Monday, February 08, 2010

David Cameron promises direct democracy - Power to the People!

This is very brave indeed, but undeniable and irrefutable evidence of David Cameron's democratic credentials

From Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard:

David Cameron has unveiled plans to ensure that any petition of 100,000 people would be eligible for debate in Parliament. Any petition with 1 million signatures would result in a bill being tabled in Parliament.

Sounds like innovative, direct democracy.

But what if the public back issues that are either distinctly un-Cameroonian or potentially divisive for a Tory government?

There is the return of capital punishment (surely that would easily get a million signatures?), but also a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Sun's own referendum got 100,000 votes as I recall.

Heck, this could even be a UKIP wet dream. Imagine a simple "In or Out of Europe" referendum bill. Despite Mr Cameron's enthusiasm for more 'power to the people' today, the party business managers may suddenly find that there is not a lot of Parliamentary time for such a troublesome item.

Even with a three-line whip to vote against, many Tory backbenchers (and a few Labour MPs) would be tempted to back such a bill.

EU Referendum and Capital Punishment aside (though the latter could not happen unless the former preceded it and resulted in an 'out' vote), it strikes Cranmer this that is a petard by which Mr Cameron may be hoist throughout his entire term in office, for every Government Bill may be challenged with an equal and opposite Bill: Labour and the LibDems would easily be able to muster a million supporters to confront and counter any Conservative proposal. Of course, the tabling of a Bill does not mean that it would become an Act of Parliament, but where is the Parliamentary time going to be found to draft all these Bills and give them a First Reading, steer them through Committee Stage, give them a Second Reading, etc, etc.

It is an opportunity to filibuster and entire system of government.

On the face of it, the proposal is a God-send for democrats, but it is a Parliamentary nightmare which could undermine centuries of evolution of our system of representative democracy (if it is not already fatally undermined). What if a million votes were found for a David Cameron Must Resign Bill after he had irritated and alienated about 30 of his own backbenchers?

Does not this proposal effectively give the people the right to demand a vote of no confidence?

Or what about a We Want an Immediate Dissolution of Parliament Bill?

Or an Abolish the Monarchy Bill?

The last example would be interesting, insofar as there would be a Bill before Parliament the very debating of which would cause every MP to contravene their Oath of Allegiance. It is not clear at all what would happen to Bills which would contravene EU law which is superior to national law.

So what Bills can we look forward to?

An in/out EU Referendum Bill

A Capital Punishment Re-introduction Bill

An Immediate Cessation of Immigration Bill

A Scotland Indepedence Bill (with a very easy million signatures)

A United Ireland Bill (again, with a very easy million signatures from Northern Ireland's nationalist community)

A Ban the Pope's State Visit Bill

A Ban on Mosque-building Bill

There may be more than a little regret that this particular Pandora's Box had ever been opened.


Blogger Kenpachi said...

It'll never happen.

8 February 2010 at 13:54  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Since Cameron likes passing off low grade tin foil as cast iron I suggest he makes a suitable hat to keep warding off those abominable common sense pixies...

8 February 2010 at 14:05  
Anonymous William Blakes Ghost said...

Clearly there will be limitations to it and certain topics will be out of bounds. My guess is they may exclude all constitutional matters.

However, I cannot think of anything more beneficial to a particular cause such as Euroscepticism than imposing such restrictions protecting the sanctity of something so unpopular as the EU when others can be addressed without any problem at all.

8 February 2010 at 14:13  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Your Grace, will millions unemployed and the like, perhaps Cameron needs to focus his energies elsewhere. I am not sure he will win if he keeps going on like this. Can we have a clear statement of principal from this man, rather than half-baked ideas thought out in trendy Notting Hill.

BTW- my vote is up for grabs. Having thought about it, I am not going to put a cross next to the conservative candidate, as I have done so in the past. I adhere to the old conservative party and am by nature conservative. But which parties best describes these features? Certainly not 'Dave's' party.....

8 February 2010 at 14:16  
Blogger English Viking said...

All well and good, until one remembers that Cameron is an inveterate liar.

His guarantees aren't worth the toilet paper they are written on.

8 February 2010 at 14:16  
Blogger I am Stan said...

Yo Your Grace!

Sounds like populist nonsense to me,the opertunities for mischief and time/money wasting are endless.

The Tories really are idiotic and sound desperate,its the sort of thing Gordoom would come out with before it disappeared into the ether due to it being unworkable...what a mess!

8 February 2010 at 14:17  
Anonymous not a machine said...

I think its a first stage knee jerk reaction to how bad parliament has become under the socialist concept.

I can see there might be view that after decades of future turmoil it may settle into somthing the equilibrium brigade would call democracy , but I suspect population pressures lead to fairly definite politics .

There is also a danger that we accept how the internet revelution has changed us and move away from civil society being owned and run by people for people , and some sort of computer controlled , people monitor slips in , further diluting that what it means to be human is relational to each other and not supremmed by a communist type speaker/video prompt telling you what to do each day as it has deemed your optimal organisation .

socialism is very dangerous indeed in its completion, but its champagne elites wouldnt want you to think that .

