Wednesday 17 January 2018

How Parliament Destroyed Democracy

We know that the past was different but we often don't realise how different because we also assume that the past was pretty much like the present. Didn't I just write two things that are contradictory? Yes I did, because as Conservatives know, man is both rational and irrational, we often believe things that are contradictory. We think that Parliament operated pretty much today as it did a century or two centuries ago, but things have changed and that has changed how our Parliaments works.

The Parliament at Westminster in London is known as the mother of Parliaments, since it has given birth to all of the Parliaments in the English speaking world as well as inspiring many beyond. Parliaments make law and it is from English law that Parliaments get a most peculiar idea. English law is at heart not about showing power or about trying to find the truth, instead it is about setting two adversary's at each other. English law is a contest between competing ideas and it gives the benefit of the doubt not to the most powerful person in the court, which is normally the Government, but instead to the accused. For Parliaments the presumption of innocence is not important, for the courts it is but not for Parliament. What is important for Parliaments is that English law is a contest, it is adversarial, it is intellectual combat.

Before 1881 in Britain, Members of Parliament were not paid. Some form of English Parliament has existed since the middle 1200's, so for 600 years Parliament functioned without members being paid. Most members either did it because they were interested in politics, they were ambitious, for status or sometimes because it was expected of them. But the expense was entirely paid for by them, not by the taxpayer. Which meant that Parliamentary service was a burden, admittedly with benefits, but most members of Parliament ended up poorer, not rich for the experience. However that meant that only men with money could be a member of Parliament. The reason that changed was that the voting franchise was extended to allow all men over the age of 21 to vote. If they could vote then they were able to become members of Parliament. But how could a working man support himself in Parliament? The concern was that it would degrade the prestige of Parliament if poor men were elected, but either, could not attend or were attending in "rags" so to stop that from occurring all Parliamentarians were paid.

Money corrupts, it has certainly corrupted Politicians. Instead of being independent and therefore adversarial, now they are simply paid employees. Before the 1800's political parties as we understand them did not exist, now nearly all members of Parliament are members of political parties. It is so common we are surprised when they are not. But because so much is really decided outside of Parliament that means that the intellectual combat that is supposed to take place, does not. Sadly our members of Parliament are now simply corporate employees and like all employees they need to keep the boss happy and their boss isn't the electorate, it's the party. The Left-Liberal Party, the Right-Liberal Party, you know the Uniparty Party.

I found it surprising that before 1881 only two members of Parliament were paid and one of those was the Prime Minister. All other Ministers worked for free!

Also because members of Parliament are now professional Politicians they need to be kept busy. So they make themselves busy by passing legislation. Every year more laws, more regulations, why? Because they need to be kept busy. Bizarrely much of the work of Parliament today is busy work, not real work. In other words it doesn't need to be done but it does keep people busy. Of course the more laws the less freedom, the more regulations the less freedom. When the members of Parliament were Independents they understood this, now they don't have a clue.

Today in our Parliaments we have instead of intellectual combat, the Uniparty. Politicians who in reality support 85% of the same things as their "opponents" do. That means that instead of real debate occurring we get heated and heavy debate on issues the vast majority of us don't care about or else no debate. That is why no one raises Immigration as an issue, because that would mean real debate and we all know that is not allowed to happen. The lack of intellectual combat breeds contempt for Politicians, which breeds contempt for Parliament, which breeds contempt for Democracy. This is not going to end well.

For one idea of a solution try what form of government should Conservative support?

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1 comment:

  1. "English law is at heart not about showing power or about trying to find the truth, instead it is about setting two adversary's at each other"

    What is not specifically forbidden is allowed.