since the Assembly was set up following a referendum in 1997.
And it involved Mr Hain making the remarkable admission that Labour had “got it wrong” when devising the current two-tier system for electing AMs.
Under present arrangements, 40 of the 60 AMs are elected from single-member constituencies covering the whole of Wales. The remainder are elected on a regional list system designed to compensate parties whose level of support was not reflected in the number of constituency seats won.
But changes must now be made because of plans to cut the number of constituencies in Wales from 40 to 30.
Today Mr Hain will meet Conservative Secretary of State Cheryl Gillan and tell her that the existing electoral system should be scrapped.
He told us: “The only acceptable option given the AV referendum result is to have all AMs elected by first-past-the- post, and we believe that each of the 30 new constituencies should elect two AMs by that system.
“The case for AV at Westminster level was defeated, against my vote and my longstanding support, by a thumping vote for first-past-the-post. Every single part of Wales voted against AV.
“In Wales we shall be losing 25% of our representation at Westminster, while across Britain the reduction is 8%. We have been punished enough.
“In Scotland the decoupling of constituencies [where Westminster and Scottish Parliament seats now have different boundaries] has been disastrous. If that happened in Wales, you would be likely to have a situation where one Assembly seat straddled three parliamentary seats, with all the problems that causes.
“I think in retrospect we have to accept that we got it wrong when we set up the Assembly with a two-tier electoral system that has two kinds of AM, and it should now be changed. The Conservatives back first-past-the-post – they ran the No campaign in the AV referendum.”
Mr Hain said he did not accept that having all AMs elected by first-past-the-post would result in a permanent Labour majority: “We can’t predict what would happen,” he said.
A source close to the First Minister said: “A system based on proportional representation would be difficult to support, given the result of the referendum in May.
“The First Minister believes that 60 AMs, elected by first- past-the-post, is the best option for the future.”
But opposition parties reacted angrily to the proposal.
Paul Davies, the acting leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly, said: “It is extraordinary that the Labour Party is once again seeking to manipulate the Assembly’s electoral system for its own ends.
“Labour already forced through a change to the Assembly’s electoral system which was condemned as undemocratic by the Government’s own electoral watchdog and rejected in Scotland, while Labour AMs have previously called for a system which gives Labour a massively disproportional advantage.
“At the election in May they won 70% of the constituency seats on barely 40% of the popular vote. Labour is clearly trying to turn Wales into a one-party state as a means of avoiding accountability and scrutiny of its government’s shameful record.
“As the Secretary of State for Wales made clear to Parliament two months ago, the UK Government will look carefully at the implications of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act on the Assembly’s constituencies.
“No decisions have been taken and full discussions will be required before any changes are made.”
Conservative sources pointed to a statement made by Mr Hain in the House of Commons in 1999, two weeks after the first Assembly election.
Speaking as a Wales Office Minister he said: “Proportional representation ... gave all the minority parties representation that they would not otherwise have achieved and which we believe they should have had.”
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who first raised the issue of the Assembly’s electoral system in a parliamentary question to Mrs Gillan in May, said: “It is typical of Labour to want to replace an unfair electoral system with one that is even more unfair.
“In May’s election, Labour won 50% of the seats despite getting only 42.3% of constituency votes and 36.9% of regional votes. Electing two AMs for each constituency on a first-past-the-post basis would distort the result even further and I think it would give Labour a permanent overall majority.
“It seems they have done a 360 degrees turn. Only last week it seemed that they didn’t want to have coterminous boundaries for Westminster and Assembly elections – now it seems they do.
“Plaid’s preference would be for all AMs to be elected by STV [Single Transferable Vote]. But with that option not on the table, the fairest solution would be 30 AMs elected by first-past- the-post and 30 from regional lists.”
A Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “We are not remotely interested in discussing any voting system that does not increase democracy and put more power in the hands of voters to ensure that outcomes are fair.
“It’s lamentable that Peter Hain, Carwyn Jones and Labour are now looking to form a backward-looking alliance with the Conservatives to force an unfair electoral system on the Welsh people.”
House of Lords Reform - Did you know?
As no new peers of Scotland were created after the Act of Union in 1707, their numbers gradually dwindled, and since the enactment of the Peerage Act 1963 all holders of Scottish peerages had a right to membership of the House of Lords. The position and rights of Scottish peers in relation to the House of Lords was unclear during most of the eighteenth century. In 1711, James Douglas, 4th Duke of Hamilton, a peer of Scotland, was appointed Duke of Brandon in the Peerage of Great Britain. When he sought to sit in the House of Lords, he was denied admittance, the Lords ruling that a peer of Scotland could not sit in the House of Lords unless he was a representative peer, even if he also held a British peerage. They reasoned that the Act of Union 1707 had established the number of Scots peers in the House of Lords at no more and no less than sixteen. In 1782, however, the House of Lords reversed the decision, holding that the Crown could admit anyone it pleases to the House of Lords, whether a Scottish peer or not, subject only to qualifications such as age and citizenship.
In January I was told that James Murdoch was favourable to supporting the Alternative Vote in the referendum. Subsequently Jeremy Hunt gave permission to News International to proceed with their bid for BSkyB. Subsequently The Sun launched a strong campaign against the Alternative Vote. The Prime Minister launched his campaign against the Alternative Vote. Were all these connected? I think we should be told.
Before I became a member of parliament in May last year, my limited experience told me that British democracy was flawed. After just over a year as an MP, I now know that it is utterly dysfunctional. Politicians are already deeply disliked, and the expenses scandal didn't help. But, despite the horror stories, the real scandal has absolutely nothing to do with expenses. It is that parliament routinely fails in its most basic duties.
A backbench MP is paid to do two things - hold the government to account and vote in a way that is good for the people they represent. The present structures ensure they do neither, and the effect is that decisions taken by a very small number of politicians are subjected to virtually no scrutiny at all.
You have only to look at the maths. Nearly a third of MPs are on the "payroll". That includes ministers, shadow ministers and also parliamentary private secretaries, who are not paid, but who are bound by the code of loyalty that requires them always to vote with the government. Of the remaining two-thirds of MPs, most want to join the payroll. That requires a political lobotomy, and unthinking submission to the party line.
Loyalty is one thing, but we have reached an extreme. If a backbench MP speaks out against a government decision, it is seen as an act of aggression. If he tables a minor amendment, it's worse still. And if he votes against his party, it's an act of career suicide.
Consider the vote at the start of the year on the proposed forest sell-off. Many coalition MPs were bitterly opposed. And yet, when the division bell sounded, just seven voted against. Had all those who opposed it used their vote accordingly, the policy would have been buried instantly and the government would have been reminded that parliament exists.
It is tempting to blame the whip system, but that misses the point. The whips have a crucial job to do. They are there to help push through the government's agenda. It is the job of backbenchers to resist that pressure.
That doesn't mean endless gridlock and rebellion. It means creating a healthy tension, so that the executive is required to think before acting and to take on board the advice of the legislature. I do not believe we will have a vibrant and functioning democracy without a more independent legislature. Unfortunately, none of the reforms on offer today is designed to address that core issue.
There are, however, some simple reforms that would help improve British democracy. For example, we should end the ludicrous situation whereby a handful of MPs can kill off a bill by "talking it out" and pushing it off the agenda. We should ensure that, as the number of MPs is reduced as planned, so too is the number of MPs on the payroll. If not, the balance will become still more skewed. The language used in parliament could be much clearer. It's an embarrassing secret that if you were to stand outside the lobby after a division and ask MPs what they had just voted for, only a handful would be able to tell you. Why not accompany every bill, motion and amendment with a plain English explanation before asking MPs to vote on it?
Overall, though, if we want to counter the inability (or unwillingness) of parliament to scrutinise the executive, we need something bolder. A very significant start would be for the coalition partners to honour a pre-election promise made by all of the then party leaders. Following the expenses scandal, each of the leaders made a promise to allow constituents to "recall" their representative between elections. That pledge has, in effect, been scrapped.
