On Governments

In the United Kingdom we are governed by governments chose by those we elect to Parliament. Today the old Parliament has run its course and the people will soon be electing a new Parliament. The old Parliament deserved to be extinguished; the people deserve better than what it offered. Members of the Government’s Opposition clung to their seats not to introduce or scrutinize legislation but to embarrass and humiliate the government as much as possible which largely left the government reasonably helpless and the people without a government that could govern.

It was said nearly two hundred years ago “that government is best which governs least” which a few years later Henri Thoreau turned into “that government is best which governs not at all”. But the world has changed in two hundred years. Life is extremely complex now and the people of each nation need competent governments and deserve governments, ideally good governments governing according to the wishes of the majority of the electorate that chose their representatives in Parliament.

The experience of the past few years shows that our representative democracy when mixed with plebiscite democracy leads to chaos. Many of the members of the old Parliament representatives did not feel bound by the referendum and thought it perfectly democratic to subvert the results of the referendum because they believed that representative democracy is more democratic than referendum democracy. If they did not believe that, they must have believed that they knew better that their electorate.

For all that, those purporting to believe in representative democracy are (ironically) anxious to limit their own democratic powers (and the wishes of the electorate) by subverting their own powers to the powers of foreign institutions. One Parliament, in constitutional theory, cannot bind a successor Parliament. The way around this rather inconvenient rule of the constitution is if one elected government can enter into a foreign treaty then the provisions of the treaty can bind every future Parliament for long periods of time, because treaties are so much harder to overturn than legislation.

For this reason, certain politicians seek to tie the hands of future governments in fields like employment (called workers’ rights) environmental policy and economic policy and immigration policy. Thus some politicians have sought to prevent future Parliaments elected by the people for putting into effect what the electorate may democratically vote for in future.

Effectively the electorate are told that they are not competent to elect a government with the powers that governments have enjoyed in the United Kingdom for hundreds of years. In fact governments that we may elect are also not competent; the only competent authority to govern us lies outside these islands.

I find this behaviour by certain members of the old Parliament as both immoral and disgusting.

Why Oh Why

I find some things hard to understand so perhaps someone would explain them to me:-

  1. Why the fear of losing some economic prosperity is more important than the reality of losing democracy and freedom.
  2. Why Members of Parliament feel free to act against the wishes of the majority of people in the UK having previously promised faithfully to put into effect the wishes of the majority.
  3. Why Parliament feels justified in enacting legislation that significantly weakens the UK’s position in negotiations with the EU.
  4. Why it is inaccurate to describe the legislation in 3 above as an act of surrender.

The Big Lie of 2019

There are lies, damned lies and statistics, we are told but there is another kind of lie – the Big Lie – one which attracts credence by repetition and one which has caused humanity to undertake some of its most devastating follies.

The Big Lie doing the rounds in 1914 was “Dolce et decorum est pro patria mori” – which Wilfred Owen called “the old lie”. It took the deaths of millions to disprove the lie over the next for years and the deaths of tens of millions more twenty or so years later to show that things were far more complicated than simply discounting the old lie.

But politicians seeking power have never avoided the Big Lie. It is far too an important weapon in their amoury to leave behind. The Big Lie seeks to instill fear in the minds of the people, usually fear of the unknown or unfamiliar. The Big Lie gains traction by repetition until it has been repeated so often that most accept it to be true. It works best in times which are eventful, uncertain and when the political balance of what has gone before is rapidly changing into chaos.

The Big Lie is used as a justification for all sorts of behaviour which in quieter times would never be tolerated. When the Big Lie gains hold it is unchallenged. When a Big Lie is unchallenged it becomes impossible to debate issues rationally.

The Big Lie of 2019 is that Brexit without a deal would be a disaster. Now it may be one, or it may well be the best thing that the UK has had for a long time. It is impossible to describe the Big Lie of 2019 as a truth because no one really knows.

Big Lies give justification in the minds of those who promulgate them into acting in ways that are not democratic and so it has been with the Big Lie of 2019. Parliament has passed laws to prevent a no deal Brexit on the strength that the Big Lie of 2019 is the absolute truth and thus provides the justification of going against the wishes of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom.

When power is up for grabs the Big Lie comes into its own.

I find it terribly sad and frightening that the Big Lie of 2019 is now treated by journalists who should know better as a statement unworthy of challenge.

The Supreme Court’s Judgment on Prorogation

My prediction that the Supreme Court would decide that Government’s prorogation of Parliament was entirely wrong. I do not understand the reasoning of the decision.

In this case several features stand out.

