Revisiting Democracy

I firmly believe that the utopian government would be run by a single individual who was truly wise, rooted in a love of mankind, secure in self and non-aligned to any ideology but open to all, based on merit and evidence.

Unfortunately, I have to accept the reality that, as human beings have demonstrated irrefutably, no-one is above the potential for corruption in the face of absolute power.  That utopia will have to wait.

That being the case and given that the only accepted system of government, in the West at least, is democracy, then we have to come up with a prescription for a form of that system that will better serve mankind or, at least, that portion of it that resides within the nation in question.  If it worked, then rather than exporting it by force as some have wanted to do in the recent past, an example would be set which others could follow or indeed improve upon.

The Founding Fathers of the United States were one of the few examples in the history of the world where a country was able to craft a constitution from a blank sheet of paper.  I believe they did the very best they could, given the knowledge and inclinations of the world from which they sprang.  The USA has seen many amendments to that original creed, demonstrating that they have, over time, found much that might be improved in that original document and many would say there is still much to be done.

The problem is that the system then devised is ill-equipped today to make those changes, or at least to make significant changes.  It must be recalled that there were many fundamental beliefs wrapped up in the creation of that document which most modern liberals would find objectionable if it were proposed today.  For example, when the document espouses the values and responsibilities attributable to “all men”, it did indeed mean men, and was not including women.  It equally meant all white men and was never intended to include black men or others of colour, most of whom at the time were, of course, slaves.  Neither was universal suffrage meant to be part of the package.  You will recall that these Founding Fathers were imbued with the culture of the England of the time where two Houses of Parliament, one elected under very limited suffrage and one existing by way of hereditary “right” were the norm.

The Senate, therefore, was never intended to be elected by the population at large but rather appointed at the whim of the great and the good who ran each state.  It is also of very significant import that whereas the Constitution (or more particularly, the First Amendment thereto) called for the separation of Church and State and the tolerance of different religious beliefs, it was still rooted in the fundamental beliefs of Christianity which today remains very much a defining force in US politics.  They might believe they have achieved a separation of powers but who can deny the insidious influence that Christianity, let’s reduce it to ‘a belief in god’, has on all things politic in America.  You’ll look long and hard to find a Presidential, Senatorial or Congressional candidate that has ever stood on a platform of irreligion, non-religion or atheism, much less achieved office.  Almost all invoke the Almighty in their campaign.

The greatest problem with mankind is that we appear to seek or at least revel in conflict.  To many of us, civilised expression of opposing views is the way in which we seek the truth.  In too many instances, however, it is the source of every instance of discord from personal relationships to global conflagrations.  We are familial, tribal beings.  It’s part of our inherent, evolutionary survival instinct.  We protect first the family, our circle of friends, our school, our village, our sports team, our county, state, nation, faith, religion, club, cult, even our colour, our “race”.  There is no end to our list of potential affiliations and whilst we naturally order them in, often conflicting, priority they each present opportunities for competition and conflict by their very nature.  This is not something that is likely to change in anything less than, perhaps, a hundred thousand years, if ever.

We can all wish it wasn’t so, that to remove this would remove war and conflict but it would also remove the human race from the planet earth.  Alternatively, we can accept it, work with it, educate prudence in its exercise and harness it for the benefit of all mankind.

Our democracies, however, are set up from their fundamental tenets to exacerbate it, to extol virtue into an US and THEM politics. In Western democracies we form political cults, ideologies, dogmas and we call them political parties.  We appeal to the electorate to pick one or the other as if no reasonable person could agree with much of what one ideology espouses whilst empathising with bits of various others too and harbouring some ideas that none describes at all.

Even in the USA, which started with no political parties whatsoever, once the divergent ideologies began to appear they were fashioned into parties, an event which was generally considered a good thing by those politicians and observers of the day.  Once again, this harped back to Old England with its very own Whigs and Tories, no less, before the Republican and Democratic parties emerged from the primordial political turmoil of the day.  Personally, I think this was manifestly a lost opportunity.  Then again, remember, this was all two hundred and fifty years ago and though, by my own viewpoint, that is a mere fag paper in the timeline of human history, it’s a very long period in the history of Western democracy.