True recall, indeed true democracy, allows people to remove their representative if most constituents have lost confidence in him or her, for whatever reason. It is a right that should exist for voters at every level, from councillor to MP. This is not a new idea. There have been failed recall attempts in California, including one against Ronald Reagan in 1968. However, in 2003, voters successfully recalled the sitting governor, Gray Davis, and replaced him at a new election with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
That couldn't be further from where we are today in Britain. Under the current rules, a new MP could theoretically move to another country for five years and leave constituency work to a caseworker. Local voters would be lumbered with a useless representative until the next general election.
Most MPs occupy "safe" seats and are hard, if not impossible, to shift. The pressure they feel is from their party, not from the voters. Recall would keep even these MPs on their toes, because a member of one party could be replaced by another from the same party.
The coalition insists that it will still introduce a version of recall, but the small print makes it worse than useless. Instead of handing the decision to the voters, the government will pass it up to MPs on a parliamentary committee. Its members alone will decide if a member has behaved badly enough to be "recalled".
I have tabled an Early Day Motion calling for true Recall, and so far, nearly 50 MPs from all parties have endorsed it. I hope many more will join them. With enough support, we will be able to facilitate a debate on the Chamber followed by a vote. And if it goes the right way, I have no doubt Parliament, and indeed democracy will benefit.
Zac Goldsmith is the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston
Conservative Associations in Aylesbury, Chesham and Amersham and Buckingham have decided to withhold quota money from Central Office because of the Party's support for HS2. This is all perfectly legitimate. However we are told by conservativehome that the Beaconsfield association have decided to donate a £1,000 to the Anti HS2 campaign. Think again Beaconsfield. The Objects of the Beaconsfield constituency are as follow:
The Objects of the Association shall be to sustain and promote the objects and values of the Party in the Parliamentary constituency of Beaconsfield("the Constituency"); to provide an effective campaigning organisation in the Constituency; to secure the return of Conservative candidates at elections; and to raise the necessary funds to achieve these objectives; to contribute to the central funds of the Party.
By no stretch of the imagination can you say that a donation to a campaigning group which is opposed to Conservative Party policy is promoting the objects and values of the Party in the constituency. In other words the Association is acting "Ultra Vires". If I were an officer of the Constituency I would be a bit worried that I became financially liable for £1,000. You can be sure of one thing. With the amount of money involved in the HS2 project there will be some highly paid lawyers looking at the funding of the HS2 campaign just to make sure that its funding is legitimate.
Every time there are local elections you will find that somewhere in the country a long standing Party member has decided for one reason or another to stand against the official Party candidate. They nearly always lose. There is then a debate about what should happen to the membership of the long standing member, who is a good old soul really and has worked so hard for the Party in the past. Let me tell you.
Under the Party Constitution Schedule 6. 13 it states the following
Any Party Member who stands in an election against an official party Candidate will have his name removed from the National Membership List and be expelled from the Party forthwith.
There we are, no debate required. In the act of standing the member has excluded themselves from the Party. They are no longer a member.
Liberal Democrat Influence
Many Conservatives complain about the disproportionate influence that the Liberal Democrats have on Coalition policies. Part of the remedy lies with themselves. Look what has happened on reform of the National Health Service. The Lib-Dems signed up to the reforms, Nick Clegge signed them off. Then suddenly they had to be changed. The reason is that the Liberal Democrats are a democratic party and they are beginning to see the value of using democracy to get their way. Unlike the Conservative Party, the Lib-Dems actually debate issues at their conferences, so at their Spring Conference it was natural that the subject of NHS Reform should come up. It did and the conference passed thirteen changes they wanted to see in the Health Service reform package. This now became Party policy. The Lib-Dem MPs were given the backbone to stand up and demand that the changes be made regardless of what had been agreed beforehand. This strengthened Nick Clegge's hand. The end result was that the Tories had to give way on no less than eleven of the thirteen demands. The Conservative Party cannot use this tool of pressure because it does not allow motions at their conferences let alone any debate on policy.
We will shortly be approaching the Autumn Party conferences. Expect to see another issue chosen by the Lib-Dems used to pressurise changes to Coalition policy. What will it be this time? Trident, Green policies, who knows, but what we do know is that the Coalition will make another "U" turn, just to keep the Lib-Dem members happy. A triumph for democracy!
The Lords is much overrated as an assembly of the wise and the independent. Most non-party peers make little if any contribution to the house, while most party appointees are long-retired former MPs, councillors or failed Commons candidates. Almost all are very old and very "ex". And they are fairly random in their activities. The Lords has no committees whatever that scrutinise large areas of government activity, including foreign affairs, defence, welfare or the public services.
June 19th House of Lords - Lord Tebbitt and Central Office
June 12th Immigration - Localism
June 5th European Scrutiny Committee - James Elles Blog
In the modern age, where people don’t join the Young Conservatives to meet a future spouse at a ball, they need to be given a political, not a social reason to become a member of the party. They need to be offered, at the very least, the chance to pick their own candidate and probably far more than that. How many more people would sign up as Tory members if it gave them a real chance to set party policy on tax?
The Cameroons argue that the membership is too small to make this a sensible move, that the result would be unrepresentative candidates and policies that were unsellable to the public. But unless the party in the country is given some real power, it will continue to wither away. If the Prime Minister’s own association can add only 20-odd members in the year its MP enters Downing Street, what hope is there for other local parties?
If the leadership are not prepared to trust their members with some real powers, then they are going to have to find a whole other way to organise the party. Otherwise, it is going to die under them
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2008127/JAMES-FORSYTH-Theres-reason-join-Tories-Weve-come-voracious-crass--Who-says-Daves-constituency-chairman.html#ixzz1QPTLcthU
James Forsyth sums up the position exactly
Many condolences to Christopher Shale's family
We have always felt the sovereignty clause the less important aspect of the Bill compared with the referendum lock but the latter, designed to give Parliament and voters a say over any significant future transfers of power to Brussels, has now been attacked and severely mauled by peers.
On Monday, peers voted to restrict the issues on which referendums should be held to only three: joining the euro, the creation of a "single, integrated military force", and changes to border control. This would leave the public without a say over several important issues such as whether a future UK Government could sign up to the creation of a new European Public Prosecutor or give up arguably the UK's most important veto of all: it's right to veto the multi-annual EU budget.
And, in the words of Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell, these amendments completely "undermine the direct and frank and honest commitment that we wish to make to the British people...I really would suggest that the public can be trusted to determine what is in their own interest."
As we've noted before, there is a certain irony in the fact that it is an unelected body, the House of Lords, which is displaying such great suspicion and hostility to giving people a greater say over their country’s relationship with the EU - and peers have given us some unintentionally hilarious quotes during the often bizarre debates on the Bill (we'll give you a few samples shortly). But the fact that it is being allowed to do so completely under the political radar is probably even more worrying.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Lord Tebbit urges Conservatives to mutiny against CCHQ
And he usually knows what he’s talking about.
But the above quotation comes at the end of a post which is essentially a criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It is a curious addendum; almost an afterthought; tangential if not irrelevant to the subject matter of the post. It could almost be missed (indeed, it has been by all but His Grace). It is cannily sneaked in right at the end, so the Conservative-supporting, bishop-bashing blogs will freely link, tweet and re-tweet Lord Tebbit’s essential thesis that the bearded lefty Dr Rowan Williams is a whole mitre short of a bishopric. And yet when the Archbishop refers to the Conservative Party implementing policy without democratic legitimacy, Lord Tebbit exposes an inconvenient truth: the Party has long ceased being democratic, and under David Cameron it is manifesting decidedly anti-democratic tendencies.