  1. The eleven justices all made a single judgment; there was no dissenting opinion, which is odd considering that equally senior judges including the Lord Chief Justice, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division and the Master of the Rolls already made a decision which was precisely the opposite of that of the Supreme Court decided. It may be that the Supreme Court judges decided that because of the constitutional importance they had better put dissent to one side an publish a single decision even though some of them may have disagreed with it.
  2. The judges stressed that the case was not about Brexit. They were wrong. The case was entirely about Brexit. Those opposing the prorogation did so not because they were genuinely opposed to a five week prorogation during the party conference season, but because they wanted to hinder the government’s efforts to improve the deal negotiated by Mrs May and/or to prevent Brexit at all. Their best means of hindrance was to keep the Parliament open so that the sound bites of those opposing Brexit would continue to criticise the government and that criticism would receive all due publicity. It was not about Parliamentary scrutiny – the intended prorogation had left sufficient time for that – it was about preventing Brexit and/or embarrassing the government who cannot now govern at all because of the way in which the House of Commons will continue to prevent the government from doing virtually anything.
  3. The judgment recognises the principle that parliament is sovereign over the government but reduces the government’s powers to prorogue which most constitutional lawyers believed that the government had to prorogue Parliament for short periods in times of crisis.
  4. The judgment fails to recognise that the people are sovereign over Parliament.
  5. The judgment did not fairly reflect that this was a new area of law upon which there had been little precedent and therefor different opinions about the law were not only possible but to be expected. The words of Lady Hale gave the impression that the government had knowingly acted unlawfully. This was unfair, especially as she had described the case as “a one off”.
  6. The heart of the decision of the supreme Court is, in my opinion, contained in these words Prorogation “will be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive. In such a situation, the court will intervene if the effect is sufficiently serious to justify such an exceptional course. 51. That standard is one that can be applied in practice.
  7. The court, having set the standard (for the first time) measured what it knew about the government’s decision and measure it against that standard. It found the government wanting. This inevitably means that any future government of any hue will find the exercise of any prerogative power being examined in court at the behest of their political opponents. It is not a consummation that we would find helpful, democratically or politically especially when the meaning of “without reasonable justification” is ligated time and time again, as it will be in future.

Parliament re-opened today in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court. As far as I can see no time was spent on scrutinising legislation but on hurling insults and criticism across the chamber. I expect this to continue for weeks to come.

Lord Kyriakides?

I have always fancied a title. Perhaps I can put my name forward to Mr Johnson. It seems that the House of Lords is very biased towards staying in the European Union and Mr Johnson may need to create 500 or so new life peers who support Brexit in order to get Brexit over the line.

Now I am a democratic and am in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords but as it is there and could stand in the way of Brexit I am prepared to do my democratic duty and become a life peer, if Mr Johnson can put my name forward to the Queen.

It would tick all the diversity boxes imaginable – there are no peers of Greek Cypriot/Czechoslovak origin at all. This is a vastly under represented ethnicity in this county.

It’s about time we had a peer of Greek Cypriot/Czechoslovak origin.

I promise to attend the House of Lords purely to vote and debate Brexit. I would not draw any fees or emoluments – it would cost the country nothing, not even fares because I could use my bus pass to get to and from Westminster. Once Brexit was resolved I would resign my title and never attend the Lords again.

So, Prime Minister, may I have a title?

Hypocrisy in Action

Many members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom are upset and distressed because the government will curtail the time available for them to introduce legislation to prevent a “no deal” Brexit by a few days. They complain that this is constitutional. They have had more than three years to introduce such legislation, but this apaprently has not been long enough.

They fail to mention that in the EU Parliament (which they want the UK to remain linked to by preventing Brexit) no member of that Parliament has ever had the right or ability to introduce legislation to prevent the EU from doing anything.

Parliament seeks to thwart the will of the People

In the present maneuvers over Brexit all sides claim that they are acting democratically. All sides have their own interpretation of democracy.

The Prime Minister says that he is acting democratically in ensuring that the will of the people, who voted by a majority to leave the EU, takes precedence over the will of Members of Parliament most of whom were elected on a promise that they would implement Brexit. But promises by those seeking election cannot be relied upon.

Many Members of Parliament claim that preventing members of Parliament from changing the law to enable Brexit not to take place or to be delayed is undemocratic. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, claims that interfering with Parliament is the act of a dictator by which I suppose she means that implementing the will of the majority of the people is the act of a dictator.

As I see it, the majority of the people of the UK voted to leave the EU. Members of Parliament derive their authority from the people. Members of Parliament in seeking to delay or prevent Brexit are thwarting the will of the majority of the people. To thwart the will of the majority of the people is undemocratic: it is as simple as that.