Let me paint a picture that will be familiar to many individuals in many different parts of The West.  Just suppose I were to believe in participation in my own country’s version of democracy.  We have an hereditary Head of State, the German descended Elizabeth whose recent ancestory flows directly from the House of Hanover whose name, it was judged prudent, should be changed to something less German sounding after all the suffering of the First World War at the hands of that particular branch of the pan-European hereditary family of monarchies.  As Thomas Paine wisely opined, “Virtue is neither inherited, nor perpetual”.  The House of Windsor sounds much more home grown, though nothing could be further from the truth but given that we have an hereditary Head of State, we have no power to elect a leader, a President, say.  Instead we get to elect “our representatives”, members of the House of Commons, who, notionally at least, are the effective arm of government.

Owing to the Party System, however, this right that is “granted to us” [sic] can be as good as useless to anyone wishing to influence government policy by dint of their vote.  Let me illustrate.  I live in a leafy constituency in the most affluent county of Surrey in the South East of England.  Every constituency of Surrey will have had a Conservative Party MP since, well, since the Conservative and Unionist Party was formed, I would say and before that one of identical hue under a prior party name.

If I want a Conservative MP then I need do nothing, no point even bothering to vote, plenty of others will do that for me.  If I don’t want a Conservative MP then I should consider moving somewhere else because I’m going to get one here, whether I like it or not.

Here’s the rub, though, suppose I really do want one and perhaps I even go out of my way to vote for one, there is no telling that a sufficient majority of people in other parts of the country do the same and thus no guarantee of any kind that my having a Conservative MP will influence the government of my country in the way that I might wish.  If Conservative MPs do not form a majority of those elected, however, then I will be governed by Parties other than the one that I chose.  People in democracies all over the world will be able to identify with this situation.

We are frequently told that we live in a “Parliamentary Democracy” which is a very potent turn of phrase but given that interpretations of the term vary according to the prevailing wind, the issue of the day and the individual quoting it, it bears some examination.

On one reading it is interpreted to mean that in electing our member of parliament we have delegated to them the representation of our constituency wherein they decide what is in our best interests.  On another reading, it is the job of the constituency MP to represent all his or her constituents equally or “fairly”, a clearly impossible task but nonetheless a much agreed upon concept.  In truth, and in general terms, our MP will vote according to the dictates of the party whip, an iniquitous measure in anything calling itself a democracy.  Some, occasionally, might rebel against their party’s wishes and “defy the whip”, voting “with their conscience” as it is known.  To do this occasionally is to fall out of favour with the leadership and thus never achieve a position of influence in government or indeed in opposition – a word that is intrinsic to my argument.  To do it as of rote or habit is, apparently, to be granted leadership of the party if today’s notional leader of the British Labour Party is anything to go by.

If the point of being elected is to influence government policy on behalf of one’s constituents then, I’m afraid, the party whip system is designed to negate that purpose and to ensure adherence to a centralised party policy that doesn’t necessarily represent any constituency.  A “rebel” MP may indeed give their constituents a voice but no influence and it is influence that all electors seek, else what is democracy for?  In this Internet age, there are no shortage of opportunities in having a voice to express a point of view, if that’s all one aspires to.  This blog being a perfect example.

In Party Politics we see the worst of all exhibitions of tribalism, of class and ideological warfare, an exhibition which can all too easily become real warfare of the blood-letting and fatal kind.  In the interests of defending a particular ideology, no good is seen in anything “the other side” does or proposes to do, everything must be seized upon and turned to party advantage, ignoring any failings on the part of the party one represents.  This is blind dogma and represents no-one but the most rabid fanatics on a particular side.  It is demeaning and disrespectful of the people, the sovereign people, whom these institutions claim to represent and an insult and an affront to any principle of democracy.  It is divisive and conflict-inducing.  It is NOT government in the public interest.  It is self-defeating in the sense that with each change of government there exists the chance to overturn the legislation of the former and so nations advance on the principal, at best, of two steps forward and one step back – some might say it’s the other way around.

Because of the Party System, there are many disputes that arise regarding funding of political parties, corruption, financial influence, voting irregularities and many related concerns.  It is assumed by every elector of a certain age that all politicians seeking election will say almost anything to obtain electoral success and, not to put too fine a point on it, to lie whenever it suits them.  They do this in the full knowledge that they will almost never be held to account [excepting LibDem Tuition Fee promise?] and thus proceed with impunity.  They can always conjure up a reason why they felt obliged to change their policy later, “in the national interest” for example or, put another way, because their party whip told them to.

There is another matter, similar in my mind, that needs to be addressed to remove conflict from our political system and that’s the matter of geography.  Once we recognise our tribalist nature and the need to curb its worst excesses, when we consider the ways of the modern world and of technology, it is archaic and anachronistic to pit one geographic area, county -v- county, town -v- town, region -v- region against another.