And perhaps this is evident nowhere more than in the stranglehold exerted by Conservative Campaign Headquarters over candidate selection. The ‘Approved List’ used to consist of intelligent, discerning, loyal and true Tories with real experience in the world who wanted to bring their expertise into Parliament. So important were these qualities that if an aspiring candidate had dared to stand against the Party, they could not become ‘approved’ for at least the succeeding period of government – up to five years of ‘cooling off’, during which suitability could be assessed. When a seat became vacant, a local association would be sent the CVs of as many who had applied – sometimes hundreds – and it was for the local association to whittle them down to a long-list, then produce a short-list, and then to vote on a winner. The process was very open, democratic and fair.
Over the past decade, the emphasis has been more on gender than intelligence; more on ethnicity than loyalty; more on sexuality than a grasp of philosophy; and more on an appreciation of diversity than political discernment. And to ensure the ‘right sort’ of candidate succeeded, CCHQ embarked on a process of limiting candidate selection in its ‘plum seats’ to just six good men and true, three of which must be women. It was not unheard of for the three men to be black, Asian or gay. There was even candidate selection by religion.
As His Grace wrote at the time, candidates are:
...hand-picked for each Conservative Association by two of the most powerful people in CCHQ – John Maples MP and
It is telling that in 2009 His Grace pointedly crossed out ‘Baroness’, yet just a year later she had indeed become Baroness Ritchie of Brompton, just as Patricia Morris before her went on to become Baroness Morris of Bolton. Both of their Wikipedia entries refer to their ‘efforts of diversity’, including ‘women2win’ and the formation of ‘Priority List’ (A-List) candidates.
This is a curious centralisation, which effectively exempts the internal workings of the Conservative Party from David Cameron’s commitment to localism, devolution, subsidiarity and democracy. While the Party Leader is preaching the gospel of demos, the party practises kratos. Before the election, he promised to shift power:
From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.Yet while he preaches parliament, communities, Britain, people and democracy, we still get government, Whitehall, Brussels, judges and bureaucracy. Okay, the Conservative Party didn’t win the election. But there is absolutely nothing preventing the Prime Minister from practising what he preaches within the party he leads. Why talk of shifting power from the state to the citizens and from Whitehall to town halls while centralising your own bureaucracy?
If the intelligent, discerning, loyal and responsible local Conservative associations are not ready for democracy, what makes Mr Cameron believe the town halls are? How can one persuade the electorate that one stands for something out of conviction if one’s instinct is to practise the contrary. Is a man not best judged by what he does in his own home?
It is puzzling in the extreme that the Conservative Party has learnt nothing from the electorate’s reaction to the controlling and centralising tendencies of Labour. When the people of Wales wanted Rhodri Morgan, Labour imposed Alun Michael; when the people of London wanted Ken Livingstone, Labour imposed Frank Dobson; when the people of Blaenau Gwent wanted to select their own candidate, Labour imposed an all-women shortlist. And when Harriet Harman wanted her husband elected to Parliament, the all-women shortlists were conveniently set aside and, lo and behold, Jack Dromey was elected. It is the Socialist way.
Conservative philosophy is quite different. We believe that the State should enable, not control. And in order to fulfil the Conservative aspiration to shrink the State, policies must be introduced to encourage individual responsibility and strengthen the ‘little platoons’. If David Cameron cannot achieve this even amongst his own faithful, it is highly questionable that he is committed at all to ‘decentralisation, transparency and accountability’.
It is worth considering that had the Conservative Party exercised central control over its MPs throughout its history, it would doubtless have removed Churchill, Eden and Macmillan from its approved list. And it is highly likely that they would have become more than a little exasperated by a shrill candidate called Margaret Thatcher who complained numerous times to Central Office of her inability to get selected.
His Grace mused two years ago:
It is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that proud and independently-minded Conservative associations, increasingly exasperated by an autocratic centralised power antithetical to all that is being preached about localism, might eventually stick two fingers up to this ultra-Approved List, which is essentially the resurrected ‘A-List’, and begin to field their own ‘democratic’ or ‘independent’ Conservative candidates.
But he never expected such a distinguished Conservative as Lord Tebbit to foment the rebellion.
This tantalising intervention comes at a time of acute embarrassment for the Candidates’ Department, having just dismissed (‘right-wing’, ‘eurosceptic’) Annunziata Rees-Mogg (along with reportedly 200 other formerly-approved candidates).
Louise Mensch (née Bagshaw) MP called the decision 'hugely unfair'. She accused CCHQ of ‘pushing forward young female candidates such as Ms Rees-Mogg as part of a PR drive to present a fresh image for the party, only to then drop them abruptly after Election day’.
Jacob Rees Mogg MP has gone further. He called the decision ‘contemptible’, adding: ‘The attitude of Central Office is shameful... I think my sister has been treated disgracefully by an unjust procedure that brings the party into disrepute. Traditionally the Candidates’ department was well run by an experienced MP and senior members of the voluntary party. It is now run by arrogant, discourteous apparatchiks.’
Mr Rees-Mogg also condemned the ‘poor manners’ of
Indeed it is not. But Party Co-Chairman Andrew Feldman has responded defiantly, insisting that the Candidates’ Department is ‘determined not to be influenced by the friends of candidates' and that he intends to 'take the small "p" politics out of candidate selection'.
His Grace doesn’t have a clue what Mr Feldman means by taking the small ‘p’ politics out of candidate selection (it is oxymoronic and humanly impossible). But when you consider the number of Shadow Cabinet senior aides and chiefs of staff who went on to be selected for ‘plum seats’, the assertion that the influence of ‘friends’ has been eradicated is laughable.
But back to Lord Tebbit’s solution. It is unfortunate that he does not explain what he means by ‘take over’. If he means ‘assume control’ (OED), he is fomenting a fruitless discord and appears to be alarmingly ignorant of the Conservative Party Constitution which has changed somewhat since he was chairman.
Under the Hague reforms in the wake of the Neil Hamilton affair, the Conservative Party became an unincorporated association. Prior to that it had no official legal status: it was essentially the private office of the Leader, and local associations were autonomous. As far as candidate selection was concerned, they could simply ignore Conservative Central Office (as it was then) by having the candidate run as an independent Conservative. Although there was an ‘Approved List’, CCO had no way of enforcing their preference for an ‘approved’ candidate. In 1997, CCO threatened to remove Neil Hamilton from the list but were told by his Association that he would run anyway without their support. CCO was impotent to do anything about it.
After that general election, the Constitution was codified and previously autonomous associations dutifully signed up to it (some with a little ‘persuasion’). As a result, associations surrendered their sovereignty and became subject to an omnipotent and unaccountable bureaucracy. CCHQ (as it became) acquired the power to appropriate constituency property and cash. If a local constituency association ever again refused to comply with a central directive, they could be put it into ‘support status’ (ie sacked en masse and administered centrally). CCHQ has not only threatened a number of ‘troublesome’ associations with this humiliating treatment, they have done it.
Lord Tebbit appears not to know that an oligarchical CCHQ is now omnipotent over both candidate selection and the internal workings of all local associations: they can appoint and dismiss as they see fit, in accordance with the will of the Party Board. And that Board is empowered by an ‘enabling clause’ which permits it to do whatever is necessary ‘in the interests of the Party’.
If, therefore, local members were to attempt a democratic ‘take over’ of their CCHQ-compliant association, or if they were to ‘decline to support’ the CCHQ-approved candidate, as Lord Tebbit advocates, they could be individually disciplined and expelled from the Party, or the whole association put into ‘support status’. A local association cannot be ‘taken over’ by democratically-minded Conservatives: if an attempt were to be made, it would be ‘taken over’ by the Board. And this could be threatened (and implemented) over a fairly minor dispute or for (undefined) ‘poor performance’. The assessment of the seriousness of a misdeamanour is wholely subjective and carried out by CCHQ (ie the Board). There are no checks and balances; just a series of rigged appeals.
So, Lord Tebbit, would you care to elucidate, as a few of your your own commenters have requested? Are you suggesting that the loyal Conservatives of Somerton and Frome re-adopt Annunziata Rees-Mogg in defiance of CCHQ? Are you proposing that they volunteer for certain ‘support status’? Are you suggesting that they reject the next ‘clone dummy’ candidate CCHQ decides to impose? Having been party chairman, how do you think Baroness Warsi might react to your suggestion? Could you please elucidate either in the thread below or upon your own august blog? Or (if you prefer), you may email His Grace in confidence directly (address top right of his blog). Bless you.
