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Democracy and the UK

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 12:58:17 AM EST

Letter to the Editor, Irish Times, published 29/1/19.

A chara, -

John Lloyd (Opinion & Analysis, January 25th) argues that Fintan O'Toole has got it all wrong when he argues that Brexit is caused, in part, by a nostalgia for an imperial past and a tendency to blame the EU for all ills that afflict the UK.

Instead, he argues that Brexit was motivated largely by a desire to be ruled by their own parliament and courts which the British people can better understand and control - in contrast to a fundamentally undemocratic, opaque and unaccountable EU.

Am I alone in tiring of being lectured on democracy by the only country in Europe without a clear and written constitution, with an entirely unelected upper house of parliament, an unelected head of state, and an electoral system which can lead to wildly disproportionate results and which renders many votes in "safe" constituencies pointless as they will have no influence on the overall result?

One can argue that the Brexit result was as much a protest against a UK political system which had successfully deflected all blame for its own failings onto the EU.

For once, every vote actually counted. - Yours, etc,


I have responded to some criticism of my letter on Booman as follows:

The criticisms of UK democracy are intended to provide a context for Brexiteer's often entirely unjustified criticisms of EU democracy.  For instance the EU Commission is often criticised as "unelected Brussels bureaucrats". Firstly, it is effectively the EU Civil Service. The UK's Whitehall based civil service is equally influential and similarly unelected. No country elects their civil service. Secondly the top Commssion officials - the Commissioners themselves, are all nominated by elected governments and must be approved by the European Parliament. Thirdly, Juncker, the President of the Commission, was elected by the European Council 26-2 (With David Cameron and Victor Orban voting against), and the European Parliament by 422 to 250. Few political leaders can boast such large democratic mandates.

Obviously other European democracies are not entirely flawless, but none have so many factors inhibiting an accurate representation of the popular will. You can have good or bad written constitutions, but if they have been voted for by the people, then the people only have themselves to blame. The House of Lord's is still quite influential and embeds a largely class based system of governance into the political culture. The FPTP single seat constituency system encourages a polarised, binary and adversarial political culture. When modest reforms were proposed by the LibDems, the two main parties united against them to preserve their duopoly. The UK is now paying the price.

Generally when UK politicians criticise the EU's lack of democracy, they are venting their failure to get their wishes and interests imposed on other member states. This has poisoned UK political discourse for 45 years - and damaged the EU as well. It's time they were called on their hypocrisy.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 11:23:26 AM EST
Not to mention the arcane setup wherein the Speaker of the House of Commons seems to control the entire parliamentary process.
by asdf on Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 06:42:25 PM EST
Bercow: the Best Man in the House

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 07:06:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
since "1999"

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 08:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you don't have written standing orders and you are just working off precedent, what do you expect? Everything stays the same, until it doesn't...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 08:20:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are very lucky he's there, he seems to be the only sane person in a position of responsibility.

Yesterday he allowed a certain number of amendments, in an effort to allow Parliament to express its will, since neither the Government (May) nor the Opposition (Corbyn) have clearly stated what they want in terms that can actually be implemented (gross irresponsibility on the part of both).

Unfortunately Parliament bungled it, and passed the amendment that says "If only the EU would be reasonable, the Irish border would just go away"... The majority is in cloud cuckoo land with May, for whom this hopeless outcome is apparently a triumph.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Jan 30th, 2019 at 10:29:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A glance at the taloid front pages this morning all heralding May's "Victory" was all you needed to see the extent of the delusions amongst the brexiteers.

One is reminded of the whale conjured into being in "Hitch Hiker's guide to the Galaxy". It is in mid air and plummeting downwards. As it falls, it wonders if the ground will be its friend.

I think this describes the Conservative party's attitude towards reality as we move towards March 29.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 30th, 2019 at 08:05:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reaction regarding the Parliament voting to send May back to re-negotiate:

From the Guardian

Following the same line as the rest of the European Union, the Irish government has reiterated its position that the terms of the UK's exit are not up for renewed discussion. In a statement released after tonight's votes, it said:

   The EU position on the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, is set out in the conclusions of the December meeting of the European Council. It has not changed. The withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.

    The agreement is a carefully negotiated compromise, which balances the UK position on customs and the single market with avoiding a hard border and protecting the integrity of the EU customs union and single market.

    The best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify this agreement.

The statement also said changes could be made to the political declaration, the portion which sets out the framework for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, if the former was willing to change its red lines.

But the Irish government added it would continue with its contingency planning for all eventualities, including for a no-deal scenario.

Ireland's deputy premier, Simon Coveney, tweeted:

   Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney)

   Backstop was agreed by UK/EU as the insurance policy to avoid a hard border in all scenarios. We hope it will never be used, or be replaced quickly by a future relationship agreement. But it is necessary and tonight's developments at Westminster do nothing to change this. #Brexit

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jan 29th, 2019 at 11:08:30 PM EST
'Grinding the wheel until it comes to ratification'. In lieu of a sane rational strategy that is as good as any. The WA may just pass. Though it looks like a dog chasing its tail and the UK is roundly humiliated by its own polity.

But even if it passes the most dangerous thing is the major complex that some parts of England seem to have about itself - as exhibited by the no-deal crackpots who are just itching to have their WW2 cosplay.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Wed Jan 30th, 2019 at 12:00:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU cannot rescue Britain from Brexit chaos

May's government has shown it can no longer be counted as a trusted partner

I had intended to address a slightly sheepish plea to Britain's European partners. Even at this late hour, the EU27 should show forbearance with the Brexit shenanigans at Westminster. The prize of an amicable parting of the ways -- or, in the best case, a change of heart in a second referendum -- was worth it. My shaky resolve collapsed after Theresa May's latest swerve. The EU could now be forgiven for simply throwing Britain overboard.

The prime minister's embrace of her party's hardline Brexiters was breathtaking in its cynicism. Only weeks ago she was immovable about the arrangements in the EU withdrawal agreement for the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Now she promises to try to rewrite them to suit the prejudices of her party. What of the Belfast Agreement, the treaty underpinning peace on the island of Ireland? It ranks second, it seems, to appeasement of Brexiters such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The mandate the prime minister claims to have secured to rewrite the Irish "backstop" is worthless and incredible. Worthless because all the other options for the Irish border have been exhaustively explored, and discarded, during the Article 50 negotiations. Incredible because the hardliners who backed her this week do not want an agreement. Supporting Mrs May now was a diversion. The real strategy is to run down the clock all the way to a no-deal Brexit.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 31st, 2019 at 11:43:47 AM EST

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