Racism is at best an over-abused term, if it can indeed be deemed a valid term in any sense in which it is used in modern day parlance, given that it refers to various differences in either physical appearance and/or cultural origin of all the members of the one and only human race.  If you wish to tell me that badgers should not be allowed to live next door to humans then I’m happy for that to be termed racism.

If we are truly to accept what is implied, indeed what people mean when they use the term, we have to recognise it for what it really is and I would term that, in its widest possible sense as tribalism.  Tribes can be formed upon many different notions, some of which I’ve already referred to.  In the north of this country we have a geographical area which was once a separate country called Scotland.  Today, it is peopled by folk who have far more in common with me and my neighbours than that which is exclusive to people who live “north of the border” as it is still referred to.  Yet those who seek to garner power and prestige for themselves would harness this “sameness”, this geographical place of abode and imbue it with unique mystical properties, unique amongst mankind and certainly distinct from their neighbours, with which to form a separate tribe that can be used as an army in their crazed anti-mankind gaming.

This is cynicism of the highest order, it is “nationalism” at its crude, base worst.  Religious extremism is no different.  What difference to me whether my country is invaded by screaming hoards worshiping some 2000 year old seer of an ancient religion born of prehistory or by similarly screaming hoards of those seeking to avenge a hero of many hundreds of years ago, wronged by some hereditary leader who lorded over my ancestors, according to them.

Neither has any right over me, nor any authentic claim to anything other than that to which we are all entitled.  The time is now, what’s done is done.  Whatever was done, it was not done by anyone living today and just as no one has rights over me because of their birth, no one has claims over me because of mine, either.  Stripped of all its pompous gloriosity, this national call to “arms” for independence is a grossly immoral abuse of the native gullible instincts that we each harbour at our core, in some degree or other, and which is what all civilised human beings will resist with every sentient fibre of their reason and being.

If Scotland lays such claims, why not Surrey?  Why not Dorking?  Why not my street, my school, my church?  Most people on this planet are organised into societies in order to bring a degree of peace, security and prosperity to those that live within the borders of an area designated a country.  We subscribe to that society through our taxes and in return we are given the benefits I’ve described.  As we’ve already discussed, we can find many reasons to complain about the way we are governed but if we claim to be in any sense democratic then we accept the will of the MAJORITY of the population, not of any individual fragment of it.

Within democracies, there is only one nation state.  Under the Federalist model, countries may be unions of states but all are subservient to the nation state, the country and this is a principle commonly accepted by most ordinary people as well as politicians, historians, constitutional lawyers and the like.

I have used the example of Scotland to illustrate my point but let’s look again at those smaller geographic areas, towns, counties, regions, what makes them any different given the premises I’ve outlined?  In short, why are we still rooted in the concept of a geographic constituency, a concept born of old technology when there was, arguably, no logical alternative?  Today there is arguably no logic to maintaining it and certainly no technological barrier to replacing it.  A “constituency” was never a geographic term etymologically speaking.  By one definition:

“Constituency, basic electoral unit into which eligible electors are organized to elect representatives to a legislative or other public body. The registration of electors is also usually undertaken within the bounds of the constituency.

Constituencies vary in size and in the number of representatives elected by them. In size they may number a few thousand or be as large as the country itself. Constituencies may be represented by one or by several representatives, depending on the type of electoral system employed. All constituencies within a state should, ideally, be equal in population. To achieve this as nearly as possible, periodic alterations of boundaries are made. Constituencies are most often formed on a geographical basis, but the basis could also be occupational”

In all electoral systems there is a basic principle inherent which attempts to ensure that each constituency approximates the size of another in order to spread representation equitably across the population.  In a world lacking the sophistication of modern technology, geography was the logical choice though hardly one that avoided controversy.  The term “Gerrimandering” encapsulates all the potential for abuse that exists when constituencies are organised along geographical lines and may be redrawn to suit a particular political advantage.

Imagine, for a moment, that we abolish all reference to geographical premises in constituencies and thus in the people we choose to represent them.  Imagine, if you will, the benefits:

The end of territorial enmity in politics – no North-South divide, a divide incidentally that appears to exist in most countries in the world, regardless where these countries are situated.  The end of both the fear and the actuality of being run by one geographical segment of the population against the interests or ignorant to the interests of another.  The end of representation based around the predominate “faith” or ethnicity of a particular geographic area.  Not only would Surrey have nothing to complain about, nor would Scotland, nor would Christians or Muslims, nor would Afro-Caribbeans or Anglo Saxons.