And Lord Tebbitt replys:
Is Lord Tebbit about to be suspended or expelled from the Conservative Party?
His Grace asked:
Are you suggesting that the loyal Conservatives of Somerton and Frome re-adopt Annunziata Rees-Mogg in defiance of CCHQ, who have just removed her from the 'Approved List'? Are you proposing that they volunteer for certain ‘support status’? Are you suggesting that they reject the next ‘clone dummy’ candidate CCHQ decides to impose? Having been party chairman, how do you think Baroness Warsi might react to your suggestion? The Noble Lord has responded upon his blog:
Sally Roberts questioned what I would have said to ‘entryism’ when I was Party Chairman. Well, I always did and still do encourage Conservatives to join the Conservative Party and to fight for conservative policies and to select and elect Conservative Members of the Commons. Of course, in my day local Conservative Associations were autonomous bodies over which I did not have control, whereas today they are more like branches of the central Party, a point well made by Cranmer.
My message is that local Conservatives should control constituency associations and insist on selecting Conservative candidates who they like, not Central Office nominees. It could be called the Big Society politics. As Wuffothe Wonderdog says, Central Office might not like it, but faced with Conservatives willing to run independent Conservative candidates against imposed ones, they would probably think again.
This is both refreshingly forthright and very interesting indeed, not least because Lord Tebbit - who takes the Party Whip on the House of Lords and is a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party - is suggesting that local Conservative associations should threaten to run independent Conservative candidates against those imposed centrally. Of course, CCHQ will insist that they never impose anyone, but the facts of history rather negate such an assertion. Lord Tebbit urges this rebellion knowing full well that in the past it has led to associations being threatened with 'support status' (ie, 'taken over' by CCHQ) and, in one case, a whole association being dismissed for expressing support for an 'un-approved' candidate.
Lord Tebbit has clarified that 'local Conservatives should control constituency associations and insist on selecting Conservative candidates who they like, not Central Office nominees'. This can only be achieved by rejecting 'Central Office clone dummies', as he calls them. There are those who will view this as a direct challenge to the authority of the Conservative Party Board, which is omnipotent on all matters relating to the conduct of members.
Shedule 7, article 3.5 of the Conservative Party’s constitution states:
‘The Officers of the Association may move before the Executive Council the suspension or termination of membership of the Association of any member whose declared opinions or conduct shall, in their judgement, be inconsistent with the objects or financial well-being of the Association or be likely to bring the Party into disrepute. Similarly, the Officers may move the refusal of membership of the Association for the same reasons. Following such a motion, the Executive Council may by a majority vote suspend, terminate or refuse membership for the same reason.’
By exhorting Conservative Party members to reject CCHQ-approved candidates in favour of independents, Lord Tebbit is indeed declaring opinions and conducting himself in a manner that is inconsistent with the objects (and financial well-being) of his local association and the Conservative Party nationally.
Is CCHQ about to suspend or terminate Lord Tebbit's membership of the Conservative Party?
The much heralded White Paper on public service reform, which we were promised would “signal the decisive end of the old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given model of public services” seems to have been abandoned. Far from revolutionising choice over who provides state-funded services, we learn that the process of public procurement within the public sector is actually being centralised around the Cabinet Office.
May 22nd Why the referendum on the Alternative Vote was lost - Joseph Rowntree Trust - Europe, did you know? - European Aid
May 16th House of Lords Reform - Our Fight for Democracy - CPF report - Next Week
May 9th Gerry Adams - European Parliament, More MEPS?
May 2nd Why is it? - Europe
April 24th The Referendum - Party Hacks
April 17th The State of British Politics - Party Membership - Can A Third placed candidate win under AV?
April 10th Watch This, Hung Parliaments - Letter from COPOV member - Party membership
April 3rd Fiji, Australia, Papua New Guinea and us - Getting involved - Financial Interest
Lord Turnbull publishes devastating critique of the Coalition's climate change policies
Follow Tim on Twitter.
Scepticism about climate change takes at least four forms:
- Some sceptics don't believe that the climate is changing.
- Others believe that climate is changing but it isn't 'man-made'.
- Some believe that climate change is happening but they don't believe government action can make a difference.
- Some believe that government might be able to make a difference but it's too expensive or risky to try.
Britain should NOT act unilaterally: "Our Climate Change Act imposes legal duties, regardless of what ever else other countries do, or do not do. The UK, producing only 2-3 percent of world CO2 emissions, can have only a minimal effect on the global warming outcome. If we push too hard on decarbonisation by raising the price of carbon through a range of instruments we will suffer double jeopardy. Energy-using industries will migrate and, if the climate pessimists are right, we will still have to pay to adapt, e.g. by raising our flood defences."
Are we right to try and stop global warming or should scarce resources be invested in adaption? "Policy has been based on a preponderantly warmist view of the world. Many such as the Institution of Civil Engineers think that too little attention has been paid to adaptation, i.e. being more resilient whichever way the sum of natural forces and CO2 takes us, up or down."
Expensive wind power enjoys favoured status in EU energy policy: "The logical economist’s approach is to rank policy responses according to the cost per tonne of CO2 abated and then work through the merit order, starting with the most effective. Or, what amounts to the same thing, set a price on carbon and then let the various technologies – gas, coal with CCS, nuclear, wind, tidal, energy efficiency etc, fight it out for market share. But the EU Renewables Obligation is the denial of this logic. One particular set of technologies, and especially wind, has been given a guaranteed market share and a guaranteed indexed price, regardless of how competitive it is. The current pursuit of wind power is folly. Its cost per kWh substantially exceeds that of other low carbon sources such as nuclear when account is taken of intermittency and the cost of extending the grid far from where consumers are located."
The Liberal Democrats' objections to nuclear power are inconsistent: "The Secretary of State at Department of Energy and Climate Change has called nuclear a tried, tested and failed technology. It may be that in the UK historically it has not been as successful as it might have been but it has for 50 years provided around 20 percent of our electricity reliably, competitively and safely. Just 20 miles from our coast France has produced over 2/3rds of its electricity from nuclear and regards this as a great success... There is something profoundly illogical in Nick Clegg’s demand that nuclear power can only go ahead in the UK if it receives no public subsidy whatsoever, while at the same time promoting huge subsidies for renewables."
Current subsidies for solar power generation involve a transfer of power from the poor to the rich: "The feed-in tariff mechanism is fast becoming a scandal. Those lucky enough to own buildings large enough on which to install solar panels, or enough land for a wind farm, have been receiving 30-40p per kwh, for electricity, which is retailed at only 11p. The loss is paid for by a levy on businesses and households. It is astonishing that the Liberals who attach such importance to fairness turn a blind eye to this transfer from poor to rich, running to £billions a year. If you live in a council tower block in Lambeth you don’t have much opportunity to get your nose into this trough. The good news is that, at last, the government is beginning to cut back on subsidies to large solar operators, following the trend set in Germany and Spain."
The shale revolution: "There is a major new development which fits the description of a disruptive technology, that is the introduction of new drilling techniques which make it possible to extract gas from shale. This has dramatically widened the geographic availability of gas, has produced a massive upgrading of gas reserves and is decoupling gas prices from oil. There is no peak in hydrocarbons. Gas has the advantage that it produces less than half the CO2 that coal produces. So we face a happy prospect that we can replace a lot of coal burning with gas, reduce energy prices, and make a big reduction in CO2 emissions, albeit not the complete decarbonisation sought by some, achieving in effect a dash for gas at the global level."
The Green Jobs Con: "My view is simple. If a technology can justify itself without massive subsidy we should build up our research and our skills. But if a technology exists only by virtue of subsidy we only impoverish ourselves by trying to build jobs on such shaky foundations."
