Friday, 20 February 2015

The Decline Of The Westminster System: The Fusion Of Powers

As we edge closer to the general election in May, it is rather inevitable that the polling would show a trend in decline regarding UKIP's support, which has been consistently argued by EUReferendum:
Talk of a major Ukip "revolution" at the general election looks to have been seriously overblown, says, a view based on new constituency polling released by Lord Ashcroft.

The data show that Ukip is not on course to win any of its key target seats currently held by the Conservatives. Most worrying for the party, we are told, in the poll of Boston and Skegness - where Ukip won its largest majority in last year's council elections – it has been pushed back into second place.
There are a myriad of reasons for a decline in UKIP's poll rating. As has been well documented here and elsewhere, such as Complete Bastard, is that UKIP's problems have in the main been self inflicted. There is a fundamental lack of coherence, a geographical divide in message - depending on Labour areas or Tory ones, no fully worked out policies, and u-turns in under 24 hours at the whim of the party's leader.

So-called policies which do manage to remain intact, on its website, are almost identical to the ones contained within the 2010 manifesto which Farage infamously dismissed as drivel.

Thus, with the decline in UKIP support, we can note with wry amusement that UKIP will be having their Spring Conference in Margate - where apparently we will see the launch of UKIP's manifesto. For those who may have not visited Margate recently, it would be described by estate agents euphemistically as 'tired'. Many of its attractions, like the Winter Gardens, are in need of urgent repair.

However we also consider that the UKIP has an inherent problem, which is not entirely its fault, and that is the failings of the "Westminster System" and First Past The Post. 'Winning' the Euro elections is one thing, but with the business end of a Parliament coming to its end, and a looming election, the electorate have real choices to make. Ultimately they have to make a decision on who they would like as Prime Minister. UKIP is going to face a squeeze in an electoral process that is a Presidential System by proxy.

As Tory Michael Heseltine noted on BBC's Question Time last night (04:30 mins in):
"There's only one choice Cameron and Tories and economic recovery or Miliband and Balls the people who caused the economic problems in the first place."
The Westminster System is no longer about electing MPs but electing Prime Ministers by proxy. Further confirmation comes with the forthcoming leaders' debates which we have criticised here.

Interestingly we can also look back to the 19th Century to make our case with Chartism. Chartism: A New History by Malcolm Chase is a fascinating account of a British mass movement for democratic rights in the 19th Century.

Chartism was one of the very rare moments in British history where it is legitimate to speculate how close the country came to revolution. And what is interesting is Chase's attention to detail which allows the story to come alive for those in the 21st Century. One intriguing passage was this regarding the presentation of the first petition:
The Petition was finally presented to the House of Commons on Friday 14 June 1839. Few Chartists had expected it to make a difference to parliamentary attitudes and in this respect 14 June did not disappoint. No indication was given whether MPs would formally debate it, and when Attwood and Fielden...rolled the giant [petition] into the Commons chamber it was greeted with laughter.
And Chase then describes the attempts to present the massive second petition in 1842:
[It was arranged] to bring 'the Chartist leviathan petition' direct to the Commons chamber while it was in session. But...Parliament's officials had realised the physical problem this posed. The Petition became jammed tight in the Members' Entrance. Attempts were made to dismantle...part of the door frame; but eventually the Petition had to be disassembled and taken into pieces into the Commons. Heaped up on the floor of the chamber, it dwarfed the clerks' table on which, technically, it was supposed to be placed.
One senses here the familiar futility of lobbying a system that would not listen. But those with a keen eye will notice that the Chartists' leviathan petitions, in 1839 and 1842, were delivered to Parliament. Not to Government, not to Number 10, but to Parliament - to representatives.

In stark contrast we now see petitions presented to the Prime Minister (government), and with the rise of e-petitions such process is now made official:
Alone this little detail illustrates that the people now, perhaps unconsciously, have appreciated how the power has been consolidated and fused between the government and Parliament. Bypass the monkeys - the middle men - and go straight for the organ grinder. And it's with great irony, that Chartists tried to petition representatives when they had no vote and now in the age of universal suffrage we no longer bother.

Thus if we want an effective 'people's army' and a 'revolution' we need to fundamentally change our failed parliamentary system. Demand #3 of the Harrogate Agenda is as good as place to start as any:
3. Separation of powers:
The executive shall be separated from the legislature. To that effect, prime ministers shall be elected by popular vote; they shall appoint their own ministers, with the approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of such powers as may be granted to them by the sovereign people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; no prime ministers or their ministers shall be members of parliament or any legislative assembly;


  1. UKIP and the EU are just the start. Look at what David Malone is saying about TTIP, TISA, BIT and ISDS.

    The fight is a massive one, against the rollback of democracy. If UKIP are popgun comical, the major parties are (Tory) quislings and (Labour) clueless fools. LibDems I can't say, except that I think their leader had his brain replaced at the College of Europe, where he met his future wife who also studied there. Pod people.

    Should we give up, or get involved with a less-than-perfect party that is the only one so far to advocate resistance?

  2. Interesting that you mention 'Complete Bastard' in your piece. He's a bit a of one-trick pony and seems to specialise in UKIP bashing. I tried to debate the issues with him and he told me he wasn't interested in my opinions and blocked any further comments. Hardly the reaction of a reasoned debater...

    You can read what I said to him on his blog, but as he blocked any further debate from me, I was forced to write this :

    I saw the Ashcroft poll but frankly the only poll I will take as conclusive is the one in the ballot box. I honestly don't think anyone has a clue what's going to happen but I predict that the LibDems are finished and that the SNP will make huge gains north of the border.

    As for UKIP, there seems to be a replay of 'Project Fear' from all sides to discredit them as idiots and clowns. After all, if you can't debate the issues, then the next best thing is to discredit the people putting them forward. I don't think that UKIP is doing as badly as the others would like to make out but at the same time they're not doing as well as Farage is making out either.

    Balance of power? Maybe but that is more likely to be the SNP so if you're not a Scot then God help you. A Lab/SNP coalition would be a total disaster.

    "May you live in interesting times"

  3. Do the politicians matter? Career judges , teachers and their unions , pressure groups, the newspapers,council staff -all have more direct impact on individuals.