To those who tell me that “foreigners” couldn’t understand the needs of the Cornish or the Northumbrian, I would say “Why, are human beings so different in Cornwall or Northumberland?  Are your human needs any different?”.  Ah you have “local issues” but you have a local council who you DO elect on a geographical basis and, sure, they need to be given more voice at national level, that is true and entirely acceptable and the structure already exists to facilitate that with a little imagination applied.

I think most “right-thinking”, that is to say “civilised”, possibly even “liberal” minded people around the Western World would agree that we know it is necessary that we break down boundaries between “race”, aka ethnicity, colour, religion, class, occupation, etc. if we are going to succeed as a species, as a race, as mankind.  This desire could not be better served in the first instance than by removal of geographic boundaries to constituencies of the electorate within a country and, who knows, a hundred thousand years from now, perhaps we dare to think of such a thing on a global scale.

So who would determine these constituencies, how would we draw them up, how would we define them?  Again, we use modern technology.  We use it for the noble purpose for which it was originally envisaged.  Call it an opinion, these writings largely opinion after all, but I don’t believe Facebook is exactly what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he created the World Wide Web.

We create an algorithm, one that is policed by the Electoral Commission (in the UK) or by another similar body.  We decide how that algorithm is to be constructed and how it is to be policed to ensure no abuse.  To a large degree the algorithm should select randomly, that is to say, not by alphabetical order on the one hand and not by geographical, gender or faith based principles either.  One could argue that it might be by profession but that re-introduces class.  No, I believe it must be random so that each constituency represents, as best as it can, an average cross-section of society.

Most importantly of all the electorate could and should be divided is numbers equally between the available seats within a parliament.  In this way, most unlike the present method, we can ensure that equal and fairly distributed representation is available to all.

I’ve watched helplessly as billions of pounds of hard earned taxpayer’s money has been burned on idiotically conceived IT projects of one kind or another over decades.  Actually, most of them have all been of the same essential kind, an attempt to create a single database of the electorate for this purpose and then that purpose and so on.  When will they realise you only need one database and then you simply need a range of applications that access that database, as necessary and appropriate.  This is not rocket science, folks.  We already have that database.  It’s the one that is used to collect our taxes and what could be more appropriate in support of the old refrain, “No taxation without representation” than to use the same database for the purposes of representative elections.

Using that database removes the long-standing problem of voter registration, it removes endless cost and bureaucracy and it removes large elements of potential voter fraud.  Every taxpayer has a unique reference with the HMRC database, several actually.  For the individual the most commonly accepted is the National Insurance number and that is true in most countries.

In the absence of good reasons to consider otherwise, I would propose that only those parties that are registered on the National Tax Database and who are up to date with their tax payments are eligible to vote but I can anticipate controversy on that issue, controversy I would want to hear but am unlikely to think superlative.

Using an application for the voting process that validates the user against that database, removes electoral fraud almost totally.  “Almost” because no system is inviolate but this is about as good as it gets.  This enables voting to take place from anywhere in the world, at a time (of day) of choosing of the individual elector.  It removes the need to count postal votes, which are wide open to fraud, is grossly bureaucratic and delays final declarations of results.  Indeed, it removes almost all cost and bureaucracy of any consequence from the process.  The less bureaucracy, the less opportunity for fraud or error.

“Electoral Booths” can still be established in supermarkets, libraries, council offices and so on to facilitate those who have no access to or familiarity with technology.

Incidentally, the use of the tax database brings me to another important constitutional change, the involvement of businesses in our electoral process.  Businesses are major contributors to taxation, they are uniquely placed to decide what they feel they best need out of the political process to help them succeed, to grow employment, profits and taxes.  It’s not to be the only premise on which matters are decided but their voice should be heard both as tax payers and in general as contributors to and users of the society in which we all exist.  There will be some debate as to the form that participation should take.  All individual business owners, shareholders and executives have at least one vote in their own right.  The question is, should they have another, or more votes.

So, I’ve concisely described how we organise the electorate, the dissolution of geographic boundary definitions, how the voting will take place and the various ways of saving money by exploiting the resources we already possess, making the process more accountable and accessible.  The next question is, given the dissolution of political parties, who are we going to be voting for and how will they be selected?