Then she stops zooming in on headlines with the party’s name in it. Soon it happens: An opinion poll comes out, and she doesn’t care how the party is doing. She surprises even herself with her lack of interest.
Sitting out the election feels weird, as she’ll have received phone calls from party officers who have finally noticed that she’s not turning up, and she’ll feel embarrassed, and will almost promise to turn up at the next meeting, but resists, and says “she’ll see what she can do”. They both know that means she’s gone. The party official will wonder why the sane people always leave whilst the mouth-breathers and the one-issue obsessives “how will the banking crisis affect the ramps on the bottom of Lea Road, which is a major issue in the area?” never do.
She misses the energy of the election, but not hugely, seeing it for the first time the way non-political people see it, as important, but not the most important thing in her life. On the door, she is polite to the canvassers, having been that soldier, and resists the urge to demonstrate that she actually knows more about their policies than they do.
She still watches the election count all day on the telly, and enjoys it, but other things fill her life. Family, work, and whilst she still maintains an interest in politics it tends to be at a higher level, with more interest in other countries or history. She finds herself shutting out day-to-day politics, developing an interest in running or cycling or painting or learning the piano. And here’s the scary thing: She doesn’t regret her time spent in politics, because she met some great people. But as she finishes her first painting, or finishes her first novel, or passes her first piano exam, she can’t help thinking that she could’ve put her time to much more rewarding use.
- The Yes campaign was to be a people’s campaign driven by the people and not by politicians.
- Detailed research by ICM had shown that in an opinion poll the Alternative Vote had a 60% to 40% lead over First Past The Post. The majority in favour was highest amongst young people, diminishing with age until at the age of 65 the majority switched to First Past The Post. 40% of Conservative voters were in favour of the Alternative Vote.
- The campaign was to be an all party campaign.
The key elements which flowed from this information were that:
- Conservative votes were a critical element in the campaign particularly as the Labour Party was split.
- Conservative Party members were barren ground as the average age of a party member was 68.
- Voters over 65 were more likely to vote so it was essential to get out the young people to vote. Social media would be critical in this.
It became apparent early in the campaign that the Liberal Democrats were taking the lead, particularly due to their connections with the Joseph Rowntree Trust, which was to be a major funder of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign. The other major funder was the Electoral Reform Society. At this stage it seemed as though the referendum would be won and the Liberal Democrats wanted to get the political advantage which would arise from winning.
- To provide a focal point for the Conservatives who supported Yes.
- To identify supporters, and channel their names to Yes To Fairer Votes.
- To be spokesmen for the Conservatives.
- To speak at local and national events.
- To disseminate information and rebut the Conservative No campaign.
- Ed Milliband wouldn’t share a platform with Nick Clegge
- UKIP were excluded until the final phase of the campaign.
- The Green Party only had a minor role.
- Someone has to be in overall charge.
- There must be a Management Team with clear lines of responsibility.
- A Council should be set up on which all the different organisations including the political parties are represented. This Council will be responsible for co-ordinating the different groups. The Management team should report to it and it should meet at least once per month during the campaign. Budgets and income and expenditure should be agreed with the Management Team.
- If you are to run a people’s campaign you need to demonstrate that ordinary people are supporting you. There should have been at least two mass rallies of supporters during the campaign fronted by ordinary people, not politicians.
"1. A chance for more honest, positive politics
2. MPs need your support
3. A fair system."
What happened to the Conservative Yes Campaign?
- For those with Conservative MPs, the target for Membership is 5% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election.
- For those without Conservative MPs, the target is 3% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election.
Can a third placed candidate win under AV?
It has never happened in New South Wales, nor in Queensland since AV was re-introduced in 1992. I will stand corrected if someone can find a Queensland example under the supplementary vote rules used between 1892 and 1940, but as far as I know, my claim stands.
No candidate has ever won from third place in Australia under AV rules.
So why is my view at odds with the opinion piece written by Lord Ashcroft at Conservative Home last week? (See article here)
The answer is that Lord Ashcroft's example was not AV. His example was the full preferential system used at Australian Federal elections.
The alternative vote system has so often been misrepresented, that I feel a few words may help clarify and not come amiss. The official instructions are good, but a real example with real numbers may help to see it clearly. For simplicity’s sake, I'm using an example I gave my 13 year old grandson.
Party co-chairman Lord Feldman (pictured above) has this week written to all Conservative MPs and Conservative associations, setting them ambitious membership targets:
Feldman says that increasing the membership now will be "the bedrock of our campaigning success in future elections" and that all associations will shortly have access to a new "membership toolkit" both online and in booklet form to assist them in this drive over the coming months.
- For those with Conservative MPs, the target for Membership is 5% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election.
- For those without Conservative MPs, the target is 3% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election."
He also highlights that the party is improving communication with members through a new Members First newsletter to be sent via email every two months and is giving them "a stronger voice" on policy development through the re-launched Conservative Policy Forum.
Will they ever learn? It is no good setting targets, without tackling the fundamental problem. Why should anyone become a Party member? They have no say in anything other than the election of the Leader. Even then their choice is restricted to two candidates.
March 20th An evening of AV in the Dorset countryside - The Cost of AV - Conservatives in Northern Ireland
March 13th Party Structure - COPOV web site under attack - Joint Candidates - Visit the Conservative Yes web site March 27th
An evening of AV in the Dorset Countryside…
Posted on March 20, 2011 by robstick
Whilst on the Yes to Fairer Votes street stall, in Yeovil yesterday, I was invited to attend a "Pizza and Politics Debate" evening at Yetminster last night, which I did.
Conservatives in Northern Ireland
Monday, March 14. 2011
February 20th Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett V. John Strafford on the referendum - Support from the Archbishop - NHS and the BBC - Another cock-up!
February 13th Open Debate in the Tory Party? - Candidate Selection - The Cost of Europe
February 6th House of Lords Reform - Climate Change
Is UKIP acquiring a control freak tendency?
I am delighted that UKIP are supporting the Yes campaign in the referendum, but to stop members with a contrary view from opposing UKIP's spokesmen or seeking publicity is even more Stalinist than the Conservative Party. The following is an extract from the Party's National Executive:
Tories count the cost of an old pals' act
20th February 2011
After all, Feldman had never stood for elected office, and he was an unknown who had nothing of the clout of his predecessors such as Cecil Parkinson and Norman Tebbit.
There was also unease among Tory MPs when Cameron rewarded his chum with a peerage last autumn.
Cameron seems to trust Feldman like no other — the two have been best friends since they met as teenagers at Brasenose College, Oxford.
But who would ever have imagined the true extent to which Feldman’s loyalty to Cameron has been rewarded? I can disclose that Feldman is the first salaried chairman in the modern Tory Party — and he is paid £120,000 a year.
Feldman hardly needs the money. He is a millionaire, and he surfaced in the political arena only after he raised money for Cameron’s leadership campaign. His family clothing company, Jayroma, also made its own £10,000 donation.
What will really rile the rank and file is that some of Feldman’s salary comes out of the money they raise for the Party.
‘I was gobsmacked when I was told of his salary,’ says one member of the Conservative Party Board. ‘I thought the peerage and the prestige of the job would be enough reward.’
Shouldn’t the Tories — who are rightly lambasting local government fatcats for their grotesquely inflated salaries — practise what they preach.
Looks like the Party is rolling in money!
MB: I'm not quarrelling with that, but I'm just not very interested. And I don't think the British people are. The outcome is what matters. The British people know how our system works, and they know how to use it. When they want change, they make change.
To read the full article click below:
Not sure about others here but that attitude beggars belief - how can any political figure seeking a mandate to govern on our behalf dismiss, in such a derisory fashion, the legitimately expressed political preference of ordinary voters - read it again and weep - "The outcome is what matters"
I tell you what Mrs. Beckett - why bother at all with an election - just roll a dice or flip a coin to see who represents us in government - after all it's "the outcome that matters"
Nice to have support - check this out:
NHS and the BBC
The elected representatives on the Board of the Party / Scottish Executive / Board of the Welsh Conservative Party
Members of the Area Management Executives
Regional and Deputy Regional Chairmen
CF Representatives (42)
Conservative Womens’ Organisation (42)
Plus the 3 past Presidents of the Convention, the 2 past Chairmen of the Convention, and for one year the past Area and Regional Chairmen.
