Sunday, May 09, 2010

Are the Liberal Democrats the most democratic party in the UK?

It is interesting to compare the approaches of David Cameron and Nick Clegg in their political manoeuvres as they attempt to forge a formal or informal coalition to govern.

Under the Liberal Democrat Party rules, three quarters of all their MPs have to agree the details of any coalition deal before it can proceed.

There is no such constraint upon David Cameron.

Nick Clegg also has to get agreement of his ruling federal executive body.

David Cameron is not bound even to consult with the Board of the Conservative Party.

If Mr Clegg fails to get the backing of his federal executive, he will have to call an emergency conference of senior activists.

There is no requirement at all upon David Cameron to acquire the backing of the National Convention.

The Liberal Democrat leader is constrained by his party's ‘triple lock’ rule. Under the system he must secure the approval of MPs and the executive before making any decision that could compromise the independence of the party. If he fails to garner 75 per cent support from either, he would then have to call a separate conference in which he would need the support of two thirds of delegates. Failing that a postal ballot of all members would take place.

While David Cameron will doubtless consult with his MPs and Peers, he does not need their formal approval before he makes any decision. There is no part of the Conservative Party’s functioning which requires any matter to be put to a ballot of all members, save the appointment of a new leader. And it was the instinct of the present Conservative leadership to deprive Party members even of that.

In short, as a result of the Hague reforms of 2001 which gave Tories their first written constitution, the Conservative Party is in the hands of David Cameron to do with as he pleases. If MPs object, they can be deselected; if candidates resile, they cease to be ‘approved’; if the volunteer membership of turnip taliban, dinosaurs and backwoodsmen dare to utter a syllable of dissent, they can be completely ignored for they have no role at all, save to host occasional bridge evenings and hold the odd fund-raising barbeque.

Perhaps the Liberal Democrats can help guide the Conservative Party towards greater internal democracy.

21 Comments:

Blogger Jared Gaites said...

And there again, pigs might fly!

9 May 2010 at 10:51  
Anonymous philip walling said...

Whilst I have the greatest admiration for Your Grace's elegant elucidation and trenchant treatises, this latest is with my usual excess of respect, hogwash.

Quot homines tot sententiae!

To be governed by the compromises of a committee - even as big as the Lib-Dem membership - is not to be governed at all.
We do not need endless consultation with people who may or may not have a clue what they're talking about: we need leadership, vision, integrity and decision, and that can only come by raising up a leader with those qualities.
A leader knows the views of his followers almost by instinct, he takes them into account but he doesn't have to follow them, otherwise he wouldn't be a leader.
Clegg's powerlessness to decide anything without getting the approval of his followers presages what would happen with most forms of PR and makes it clear just how emasculated the Lib-Dem leader is.

When your boat is sinking fast the last thing you want is every Tom Dick and Harry chipping in with his three penn'orth; you want a man who knows what to do and gets it done.

9 May 2010 at 11:01  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Your Grace, Neu Arbeit was a trainwreck. Cameron was simply another trainwreck looking for somewhere to happen. The problem is, Cameron's choo-choo turned out to be carrying a cargo of LimpDim petrol.

9 May 2010 at 11:08  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Your Grace, I for one am glad I voted the way I did. If I had voted conservative then, I would not have been voting for a con/lib coalition. Prey tell, what are we going to give away, aside from the sacred cow of PR?

Here are a few guesses:

1. Kiss good bye to the EU treaty "lock" which was proposed by Cameron. Say hello to slavishly following the EU in whatever it does (which at present is about creating an EU "IMF", thus more taxpayers money down the drain).

2. Loss of control of our borders and an amnesty of illegal immigrants, who will now take any and all benefits they can get their hands on.

3. Defence-with the lib dems in charge our defence forces will further be downgraded, so we only have the catering corps left, whilst further troops die in battle.

4.Economy - with Vince in charge the poo is going to hit the fan and we shall soon be living off bake beans (cold, as we won't have any gas, when Russia cuts off the supply because we have gone along with the EU, who have stolen what's left of our energy resources). See taxes rise to an unsustainable level.

True, Cameron does not have to consult anyone with these talks, which may make it look like he is all powerful in the party. However, if there is no democratic mechanism to vent frustration, the only alternative is revolt.

So watch out Cameron, real conservatives are going to watch you like a hawk, you are not a tyrant and we are not a mass of servile hordes ready to respond unthinkingly to our master's whim.