There is a “first principle” which  needs to be understood before we progress.  We will be voting for individuals who can appeal to their constituency in sufficient numbers on the basis of their character, their record, their promises, their personal appeal in short.  You might argue that this is exactly what we do today but the difference is that today we know that, regardless what they tell us, if they are elected they will do what they themselves are told to do – by the party whip.  It is also widely accepted that local candidates are mainly selected according to the party each represents, more often that for their individual suitability for the role. In the absence of party, we the electorate can truly hold their feet to the fire and measure exactly what they told us in their election pitch with what they subsequently did, in fact.

These representatives will be independent, by definition.  They owe no allegiance other than to their electorate and their own conscience bar one: they owe allegiance to the nation when national interest must override constituency considerations and their own previous promises.  So long as they are prepared to argue that justification, against which they will be held accountable at the next election, they would be free to vote according to conscience.

The next question on anyone’s lips must be where we will find these people, how will they be selected, how will their election be funded.  Once again, we will exploit modern technology but always keeping in mind those who have little or no access to or familiarity with such things.  Because we are using this technology, because we are no longer working within the confines of geographical boundaries, we are no longer hamstrung by the costs of the old technology.  Sure, the wearing out of shoe-leather and the knocking on the doors of unoccupied houses, for the most part, lived in by people who would be unlikely to change tribal allegiance just because the local aspiring opponent has braved the elements, that would go – and good riddance most would say.  The adorning of party posters in gardens and windows would go too – hurrah!

As for selection, we adopt a system of primary selections by the electorate.  One can only stand for election among one’s designated group, selected using the previously described algorithm from the electoral/tax database.  Each group would be provided, at Central Government expense, with a web site, a “micro site” within a single government provided web site so that every constituency had equal and directly equivalent resources at its command.  Willing representatives would put themselves forward using the site which would be equipped with all the appropriate means of disseminating information, political solicitations and prospectus to all within the constituency.

Where an individual has no access to electronic means of communication, the government database would convert officially designated communications into postal messages which would be sent by mail at taxpayer expense.  In 10-20 years such methods should likely be phased out but never until it is judged that this would not disadvantage some, perhaps older or poorer members of society.

The same application used to vote in the election would be used for selection at primaries.  Others can decide how this electoral process would work, how many rounds there should be, how many candidates, etc.  I also leave open the question of the voting system to be adopted, first-past-the-post, alternative vote or some other form of proportional representation.  What is important, is that whatever system is adopted is kept under periodic review and adapted when issues are identified and after formal debate, a debate which, given the lack of party influence, would be entirely non-partisan.

In place of the soap-box and the door-knocking, which I would personally find very intrusive were I EVER to have experienced a contender knocking on my front door, we have technology once more.  We have online web casts, group participation video conferencing, “televised” debates viewed through a web browser or mobile device, even an individual TV station for each constituency.  We already have the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter to mention but two though I would be averse to favouring any commercial platform in any official way.

Which leads me to the other partisanship which can arise, that of the career politician.  Whilst wanting to be rid of career politicians and keep each representative or member of parliament rooted in their own prospectus or at least their current beliefs, rather than in their re-election, it is equally important to have a degree of continuity.  It seems fairly widely accepted that limiting a leader to two terms of office is not an unreasonable thing to do.  I’d suggest that the same should be extended to the members themselves.  For at least four of their eight years we can therefore assume they are acting without re-election in mind, if we assume a four year term.

We now have, by the means I’ve set out in an intelligible precis (which would need considerable fleshing out to become reality, naturally), an elected house of representatives or members of parliament.  They have been chosen from and by a widely differing constituency without geographical boundaries, upon no common ideology, creed or affiliation without variation in terms of economical/financial advantage or geographic hindrance.

They are, it must be admitted, currently without a leader or a manifesto though constitutionally, it could be argued that, a manifesto of what they are there to do could be crafted for them.  As to how they get there, how they arrive at the ends defined in that manifesto, that is for them to agree amongst themselves by debate and force of argument.

A leader they must have and so must they have an Upper House for the purposes of scrutiny, inspection and improvement of legislation.  In the US this role is fulfilled by the Senate, a body which was once appointed by the states acting individually in appointing two Senators each.  Latterly they have become elected in much the same way as the House of Representatives is elected to Congress and the failings of this system, when combined with the party system, have never been more evident than during the Obama Presidency just ending.

In the UK we have the worst of all worlds.  Ninety hereditary peers whose numbers are replenished through elections by the hereditaries themselves.  To this are added twenty-six Bishops, god help me, and an ever increasing number of jobs-for-the boys, favour-repaying appointments of former Prime Ministers, currently numbering in the region of 800 or more.