Ballot Paper Issues
John Strafford calls for open debate
We understand that the NO2AV Campaign will be at the Spring Forum. The NO2AV Campaign is described as a non-partisan, all party campaign. Why can they appear but not the all party "Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign"?
The following article was published on the Conservativehome web site: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/02/john-strafford-what-has-cchq-got-to-fear-from-pro-av-tories-at-spring-forum.html He calls for members to help reverse CCHQ’s decision to ban Conservative organisations supporting a Yes Vote from the Spring Forum.
We now know that another candidate has been selected and we wish him every success, but why does the Party Leader get involved in these decisions?
From the openeurope web site
Fraud in the EU’s carbon market has cost taxpayers €5bn. Fraud in the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme has cost taxpayers an estimated €5bn. "There have been warnings after warnings that regulation of the system is lackadaisical and inept […] You expect it to be properly regulated but Europe seems to run it more like a church raffle than a professional commodities market," a broker said. (Sunday Telegraph, 30 January)
House of Lords Reform
House of Lords reform is something that all the Political parties have skirted around.
The Conservative Party needs to find a way out of the dilemma it faces over House of Lords reform, and push forward a system which reforms the second chamber but retains the merits of the current House of Lords.
The advantage of the current House of Lords, even as reformed, is that it allows experts to be utilised when discussing and shaping legislation. In addition it has an element of stability (longevity) given that House of Lords Members are there for life. The disadvantages of the House of Lords include a heavy reliance on a system of patronage as a means of selecting our legislators.
Historically the hereditary Peers in the House of Lords could remain independent of the Government of the day. This was down to one simple key issue, namely: the Peers were unelected (and therefore unselected) which meant that no amount of threatening or bullying by party whips and party machinery could force a change of mind. In turn this lack of an electoral mandate, constrained the way in which peers could operate.
With the exception of some experts the same is not true of the politically appointed Life Peers that make up the bulk of today’s House of Lords. This has often resulted in accusations of cronyism and cash for honours. A situation where mud has stuck, tarnishing the reputation of the House of Lords.
There does however now seems to be a consensus around moving towards some form of elected second chamber. However the nature and composition and method of election for the second chamber are all areas under scrutiny and debate.
For the sake argument let’s go with what some of the more radical reformers have called for and name the second chamber a Senate and outline some suggestions on how a Senate can be elected and work with the current House of Commons and also deal with what happens to the current and any new Peers.
There has been much talk about efficiency and not having an oversized chamber which would be counter productive. This particular proposal would see the Senate made up of 149 seats. The seats would be split with 99 of the seats elected on a first past the post electoral system. They would be constituency based with each area representing approximately 450,000 electors. The Constituencies would be drawn up by the boundary commission in line with its usual consultation process, but to coincide where possible with Local Government boundaries, so that the Senate and Local Government elections can in the majority of cases take place on the same day to save costs and invigorate both sets of elections, particularly where there are annual council or County Council elections.
To give the Senators some degree of independence and give the element of stability, that is one of the positives of the current House of Lords, a Senator should be elected for a 9 year term, with a third of Senators elected every 3 years.
The only caveat to this is that after the first election of all 99 elected senators, there would be 33 who would have a term of 3 years and 33 who would have a term of 6 years, so as to ensure that future elections can take place at the 3 year interval for a third of the seats. The only question not answered here is that of limiting the number of elected terms for a Senator (e.g. 3 or 4 terms maximum). I’m not proposing any restriction, but others may take a different view.
In addition to the 99 directly elected Senators this model proposes 50 Senate Seats (called Term Senators). These seats are allocated immediately following every General election by political party leaders, using whatever method they wish. The downside is that these seats could be 100% dependent upon patronage, although there is a limitation compared with the current House of Lords where there is no limit on the amount of patronage.
As Term Senators their appointment would be limited for one term of the House of Commons at a time. These would be allocated in proportion to the elected Seats in the House of Commons. It would also be fixed, so that by-elections in the House of Commons would not affect the Term Senate composition. Only a General Election would change the composition of Term Senators.
If the seats were to be based on the current composition of the House of Commons that would be roughly 1 Term Senator for every 13 MPs elected for a political party. This is to ensure that extreme or minority parties are not over represented, but also to prevent un-necessary blocking of legislation and provide some degree of protection to an incoming government for their legislative programme. Taking the figures from the General election in 2005, Labour would have 27 Term Senate seats, Conservatives 15 seats, Liberal Democrats 5 seats and the DUP and Scottish Nationalists 1 Seat each.
There should be three basic provisions to govern the working of the Senate. These are designed to ensure the Senate works well by concentrating on the legislative programme.
1) It can not block a finance bill except with a two thirds majority, i.e. 100 votes out of the 149.
2) It can with a two thirds majority delay legislation for 3 years
3) With a simple majority it can delay legislation for one Session of Parliament.
All 149 Senators would have full voting rights in the new Senate. All would be eligible to be part of the Government (Executive) if required. By-election rules would apply to the elected Senators. However Party leaders would have the ability to recall Term Senators annually or replace them if a vacancy came about through resignation or death.
So what happens to the current members of the House of Lords? Clearly a lot of expertise is available to the current House of Lords through its current membership. One of the positive aspects of Life Peers, Law Lords, Bishops etc is the expertise they bring to the legislative table. I propose that all Peers, (including hereditary and Life), Law Lords and Bishops be allowed speaking rights without notice in the Senate but no voting rights. This still allows the element of recognition that I believe most people appreciate: and that is rewarding those who achieve great things in their life, or become an expert in their field. I would expect new Peers to continue to be created.
The role of a Senator would not be the same as that of an MP. A member of the Senate would not be funded for constituency work as their primary role would be that of scrutinising and revising the legislation before Parliament.
Like all suggestions this one is not perfect and has its flaws too. For example the party machinery will have an undue influence in the choice of candidate selection, but ultimately those candidates must go before a public vote. The Party Leaders will decide the Term Senators, however there is always the possibility that Party Members will want to have a say in who becomes a Term Senator. I can foresee wise party leaders delegating this responsibility internally to make for greater political involvement of party members.
The final question must be over the role of the Queen and whether having a fully elected Second Chamber could be perceived to undermine the Monarchy. However by preserving the right of Peers to Speak without notice, we enshrine the right of the Monarch to attend the Senate, which would allow the Queen’s Speech to not only continue but to give additional protection for the future.
This is just one model amongst many that are proposed. This particular suggestion clearly has its pluses and minuses. House of Lords reform is back on the Westminster Agenda and the Conservatives need to be prepared to seize the initiative on this subject.
January 30th Conservative Policy Forum - Alternative Vote
January 23rd Downing St Gate - House of Lords Reform - Gerry Adam's Resignation - Local Initiatives
January 16th Climate Change - Conservatives for AV - Alternative Vote - Manifesto Planning
January 9th Inefficient Post, Rudeness or Incompetence? Update - European Union - How did we end up in the Euro debt union? - Climate Change
January 2nd 2011 ***Happy New Year*** - House of Lords - Dear John Reid
The forthcoming referendum on the Alternative Vote is a critical constitutional moment for our country – the first time in British national history that voters can shape how their preferences are counted. It will provide an opportunity for everyone, regardless of their party, to make a positive change in rebuilding some of the legitimacy of Parliament and in restoring credibility to the political system in the UK. AV is not perfect – no voting system is – but it is the only reform option currently on the table that promises to modernise the way politics is conducted in the UK. We believe that there are four compelling reasons to support this change
First, AV would guarantee that most MPs enjoyed support from a majority of their local voters. Under First Past the Post more than two thirds of MPs do not have such support. This shift would greatly enhance the legitimacy and status of MPs at large, and it would make them listen much more keenly to what all their local voters want – going beyond the bounds of a single party’s supporters.