8 February 2010 at 14:28  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

The argument that "it might get used frivolously" is idiotic. There is of course the chance that democracy may be misused for 'frivolous' purposes ... but the same argument could be used for not allowing the "Monster Raving Loony Party" to put up candidates.

I actually think the opposite is true. If people see that politicians really are serious about direct democracy, frivolous things will feature less & less.

The argument against direct democracy seems to be the same argument that the EU uses ... "we know what's best for you ... trust us to decide".

God forbid that 1,000,000 people might sign a petition for the reintroduction of capital punishment, or against going to war in Iraq, or anything else "populist".

It'll never happen, for the same reason an EU referendum will never happen or turkeys voting for Christmas will never happen.

8 February 2010 at 14:36  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Trust the people.

8 February 2010 at 14:43  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr Rebel Saint,


Where is it even suggested that any of these Bills constitute a 'frivolous' use of the right to petition? They may all be or become grave issues of the utmost concern to at least a million people.

8 February 2010 at 14:44  
Blogger John.D said...

The first thing that pops into my mind is a Sharia law petition and the millions who will sign it before you could say allah akubar.

8 February 2010 at 14:51  
Anonymous Jewish Bag Lady said...

Rebel Saint and others, there is no hint that this would result in a Switzerland or California type of democracy. What they appear to propose is that these petitions get debated in Parliament, not a referendum. Therefore it is a gimmick, simple as that.

8 February 2010 at 14:54  
Blogger Demetrius said...

Old Chinese proverb "Be careful what you wish for." How easy might it be amongst secularists and those of other faiths to raise 100,000 to demand that the Cranmer web site be banned and its author sent to the stake?

8 February 2010 at 15:18  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

This is very brave indeed, but undeniable and irrefutable evidence of David Cameron's democratic credentials.

A Bill would be tabled after a million-signature referendum and Cameron would then arrange its defeat it if it wasn’t to his liking.

What’s brave about that? ‘Brave’ is going out on patrol in Afghanistan knowing it might be your last day on Earth. Cameron is sly.

8 February 2010 at 15:18  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Does the phrase 'an eye-catching initiative with which I may be personally associated' ring any bells?

(Clue: Heir to Blair)

8 February 2010 at 15:32  
Anonymous graham wood said...

Well YG. The abundance of cynical comments on this blog says all.
I must needs join 'em.
As more than one has rightly said - DC is an inveterate liar.
The revocation of his LisbonTreaty/constitution promise was a critical watershed in the breaking of the trust factor with DC and the Conservative party for the British public.
Remember, DC said:
"The final reason we must have a vote is trust"
As Kenpachi posted above: "It will never happen". I agree.
DC has had 13 long years to consider the restoration of basic Parliamentary democracy as opposed to the oligarchial rule from Brussels. Why now?

8 February 2010 at 16:10  
Blogger Tim McLoughlin said...

If this plan to put a bill before Parliament if over 1 million people signed the petition, we could have all sorts of absurd and bizarre debates on our hands. Aside from the opportunity it would give an opposition to scupper the government's plans and waste their time, think of the open goal it gives to mischief makers. This is a Monster Raving Loony manifesto pledge if ever I saw one.

8 February 2010 at 16:29  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Let’s convert the mother of parliaments into Big Mother House. No need to visit the polling station in May simply vote them in or out using the red button on your remote.

8 February 2010 at 17:41  
Anonymous no nonny said...

John D "before you could say allah akubar."

Now that could mean a lot of millions!

8 February 2010 at 18:20  
Anonymous Jewish Bag Lady said...

Graham Davies, that reminds me of the Doctor who story "Vengance on Varos" with Colin Baker. But you got to see Martin Jarvis facing the chop....

8 February 2010 at 19:56  
Blogger Perdix said...

To call Cameron a liar over Lisbon is grossly defamatory. No promise was made to have a referendum on Lisbon after ratification was completed. A post-ratification referendum would have no effect on Lisbon.I would have thought that visitors to this site would be seekers of truth, but obviously some of them are ukippers.

8 February 2010 at 20:20  
Anonymous no nonny said...

Perdix - several people on this site seem to me to have agreed: a post 'ratification' referendum would simply say "we don't accept your lies, cheating, misrepresentation, colonisation and ex-propriation of our rights."

"We authorized nobody to give us and our country away; they had no right to do so. We therefore refuse to accept your ratification."

"Feed it to the rats."

"We're off out."

8 February 2010 at 22:00  
Anonymous lenko said...

I think the key words are "eligible for" and "being tabled". This does not imply in any shape or form that such petitions will even get a minute of Parliament's time... they will just be quietly disappeared.

Or -- as another commenter so succinctly put it -- it'll never happen.

9 February 2010 at 10:08  
Blogger John R said...

Nice soundbite - completely unworkable in pratice - it'll never happen.

10 February 2010 at 12:18  

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