There are strong voices in favour of an elected upper chamber but, I ask you, what would be the point if all it does is reflect the party political bias of the population given no other choice, the same population that elects the Commons.  Hey Presto, what you have is a carbon copy of the American problem.  No thank you.

Here’s my suggestion.  I’ve just defined what I consider to be the fairest voting system ever devised for a democracy.  I’ve ensured that it has no party political, aka ideological bias so as to obtain as independent a body of law makers one could conceive.  Why not draw our Upper House, our Lords, from that same body of men once they have served their country for two full terms, learned their craft, earned their spurs and, one assumes, the respect of the electorate that voted for them a second time.

Here too, there must be a time limit on their service to avoid cronyism and complacency.  Perhaps again the two term rule?  One must also have a mechanism that maintains approximate numbers, adding when necessary from one-term members of the commons, perhaps, and removing when numbers need to be curtailed.  Perhaps by a vote of the Upper House itself in both instances.  Given the lack of party affiliation these measures should create a result that is at least somewhat randomly ideological.

I want to refer to something that has been referred to much in recent times, in consequence of the Referendum regarding the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit.  It’s the reference to “the Sovereignty of Parliament”.  As already stated, in my utopian world I would prefer a benign dictatorship but, given we are discussing all this in the context of democracy, I am much given to the position of Thomas Paine when he refers very specifically and pointedly to the Sovereignty of the People.

Parliament obtains its sovereignty by virtue of its election by the People and it is and must be that to the People it is responsible for how it carries that task.  This is extremely pertinent to the current Supreme Court case where it is being debated whether a vote taken in a referendum of all the people, all those who voted of course, needs to be ratified by an Act of a Parliament which is riven with those who wish to frustrate the clearly expressed will of those very People.

It is claimed that the Executive cannot act alone as it is Parliament that has Sovereignty, I strongly disagree.  That in which Sovereignty is actually vested, the People, has issued a very clear instruction to its elected Parliament, from whose number the Executive are drawn and appointed to govern, to get us the hell out of this rotten construction and it is not, on this occasion, a matter in which the Courts need be involved other than to confirm what I’ve just said, for the avoidance of doubt.

It would be a very different matter indeed if the Executive wished to enact something, of this scale of importance, of its own volition, without the instruction of the electorate in a heavily marketed and debated referendum in which more people participated than in any other historical electoral event.

So now we must return to the matter of the leader of the lower house of Parliament, the House of Commons as it is in the UK, the House of Representatives in the USA.  I am currently of two minds and I’m not sure I much mind which it is though I lean toward the latter proposal on the grounds that it is cheaper and likely to be less divisive.

The first option is that we, to a degree, emulate the US system.  That is to say, whilst we are not planning a Republic at this stage – one thing at a time – we are not talking the election of a President but in the UK, of a Prime Minister.  That said, we could indeed concoct a mechanism where we have a national competition to select two, or at any rate no more than a few, candidates who would then be presented in an election by majority vote.

In the US currently this comes at a cost of around 100 million dollars per candidate and that ensures that corporate interests will pervade and corrupt the process, a process I am not willing to subsidise from taxation.

The second option is to have the Prime Minister selected internally by and from amongst those who have been elected as independent representatives to Parliament.  Again, if we have done a good job of electing them in the fairest possible manner, should we not extend democracy within them to allow them to choose their own leader.  This would also have the advantage of being cheap and quick.  The Prime Minister would be responsible to those who have elected him and who are best placed to consider his performance at leading them.  They would have the simple mechanism of a motion of no confidence by which to replace him or her and repeat the process.  Perhaps a two third majority would be considered appropriate for removal.

In everything I’ve said till now, it must be clearly understood and recognised that the absence of official political party mechanisms does not remove the tribal tendency of humans to ally, one to another, with those in whom they perceive common goals, thoughts and aspirations.  Left to their own devices, it would only be a matter of time before parties, by whatever name or noun they became known, would form as if by osmosis.  There must therefore be a constitutional brake devised to arrest such a process, however such a grouping may be described, and to return representatives to the electorate where breaches arise in the principle of non-alignment.

This reminds me of one fundamental tenet of constituency representation that I haven’t so far discussed.  Each representative is elected at the continuing discretion of the constituency to which he or she is permanently accountable.  This, by definition, means that the sanction of recall is constant throughout the electoral term.  Clearly, rules must be defined as to the nature of transgressions and the procedure for recall but in essence I am very much in favour of leaving the reasons in the hands of the constituency. It could be that they’ve simply taken a dislike to his wining voice or her choice of expensive trousers.  Whatever it be, within the law, it should be for them to decide.  Representatives must be constantly aware, not fearful but aware, that they are there only by virtue of and on behalf of their constituency.  This is not the same as the threat of recall by the militant tendency of some parties, against the wish of the wider electorate.  This is a prerogative exercised inclusively by that constituency.  Historical abuses of the expenses system serve as an indicator of what might trigger a recall in the minds of the electorate.  Support for the election of a despot or a pussy-grabber for Prime Minister might be another.

