Archive for septembre, 2012

How UK Democracy Compares with its Peers.

jeudi, septembre 27th, 2012

The UK is consistently categorized as a ?full democracy?, has scored a maximum 10 points on the Polity IV scale of democracy annually since 1945 and is one of a handful of countries that have operated continually as a democracy since the 1880s.
Interestingly, therefore, in ?How Democratic is the UK? The 2012 Audit? , author Stuart Wilks-Heeg, Executive director of Democratic Audit and Senior lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Liverpool, discusses the findings of a range of statistical measures used to assess how well the UK compares with other established democracies.
He concludes that in virtually every case the UK ranks below the EU-15 and OECD-34 average for advanced industrial nations.
Given that any such assessment of whether UK democracy is improving or deteriorating is necessarily a subjective one, the audit identifies five problem areas with the contemporary operation of UK democracy, which are also common to all established democracies but seem especially pronounced for the UK:
1. The constitutional arrangements in the UK appear increasingly unstable, with devolution the most obvious example of this tendency, particularly given the demands for Scottish independence and Welsh constitutional preferences for progressively greater autonomy.
2. Public faith in democratic institutions is decaying, with a long-term decline in public trust of politicians and political parties.
3. Political inequality is widening rapidly in association with the widening of economic and social divisions.
4. Corporate power is growing with the density of connections between major corporations and MPs many times greater in the UK than in other established democracies.
5. Available indicators suggest representative democracy is in long-term decline in all established democracies but the UK compares especially poorly on most measures.
The author concludes with perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned. If significant and sustained improvements in UK democracy are to be achieved, a fresh constitutional settlement which builds on the successes of devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but from which the residents of England have been excluded, will almost certainly be required for the UK as a whole.

Reflections on the American Constitution

vendredi, septembre 14th, 2012

Some of you may have viewed the excellent U.S. television series « The West Wing » which was about an imaginary White House Administration. At one point a member of the Cabinet meets a group of representatives of a fictional Eastern European country which has emerged from a civil war and is seeking advice on what constitution to adopt. His advice is to avoid copying the U.S. Constitution. He says ?We have exported ours to 23 countries and all have resulted in dictatorships. I strongly advise you to adopt the Parliamentary system.? He adds at some point the observation that the U.S. is the only ex- British colony not to have chosen it.
The current grid-lock which has seized the American political scene, making it seemingly impossible to arrive at some desperately needed decisions on fiscal and social matters, has led me to reflect on the virtues and defects of the two systems.
My conclusion is that the U.S. Constitution, so revered by American citizens, was an admirable one for the newly-independent American colonies which shared a simple agricultural economy and still needed to be bonded together; but I think it is ill-adapted to today?s world where the Government is inevitably deeply involved, among other things, in the social fabric of the nation and in the management of a complex foreign policy.
Faced with an ever expanding and weighty decision-making , the existence of what I claim to be four rival arms of government results so often in conflict and grid-lock. I say four because the House of Representatives and the Senate can be at political odds, and the Supreme Court often effectively makes law. The consequence is a necessity of compromise among the governmental organs which is often not achievable.
In the Parliamentary system, at least in our own one, the Parliament is sovereign and the House of Commons the final authority. I suppose that two of the greatest defects in this political system are that, one, there is too much concentration of over-riding power in the Executive and, two, there is the risk of a too hasty and ill-considered passage of legislation. While I imagine there is a more deliberative process implicit in the American system, I am not forgetting there is some brake on too precipitate action in ours arising from the delaying powers of the House of Lords.
The virtues of this political system are that, in most circumstances, the executive, namely the Cabinet, and the Parliament are of one overall purpose and positive action is achievable.
My American friends, at this point, inevitably raise the issue of the fifty States. After all, the American system is really a confederation, not a federal one, the theory being that the Federal Government has only the powers ceded to it by the individual states, the remaining ones being held by them. They maintain that, under these circumstances, a Parliamentary system would be impossible. I raise the question of how do Canada and Australia handle their apparently similar situations and then conclude that I am completely out of my depth.

Michael Webster

Why this Hate for Margaret Thatcher?

jeudi, septembre 13th, 2012

For those who were around in the 1970s and those who weren’t but choose to judge her, the hard-hitting article below from MEP Daniel Hannan speaks well in her defence.
The Left hates Margaret Thatcher because she reminds them they are wrong about everything

Now and again, we are reminded of the sheer nastiness of a certain kind of Leftie. Not, let me stress, all Lefties: I have Labour friends who are motivated by a more or less uncomplicated desire to help the disadvantaged.
But they march alongside some committed haters who define their politics not by what they like, but by what they loathe. They also define opponents not as human beings with whom they disagree, but as legitimate targets.
A lack of empathy, bordering almost on sociopathy sits behind their talk of caring and sharing.
On sale at the TUC Conference, before a storm of protest forced their withdrawal, were T-shirts glorying in the eventual death of Margaret Thatcher.
?A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher?s grave,? says one, emblazoned with the image of her tombstone.

Open Letter to Supporters of Stimulus/Opponents of Austerity

mercredi, septembre 5th, 2012

Here’s a thought-provoking open letter to supporters of stimulus/opponents of austerity (especially Labour party supporters) from Ryan Bourne, Head of Economic Research at the Centre for Policy Studies, writing in the