9 May 2010 at 11:27  
Anonymous Mr Katana Sword said...

Lord Lavendon, you should be loyal to the conservative party and to Cameron, whose brilliant policies have helped us make the biggest gains ever. The alliance with the liberals is perfectly natural- what do you want an alliance with the tories? Our place is in Europe and hopefully the liberals will enable this to happen, to provide cover for cameron against his own loony right, which you and others are a part of here on this site!

9 May 2010 at 11:45  
Anonymous graham Wood said...

As for any main political party, the question in your header can only be answered in relation to the abiding presence of the Elephant in the Room.
No British mainstream party is even remotely "democratic" whilst under subservience to an undemocratic institution such as the EU.
If a party cannot vote into power a government which is solely authorised and responsible for the making of law, but transfers it to an unelected, unelectable and unaccountable body, then by definition it is not democratic.
The Lib Dim's internal procedures may be more democratic, but they remain just that - internal.

It happens that the LibDems are the most pro EU integration political party in the UK today and therefore in favour of a system of EU governance which does not even profess to hold to democracy in any shape or form.
Indeed, pro EU integrationists speak of politics in the POST DEMOCRATIC era.
I leave aside the Lib Dems hankering to abolish Sterling. place the UK gi

9 May 2010 at 12:45  
Anonymous tally said...

I believe the lib/dems have been democratic in scotland and wales but quite the opposite in England.
Many of them have led the "there is no England" brigade and harrassed English flag wavers or people expressing their English identity. There was a big fight in the north east between a lib/dem chris foote wood who hated the English flag and refused to fly it from Derwent Council offices in favour of the eu rag. If any deal Cameron does with Cleggy involves the imposition of regions on England instead of an English Parliament there will be trouble t mill.

9 May 2010 at 12:50  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Your Grace, I would dub the Clegg/Cameron leftist deal as "Con-Dem" politics.....

9 May 2010 at 12:52  
Blogger Iain Coleman said...

Philip Walling:

An admirably concise expression of the Fuehrerprinzip. Well done.

9 May 2010 at 13:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are huge problems with PR not just as regards accountability, strong governments (and real Oppositions!) and the movement of power away from people and towards party apparatuses. The main problem is while it produces Parliaments which are superficially fairer, the fact is that unpopular parties get an entirely *disproportionate* and unfair share of power.

I strongly urge you to check out this simple New Scientist diagram, which exposes the problem very well: http://tinyurl.com/33k9rpp

So sure, "PR" gives you a Parliament which more closely reflects the popular vote in party terms. But does it result in Parliaments where all the parties actually have a fair and proportional share of power? No.

The problems with AV are even worse. You end up with the most worthless votes giving victory to the most dull, middling and uninspired candidates. Churchill wouldn't have it and neither would I.

My personal feeling is that we should have a kind of supplementary system, with the parties being given a number supplementary representatives to top-them up to their share of the popular vote. These representatives, however, would sit not in the Commons but in the Lords (as Senators, or whatever, and only until the next GE) alongside the life peers, where they would have the opportunity to hold government to account, amend and propose legislation (possibly also sit on Commons select committees) and generally give a voice to those who voted for their parties while not upsetting the balance of power in the Lower House and landing us with MPs with different sorts of mandates and the sort of horse-trading coalition nonsense we are seeing right now ever single election.

Ideally who these supplementary members should be would be determined by open, national lists, so as to keep power in the hands of electors rather than party apparatuses. Possibly these could even be cross-party free lists as in Switzerland, with electors being given several sheets at the ballot box.

Thoughts?

9 May 2010 at 13:03  
OpenID tonybutcher said...

Why a Lib/Lab Pact could be Policitcal Suicide http://wp.me/sRHY4-41

9 May 2010 at 13:19  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

The internal procedures of the Lib-Dems are far more democratic than the procedures of the Conservative Party.

Yet the Lib-Dems as a collective revel in the anti-democratic illegitimacy of the fascist EU.

The Conservatives, compared to the Lib-Dems have only one internal procedure: Mr David Cameron and are the same as the Lib-Dems when it comes to the EU.

There is one fundamenatl feature of the British approach to democcracy that we are forgetting under the Left-liberal hegemony: the Left-liberals believe that democracy is about achieving 'equality'; the conservative believes that democracy is about procedure to check and if necessary to eject the 'dicatator'.

9 May 2010 at 13:22  
OpenID yokel said...

Let the Tory Party implode with faction fighting. It has proven itself beyond any doubt to be "unfit for purpose" and deserves to disappear into history, just like the Whigs.

We are at the start of some very "interesting times" and need at least one party that will concentrate on preserving our nation, rather than giving it away.