Now, folks, we have a problem.  Turkeys are not fabled to vote for Christmas, nor politicians for electoral reform, especially not on this scale and against all their vested interests.  So, no amount of agreement with my pleadings will amount to anything if we wait for our elected representatives to bring such change about.  The solution is a single-issue party, in the first instance.  One that could hoover up the “none of the above” voters, the politically disenchanted (a sizeable minority at worst), the youth vote and, given a charismatic and intelligent leader, a great many more besides.  They would be armed with a manifesto based largely on what I’ve written here.  Their task would be to assume power and enact this manifesto immediately.  UKIP had many flaws but in demonstrating the potential for success of a single issue party, they were exemplary.

A leader would need to be identified and coerced.  Dominic Cummings would have to be press-ganged into leading the election campaign.  Funding would come from sources derived from that same modern technology, crowd-funding and social media, from which volunteers would be found in abundance.

There are other options but I rule them out because bloody revolution is not in my nature, not when I am calm and rational at least.  That leaves massive coordinated civil disobedience.  Perhaps the time is not yet right.  Perhaps for this time to come we have to wait for an almighty spark to ignite the flame.  A foreign war will not be such a trigger for in such times, the people retreat to what they know and seek comfort in the leadership of “experts”.  A cataclysmic economic disaster would do the trick and one of those may not be far away so we should prepare.

On balance, I prefer my democratic option, working openly within the existing system in order to defeat it.  Every vested interest there is will be opposed to us.  The regional parliaments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the unions, local councillors, the party machines of all the parties, the Commons and the Lords, the monarchy, big business, the lot.  If you thought they rolled out the big guns to dissuade us from leaving the EU, think again.  This is far bigger and, dare I say it, far more important especially if we are to revert to becoming a self-governing country, post Brexit.  Are you with me?

A Lifetime is No Time at All

In 1975 I was recently married, recently settled into an entirely new life in every way.  I was in business in a modest way, I was surrounded by people of many different cultures and origins, faiths, beliefs and philosophies.  I was learning about an array of curious and wonderful foods from around the world, seeking them out and serving them up to an eclectic clientele whose appetite for such things seemed insatiable.

Edward Heath had taken us into the EEC just three years before, the crowning glory of his political career, much good it would do him.  Inflation was rampant, we’d just emerged from the three day week, regular power cuts, an oil crisis, it was a dark and dirty world where rubbish didn’t get collected for weeks, all industry was engulfed in strife and dispute as indeed was Harold Wilson, our then Prime Minister.

To solve his internal divisions within the Labour Party he determined to hold a Referendum on our continued membership of the EEC.  He believed the country would grab at the opportunity as a way to protect against further deprivations and, in doing so, would shut down his back-bench dissenters and allow him to continue to govern.  He was right.  We did what he expected and he got what he needed.  It was the first public Referendum in the history of these islands.

That was also the very first time in my life I voted, for anything.  It was the first time I felt motivated to vote.  I had absolutely no interest in any political party, none of which had ever sounded like something I could relate to.  I had no faith or belief in the “democratic system”.  I saw it then as I see it now, a mechanism, a device, a platform from which those that seek power over the rest of us, those with an ideology to lord over us in pursuit of their own goals, can ensure a reasonably stable, peaceable society that won’t stand in their way.  Another religion, if you will, a drug some have suggested.  It was clear to me that the system was built in such a way as to deny me any kind of real democracy and grant me merely the appearance of it.  I was well aware of the critics of my position, that this was the best we had, that all else led to dictatorship, that it was my duty to participate.  I never had any truck with those inanities then and I have none now.  This, however, was different.

This was a simple yes/no, a simple majority verdict, no arcane processes or procedures just a straight percentage choice – do you want to remain in the EEC or leave?

I had spent a little time travelling in Europe – France and Spain to be precise.  I had lived for a short while on the island of Ibiza, a world then more foreign than I can paint in a few words and perhaps I’ll return to it later.  I was, as I’ve already stated, bitterly opposed to nation states, to the requirement to prove my nationality to others by virtue of a passport.  The world, in my mind, belonged to the human beings that inhabited it, not to the national governments of the countries of the world.  How dare they decide where and whether I could travel.  I was, and still am, the proud possessor of a World Passport which proclaims that I am indeed of this earth and this was the passport I had used on my foreign travels.

