Direct Democracy - power to the people
Yesterday, Douglas Carswell MP and Dan Hannnan MEP launched a movement to push for localism, direct elections, referenda and the decentralisation of power. They want it to be a mass movement that will put pressure on all the political parties.
His Grace is delighted to support Direct Democracy, not least because it coheres with the essentially Protestant notion of bottom-up accountability. Mssrs Carswell and Hannan are Whigs concerned with liberty, and this has a quite distinct theological lineage, not only from sin and the power of evil, but also in the Calvinist understanding of church governance – liberty from Romish and Tory hierarchies. According to Burke, 'To preserve that liberty inviolate, is the peculiar duty and proper trust of a member of the House of Commons’.
As laid out in the localist papers, Direct Democracy, and The Plan, Direct Democracy promotes the idea of localism and participatory democracy within the United Kingdom.
On their website, they announce the first steps in renewing Britain would be the following:
•Scrapping all MPs’ expenses except those relating to running an office and travel from the constituency
•Selecting candidates through open primaries
•Local and national referendums
•“People’s Bills”, to be placed before Parliament if they attract a certain number of signatures
•Placing the police under locally elected Sheriffs, who would also set local sentencing guidelines
•Appointing heads of quangos, senior judges and ambassadors through open hearings rather than prime ministerial patronage
•Devolving to English counties and cities all the powers which were devolved to Edinburgh under the 1998 Scotland Act
•Placing social security, too, under local authorities
•Making councils self-financing by scrapping VAT and replacing it with a Local Sales Tax
•Allowing people to pay their contributions into personal healthcare accounts, with a mandatory insurance component
•Letting parents opt out of their Local Education Authority, carrying to any school the financial allocation that would have been spent on their child
•Replacing EU membership with a Swiss-style bilateral free trade accord
•Requiring all foreign treaties to be ratified by Parliament
•Scrapping the Human Rights Act withdrawing from the ECHR and guaranteeing parliamentary legislation against judicial activism
•A “Great Repeal Bill” to annul unnecessary and burdensome laws
'By allowing more say in the governance of their own country and their own community, citizens would be empowered to make the decisions important to their own lives. And by creating more accountability, the sitting parliament and the government would be required to act responsibly and in the best interests of their citizens.'
They desire to restore power to the individual, and, where this is impractical, to the lowest feasible level of government. This is the subsidiarity principle which is supposed to be at the heart of the functioning of the EU, but which has never been exercised. There was a hope that David Cameron would begin a process of repatriation, but... well, there you go.
There is already broad agreement across the parties that power rests with ‘the lowest feasible level of government’; the problem is that not everyone agrees what this level should be. Even as David Cameron talked of restoring authority to local councils, he simultaneously announced the restoration of weekly refuse collection and capped council tax for two years. He talked of scrapping the Human Rights Act, but has decided on a commission of enquiry instead. He talked of a wholesale shift in power ‘from the state to the citizen, from Whitehall to elected councillors, from Brussels to Westminster’.
He has five years.
After that, Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan might just have their day.