Second, AV would allow all voters to express their preferences sincerely. At present millions of voters engage in tactical voting, supporting a candidate or party whom they like less in order to avoid ‘wasting’ their vote. AV lets voters cast a sincere first preference vote for the party they rank first, however large or small it is, and then use a second or later preference to help decide the constituency outcome.
Third, by making it easier for small parties to demonstrate that they can attract support, AV will increase competition in British political life, both locally for each MP, and nationally for the biggest political parties. More vigorous and effective competition will improve the quality of representation and of the UK’s democratic process.
Fourth, AV will allow British voters to make decisions about what kind of government they want to see – a single party government that draws on very widespread support across the country, or a coalition government formed by two or more parties where there is no strong winner. Unlike PR, coalitions are not made inevitable by this change of voting system. Unlike the current system, a majority government will have to focus on gaining majority support in more than half the constituencies of the country
Professor David Held – London School of Economics
Professor Patrick Dunleavy – London School of Economics
Professor Helen Margetts – Oxford University
The House of Lords has a well-deserved reputation as a revising chamber, but that is partly because of the poor scrutiny of legislation arising in the Commons. However, in his book “Parliament under Blair”, Peter Riddell summed up the problem:
Gerry Adams resigns from the House of CommonsHere’s the relevant legislation – House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 as amended and in force today within the United Kingdom.
By taking an office of profit under the Crown
A Member wishing to resign applies to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for one of the offices, which he or she retains until the Chancellor appoints another applicant or until the holder applies for release from it. (Every new warrant issued revokes the previous holder). It is usual to grant the offices alternately; as this enables two Members to retire at precisely the same time. Indeed, on 17 December 1985, fifteen Ulster Unionist MPs resigned on the same day.
Upon receipt of a Member’s application for the Chiltern Hundreds, a warrant of appointment is signed (in the presence of a witness) by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since 1850, these have been registered and retained in the Treasury. On the day the warrant is signed a letter is sent to the Member, omitting the letters MP after his name, to inform him that he has been appointed to the office. Letters of notification are also sent at the same time to the offices of the Speaker and the Government and opposition whips. As soon as practical, the appointment is noted in the London Gazette. It is also the practice for the Treasury to issue a brief press notice. The disqualification of a Member because of his new office is recorded in Votes and Proceedings although there are no proceedings in the house and it is not recorded in the Official Report.
If a Stewardship is granted during a recess, the new writ for a by-election cannot be issued until the House meets again. If it is granted during the session, the party’s whip is free to move for a new writ immediately after the Chancellor of the Exchequer has signed the warrant of appointment (see also Factsheet M7 Parliamentary Elections).
It looks like the Stewardship due up next is the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.
Purely representative democracy was a product of its time. When, in 1774, Edmund Burke lectured the Electors of Bristol about not sacrificing his judgment to their opinion, it could take more than a week to travel by coach from Bristol to London. And, even in 1774, the Electors of Bristol were unimpressed: they turfed Burke out at the next election.
Opponents of referendums sometimes argue that they empower a prejudiced, ignorant and fickle public. This, of course, is an argument against democracy itself; and, in any case, it’s not true. To take one example, those US states which make use of citizens’ initiative procedures are less likely to have reintroduced the death penalty than those which don’t, and the only direct referendum on the issue, in Ireland, resulted in abolition. Switzerland, which makes more use of referendums than any state in Europe, has evolved a commensurately involved and educated electorate. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has put it, “A nation does not have to be judged fit for democracy; it becomes fit through democracy”.
As for where to start, how about here?
Help spread this important message:Campaign to Repeal Climate Change Act 2008 We are an all-party and non-party campaign We want the Climate Change Act 2008 to be repealed because it is based on flawed science. Stop the Emissions Trading Scheme, because it is pointless and expensive costing the taxpayer £18.3 billion per year for the next 40 years. Carbon taxes will cause the export of British jobs to countries without carbon taxes. Stop carbon taxes, because they will increase the price of food, clothes and travel. Stop carbon taxes, because they will increase the average energy bill by £880 a year. Stop wind farms. Please ACT NOW and write to your MP and SAY REPEAL THE ACT! Change is what the climate does. We support adaptation to climate warming and cooling and not the mitigation of CO2. There is NO scientific evidence for dangerous human-caused global warming. There is NO scientific evidence that CO2 in the atmosphere causes extreme weather events. The 2008 Climate Change Act commits Britain, uniquely in the world, to cutting its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, at a cost of up to £18.3 billion every year for the next four decades. In cash terms this amounts to £734 billion, making it far and away the most costly law ever put through Parliament. It will equate to more than £880 a year for every household in the land, as we pay for thousands more useless windmills and fast-rising carbon taxes, soaring electricity bills, and other draconian carbon reduction regulatory costs. When there is no scientific evidence for dangerous human-caused global warming. The Climate Change Act will wreck the economic recovery by causing the export of British jobs to countries without carbon taxes, cause fuel poverty for over 5 million British citizens, raise the cost of food, clothes, travel and continue to trash our landscape with wind farms. In short it will mean endless misery for no reason whatsoever. Furthermore, the Climate Change Act’s supporters, could not begin to explain how that 80 per cent target is to be attained without closing down virtually the entire British economy. The fact is our politicians have committed a catastrophic policy blunder! This is not a party political issue, Repeal the Act! is an all-party and non-party campaign, we are truly fighting in the national interest to secure Britain’s economic future. Please spread this message, invite your Facebook friends to join us and write to your MP on ‘Investigate the Met Office’ and ‘Repeal the Act’, if you have not done so already. JOIN US
In our recent polls the remaining Liberal Democrat supporters say they would prefer a Conservative government to a Labour one by 51% to 16%. This is not a reflection of shifting Liberal Democrat opinion, rather it is that many Labour-sympathising Liberal Democrats have deserted the party. Regardless of the reasons though, it suggests that if AV were to be introduced, the remaining Liberal Democrat voters would tend to give their second preferences to the Conservative party. AV may in fact end up helping the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives rather than Labour.
Good news about manifesto planning for the next election
It's clearly important that the Party has its own policy-making programme up and running well before the next election - and that it isn't merged by stealth with that of the Liberal Democrats. (The Downing Street Policy Unit can make policy only for the Coalition, not the Party.)
This is why I wrote recently that Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee Chairman, should issue David Cameron an ultimatum next summer if Downing Street has, by then, made no move to form party policy for the next election.
Today, there's encouraging news to report.
Oliver Letwin has written a letter to all MPs headed: "Conservative Party policy development". Its main points are -
- A Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) programme will be launched on January 27.
- Five CPF policy groups will be formed. MPs will be able to sit on these groups.
- These will mirror the five policy groups set up by the 1922 Committee (which cover the economy, home affairs, foreign affairs, the public services and the environment). "We are working with Graham Brady to ensure that these complement the work of the 1922 Committee."
- A group of MPs will form a "drafting group", "pulling together all the identified challenges into a final policy document".
- Robert Halfon will be an "MP representative on the CPF Council".
- The Party is "keen to identify an MP in each region to help coordinate and drive forward the setting up of constituency-based CPF groups".
- Looks back to the policy-making process during the last Parliament.
- Claims that "in the course of the coalition negotiations, most of our Opposition programme was maintained".
- Adds that "we found that a combination of our parties’ best ideas and attitudes produced a programme for government that was even more radical and comprehensive than our separate manifestos".
- What will be the state of Britain in 2015 and 2020?
- How will the government’s current structural reform programme change Britain – and what new challenges will emerge as a result of that change?
- What are the likely economic, social, security and environmental pressures which we will face in 2015 and 2020?