I voted to remain and was happy to be on the winning side which made me feel it had been worthwhile to participate.  I looked forward to the promises I was given: the dissolution of national borders, freedom of travel and the removal of any need to carry a passport.  That was all I heard, all I voted for.  I’m sure trade was discussed because I’m told it was but it figured not one jot on my agenda.  I certainly wasn’t told that I was going to supplant one government, the one that had just given me this gift, for another in a distant land whose constituent parts were driven by an ideology that I would never and will never concur with.  A government that, compared to the limits on my existing access to democracy, saw no need even for that much.  It never occurred to me that such a transformation would take place over time, with it foisted upon me by stealth, by my own government representatives.

In 1979, perhaps high on my previous success, I was tempted into General Election participation because I thought, why not, about time we gave a woman a chance…..  I thereafter declared myself unfit to participate in democracy, I clearly lacked the intellect.

I had never voted again until the Referendum on 23rd June 2016, the second time I would get my chance to express an opinion about Europe or, more specifically, the European Union as it had by now become.

The Referendum campaign stretched my imagination and forced me to confront, to evaluate, even to reconsider my longest held beliefs and when I did, I determined there was only one way to vote and that vote I must and

Three votes, three “wins” all, in all probability, hollow victories.

Most of my adult life I’ve been made to feel guilty of my capitalist leanings.  Perhaps never more so than during the “reign” of Margaret Thatcher, a very dark period in British political history for which we, the world, today continue to suffer in so many ways.  No, I’m not one of those who believes, belatedly, that she was a great leader.  She was in fact a very ordinary human being but worse, in the beginning, she was a blank canvas onto which so many were able to paint their own distorted philosophies and she a willing pupil, becoming drunk on power and believing of her own sense of immortal, moral right.  Her “success” infected so much of politics around the world and nowhere more so than in the USA where Ronald Regan, another blank canvas, won the presidency in the election of 1980.  The seventies had not been a good decade, economically, for any country and people everywhere wanted a change.  Populism was alive and well then, too and the Western democracies, ever sensitive to economic privations, were voting for change and investing their faith in low skilled, low brained leaders who could rally the crowd and promise the good news they craved.  I didn’t know then what I know now, that a new economic and political philosophy called neoliberalism was going to change my world, the whole Western world.

Margaret Thatcher had swallowed wholesale the neoliberal economics of Hayek, Smith, Friedman and others, we were all capitalists now.  “Trickle-down economics” is the phrase people remember.  “Let them eat cake” is perhaps another.  Globalisation was on a roll, as was unemployment, privation and debt.

Mine could have been a tale of rags to riches.  As it was, it was a tale of someone from humble but middle class austerity to a relative luxury that 99% of the world’s population might be envious of.  With a little luck, it could have gone way beyond that but lack of luck probably did me a favour.  With a little luck and a lot more Thatcheresque cold, hard calculation I would have been wealthy but in truth I never had the stomach for it.  I have the comfort and contentment of knowing that I worked hard, very hard, for everything I have and that I never intentionally hurt anyone in the process, nor broke any deal or agreement that I made.

I’ve made some others very well off by my efforts. I’ve given employment to a great many people in what I’ve always tried to make a happy and rewarding work environment.  I’ve not always paid everyone as much as they would have liked but I’ve always paid more than I needed to and tried to offer comfort and support, in addition, wherever I could.  I’m happy to describe myself as a caring and thoughtful employer though I’m sure there are examples where I may have fallen down, may not always have done everything that I could have, had it occurred to me at the time or had I felt able to do so.  I am a capitalist, through and through but I have always carried a guilt with me about the millions of the Earth’s population who can only dream to have lived the life I have lived.

For many millions of those, in far off places, the task always seemed too great to resolve and still does.  For many millions of others who live in the same “Western World” as me, there are things we can do, things we must do and, in time, we can help lift those in the far off places, too.  We can make the world a better place, for a short(ish) time at least and we should indeed try.

What I learned most poignantly, over the process of a lifetime, is that the youthful urgency with which most of us are gripped in our early years, is born of an ignorance and an arrogance of time.  We know something of what came in the few decades before we were born, we know a lot about the present and we think we can see the future.  What we fail to understand is that our miniscule slice of time, the length of an average human lifetime, is really no time at all.