9 May 2010 at 13:26  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Mr D.Singh is correct- today the British taxpayer is having to contribute to the bill of bailing out the single currency. Even though we are not in it. Thanks to Lisbon and the cast iron guarentee we can do naught about it.

9 May 2010 at 13:28  
Anonymous PJ said...

Wasn't it His Grace who desribed them as the "illiberal UNdemocrats"? When it comes to Europe the Lib Dems seem way more democratic offering a referdum.

9 May 2010 at 13:47  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Governance should be about the fine balance between autocratic and democratic.

Benevolent autocracies can be some of the most successful of societies. They can have high levels of personal freedom, with morality and society having a greater control over people than the Government. The difficulty is who the autocrat is. In this country we've had the 'Hammer of the Scots' but we've also had John 'Lackland'; we've had Henry VII, but we've also had Henry VIII. The success of autocracies depends solely on the ability of one person.

Democracy, on the other hand, says that decent autocrats are few and far between; having many people running the country means that those who are able make up for those who are incompetent.

Relying totally on autocracy can result in a form of despotism where personal freedoms are removed to protect the leadership of the 'enlightened' few. Relying on absolute democracy leads to mob rule. People's popular opinion is followed, even when it is far from what is best for the country and its society. One of the biggest mistakes America has made in modern times is the assumption that democracy can be instilled on a country where a benevolent form of autocracy is more suitable. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are just some of the examples where democracy cannot work yet.

Democracy should not be about regulation. Sometimes in politics we have to settle for a checks and balances approach. The Conservative approach is that if Mr. Cameron gets out of line, then the party rebels; otherwise, we can rely on quick and decisive leadership. His disdain of the core vote was reflected in the election result, so he doesn't need to be constrained by regulation to be shown the light.

The regulation of democracy (Liberal Democrat style) is what has led us into the society we're in now. We don't need more of it.

9 May 2010 at 16:29  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Mr. Katana Sword....I fear for your sanity...or might it be that you are a mere mischief-maker? The scent of 'rat' predominates!

You are certainly no Tory.

9 May 2010 at 17:19  
Anonymous no nonny said...

Mr. Katana Sword- You attack us in the name of a foreign weapon, and then proclaim, "Our place is in Europe." No it is not.

At best, you've mis-taken the Bard's Celtic king, and:
G[o]t thee glass eyes,
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. (4.6.165-174)

9 May 2010 at 21:05  
Blogger Preacher said...

I find the whole idea of a Con/Lib coalition untenable. For a start the two are diametricaly opposed, secondly the electorate of this Country did not vote for a power sharing government. The Lib Dems LOST seats yet find themselves courted by the Tories & Labour as of they had something valuable to offer. They strut their stuff in an arrogant way like some old painted harridan, full of vile disease while the leaders of the two other parties pant after her offering the future of our country for the old tarts affections. For shame gentlemen, have you no honour, dignity or scruples left in the mad plunge for power?.
Mr Cameron, you won the most votes, reject outright the siren song of the rejects.
Mr Brown leave No10 with a grace that will at least leave you with some credibility.
David Cameron should show the strength of conscience & will that he lacked in the run up to this election, be Iron Dave, man of principle, this country needs a leader like that. Run the country with a small majority if thats the only alternative to dishonour. If another election is necessary you will be streets ahead of the others, talk to UKIP as His Grace suggested, then & only then will we the populace of this country be on the road to recovery.
"He either fears his fate too much, or his desserts are small, who dares not put it to the touch to win or lose it all".
James Graham - Marquis of Montrose.

9 May 2010 at 22:07  
Anonymous no nonny said...

But, Your Grace - surely both rely on the back-room deal to cut it?

Both Parties are as irrelevant as the electorate if their leaders fail to disclose the truth of their discussions. And have we not seen our politicians do that time and again, ever since they rooted their allegiance in the euSSR? If we need changes to the neu-fangled 'system' surely we should start here. How can we require disclosure of everything they say to one another?

I've wondered about Kent's last words in the play -

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no. (5.3.323/4)

The answer grows clearer! He became Edmund's ally (that's why they meet in the first scene). They both had worked to bring the froggish army to Dover under Cordelia - and make it appear not to be an invasion. Together Kent and (un)natural Gloucester destroyed the King and all his children. (Thanks Len, for your video, a strand or 2 back!)

Oh, dangerous it is!!!

9 May 2010 at 23:22  
Anonymous too nonny said...

but.... that view probably is unfair to the real Kent. Especially if his heart did break.

10 May 2010 at 10:16  

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