- rise to the challenge of an ageing population and other demographic changes;
- keep our nation and citizens safe amidst the new security challenges at home and overseas;
- make the most of changes in technology and innovation, and support enterprise;
- ensure we have an adequate skills base to meet the future demands of the market;
- respond to increasing pressures on our natural resources and changes to our global climate;
- meet the economic challenges and opportunities of emerging economies;
- ensure policy takes account of geographical differences in our nation;
- strengthen the family, help the vulnerable and poor in our society, and tackle the causes of poverty; and,
- support ‘big citizens’ and the ‘Big Society’?
- The list of key questions is extremely thin. There's nothing substantial about constitutional issues, for example.
- The Coalition isn't more "radical and comprehensive" than the Conservative manifesto, and this claim suggests that governing with the Liberal Democrats is better than governing alone.
- It isn't clear to what degree, if at all, Conservative Cabinet members and other Ministers will be involved in this process. I gather that this will vary from Department to Department: that if the Minister in question's enthusiastic about it, he'll consult with the groups and see their papers - but that if he isn't, he won't.
- It's not evident what status the final document will have, or how it will be considered when the manifesto's written.
- How CPC members of the five groups will be selected isn't set out.
- How local CPC groups will relate to the five groups isn't established.
Last updated at 1:00 PM on 9th January 2011
Chancellor Norman Lamont’s young and ambitious Parliamentary Private Secretary came and sat with us to try to persuade us to vote for the treaty. We refused. He looked stunned that two ambitious young MPs would throw away their ministerial careers in such a way.
Today’s Commons contains one of the largest intakes of new Conservative MPs in history. They now face the same pressures we faced then. The young man who approached me in the tea room, William Hague, is now Foreign Secretary.
If there was one thing which David Cameron used in order to persuade a lot of Tory MPs to vote for him as party leader in 2005, it was that he was serious about the issue of parliamentary sovereignty. The sovereignty of Parliament is the foundation principle of the United Kingdom’s democratic constitution.
But some of our judges openly question this. One, Lord Hope (Deputy President of the Supreme Court, no less) said that ‘parliamentary sovereignty is no longer . . . absolute’. He added that ‘step by step’ it ‘is being qualified’.
In his view, it is now the ‘rule of law enforced by the courts’ that is ‘the ultimate controlling factor on which our constitution is based’.
The sovereignty of Parliament is not merely some arcane matter of dusty constitutional curiosity. It is the very root of British democracy and affects the daily lives of every citizen. It should be the duty of MPs to protect it on behalf of our voters and for future generations.
Parliamentary sovereignty means that the last word in determining matters of public policy lies with Parliament. A threat to parliamentary sovereignty is a threat to democracy itself.
Parliament is an elected body. There is a chronic democratic deficit in the European Union, and no one elects judges in this country.
Nor should they be elected: judges are appointed to determine questions of law, not to govern us politically. This, constitutionally, is what makes Britain a democracy.
Before the Election, David Cameron promised a Sovereignty Bill. In his speech entitled Giving Power Back To The People he said: ‘As we have no written constitution . . . we have no explicit legal guarantee that the last word on our laws stays in Britain . . . so, as well as making sure that further power cannot be handed to the EU without a referendum, we will also introduce a new law, in the form of a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill, to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament.’
Later, he promised ‘to strengthen the place of Parliament at the heart of our democracy’ and that he would make sure that ‘Britain’s laws can no longer be decided by unaccountable judges’.
But, instead of a Sovereignty Bill, on Tuesday, MPs will be asked to pass Clause 18 of the EU Bill. Ministers claim that this will deliver the Prime Minister’s pledge to protect our sovereignty.
It will do nothing of the sort. Parliamentary supremacy, or sovereignty, or primacy doesn’t feature in it. As currently drafted, it is so feeble it would effectively hand over control of parliamentary sovereignty to unelected judges.
To make matters worse, the Government has explained parliamentary sovereignty as a ‘common law principle’. This is just rubbish. Parliament claimed sovereignty when it cut off the head of Charles I.
The Government is playing into the hands of the judges. The common law is judge-made law. The judges are its authors and its guardians. They may change it whenever they see fit.
Professor Adam Tomkins, of Glasgow University, the legal adviser to the House of Lords Constitutional Affairs Committee, has warned that Clause 18 could actually promote judicial meddling in parliamentary sovereignty. He calls it ‘the proverbial red rag to the bull’.
This is why some of us are asking other Conservative MPs, particularly newly elected ones, to vote for crucial amendments to affirm parliamentary sovereignty. We are asking them: How much can each of us afford to renege personally on the promises made to constituents and to Conservative activists? Does integrity matter?
Before the Election, David Cameron, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, said: ‘Country before party. I say to MPs, when you get into Parliament you must vote according to your conscience and then your view of the national interest and your view of your constituents’ interests and then your party.’
Needless to say, debate on the EU Bill is being severely limited by the Government. It is no coincidence that Clause 18 is being debated on Tuesday, the day after the House resumes after the Christmas break, so there is as little time for discussion as possible and as few MPs as possible will be present.
New MPs will be threatened, cajoled, promised preferment and the rest. They will be assailed by whips, wooed by senior Ministers in the tea room, just as I was when I was a new boy, and promotion will be dangled in front of them. In this way, the Government hopes to contain the rebellion. But does there not come a point at which the Conservative Party must finally make itself felt in this Coalition?
It is tragic that a Conservative Prime Minister should be willing to place parliamentary sovereignty in such danger.
The EU Bill may have been designed to look ‘Euro-sceptic’. But close scrutiny shows that it is the opposite. It is a policy deliberately devised to promote Liberal Democrat ideology – part of the disastrous constitutional revolution which is under way.
The Liberal Democrats have never defended parliamentary sovereignty. They want to destroy it.
They seek not only a federal Europe but also a written constitution for the United Kingdom.
This would be a legal document, enforceable by the courts, destroying parliamentary sovereignty and replacing it with rule by judges.
If Mr Cameron and Mr Hague have the national interest at heart, they will not let this constitutional outrage occur.
How did we end up in the Euro debt union?
Like me, perhaps you were a little miffed to discover that non-Euro member Britain turns out to be liable for Euro zone debts. Despite keeping out of the currency union, we’ve somehow got ensnared in the Euro debt union.
How did this happen?
The key deal, making the UK liable for the Stabilisation Mechanism, was done in May last year, after the old Parliament was dissolved, but before the new one got going.
Out-going Chancellor, Alistair Darling, negotiated the deal on May 9th, during the General Election.
But there is more to it than that.
Convention means government cannot embark on new policy between Parliaments. And indeed, we know that Mr Darling consulted George Osborne before he went ahead and signed Britain up.
So, what did those Darling consulted have to say about the deal? A firm “no”, perhaps, on the basis that we had to deal with the deficit ahead of bailing out the Euro? Or did they nod along with established Treasury policy?
According to the reply I’ve just got from an FoI request, “the parties did cooperate with one another”. And “with senior civil servants” too. Although they won't tell us what approval was actually given.
Seeing how Parliament had not approved the deal, incoming ministers must have known that they could have quashed the whole Darling deal, had they sought to.
It sounds to me that they won’t let us read what incoming Coalition ministers actually said because they fear it might just look a bit embarrassing – or in Sir Humphrey-speak “the context here deserves special consideration”.
We keep being told that Britain will only face massive Euro bailout liabilities until 2013. But if ministers had been a little savvier on day one, we’d not be liable for the debt crashes about to happen in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland in 2011 and 2012.
If I am wrong, ministers should publish details of the advice that they were given and the instructions that they gave.
***Happy New Year***
Dear John Reid…Dear John Reid,
I only ask because they are both called the Alternative Vote and I haven’t noticed you complaining about Ed Miliband’s election as leader being unfair or therefore calling for your colleagues to oust him.
By the way, a little tip about Fiji, which I notice you and colleagues have become keen on quoting. It’s a military dictatorship and, you know, if you go round citing its dislike of the alternative vote as a reason to oppose it, it might just sound to someone that you are admiring the political judgement of a military dictatorship. I know Labour got a bit authoritarian under Tony Blair, but even so…