Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bread and circuses

His Grace the Archbishop Cramner has proposed that there is one name missing from the current list of replacements for the Speaker.
It is only because of his dogged determination, his noble tenacity, his self-sacrificial campaign for accountability and his desire to restore honour and integrity to Parliament that we have witnessed the ejection of only the second Speaker of the House of Commons in Parliament’s long history. Any who reflect upon the first occasion in 1695 will hear the name of Speaker Trevor, but those who exposed and deposed him are long-forgotten; shrouded in the remoteness of yesteryear. But Douglas Carswell will long be remembered as a true Whig who sought to restore the sovereignty of Parliament; a noble Roundhead who confronted the courtly fashions of a cavalier rump of self-serving politicians; and a radical reformer with the virtue and zeal of Josiah.
...

So Cranmer wonders why no-one has thought of Speaker Carswell. He is a manifest moderniser and a man of action, scrupulous in his expenses, untainted by scandal, untarnished by excess, liberated from partisan squabbles, unblemished in record, distinguished in service, and is a man of unimpeachable integrity, honesty and conviction.

It is true that Douglas is a libertarian and a thoroughly good chap, and has always found time to converse with your humble Devil—a trait that appeals to my vanity, netch'relly.

I, too, have pondered upon the name of Carswell for Speaker.

However, I discarded him. Not because I do not think that he would be a good choice, but because I think that his zeal would be wasted in what is, effectively, a neutral position.

Further, I may have read him wrong (and I am sure that he will correct me if I speak out of turn), but I suspect that Douglas would not want to take up the position. His loathing for Westminster is well-documented (not least by himself) and I don't think that the long slog required to make something of the position would necessarily appeal.

But the main reason that he would decline it, I believe, is because Carswell is not that interested in cleaning up the expenses scandal. Yes, it is an aspect that he has a great interest in, but it is the Direct Democracy agenda that is his real passion.

As Speaker, he would be unable overtly to push this agenda, whether independently or as part of the Conservative Party. This would be a great shame, not only for Douglas, but for the rest of us too.

There have been mutterings around the web about the right of constituents to recall MPs and to force them to hold a by-election—and this is just part of the wider agenda that Douglas has been pushing (and something that he could not do as Speaker).

On a wider note, the right of recall would be a far better idea than Brown's idiotic and mendacious plan to hand over control of the Commons to an unelected QUANGO—something that Dan Hannan is incensed about.
Listen to the way the various malefactors have sought to justify themselves over the past 12 days. One phrase keeps cropping up again and again: "I have acted at all times within the rules". It was precisely this attitude that caused the present crisis. The external regulation of Parliament - a process that began with the Nolan Report in the 1990s - has replaced a culture of conscience with a culture of compliance. Instead of asking "Is this the right thing to do?" MPs have been asking "Is this within the letter of the guidelines?" More external regulators will exacerbate that problem.

So what the devil is Gordon Brown playing at? The obvious answer is that he's hoping, in his lumbering way, to catch the anti-politician mood. But there's more to it than this. It suits him - suits the Executive, suits Brussels, suits the human rights courts - to diminish the independence of the House of Commons.

I completely agree—especially since the plan, as I railed about the other day, is to hand this function over to a private company which would not be subject to FoI requests. The last thing that we need is yet another unelected and unaccountable QUANGO deciding the fate of taxpayers' cash—and it is inconceivable that someone who set up fakecharities.org could possibly be accused of supporting such a measure.

EUReferendum has also been banging this drum for a while, pointing out that the MPs' expenses exposée has damaged Parliament—and that is not a good thing.
Never more has it been more important to focus on the essential point that the "expenses" controversy is a symptom not the cause of the problem. At the heart of this stinking affair is the erosion of democracy and the very great danger is that – as Hannan points out – that the "cure" will make the disease worse.

Here, it is alarming to see the main opposition leaders rush in to endorse Brown's proposals "in principle", demonstrating that neither are true democrats. Rather, they are statists to the core. They exhibit the typical malaise of our ruling classes, seeing the answers to all problems as more and tighter regulation. In this, they share the mindset of the European Union and it is therefore no surprise that both so fully endorse the "project".

Of course they are statists—almost all of them are. Why the surpise?

The fact is that the expenses row was a long time coming and merely confirmed what people had long suspected: that our politicians were corrupt and out to feather their own nests.

Hannan has argued that, being so powerless, what else should they do?
Let me put the question again: who would want to become an MP these days? Why take on a job where you are both despised and impotent - or, rather, despised because you are impotent?

Well, cry me a fucking river, Dan. Who would want to be an MP? Well, why don't you ask the thousands of people desperately attempting to get onto the party lists, Dan? Why don't you ask those hundreds of people gearing up to stand at the next General Election?
Politicians are resented because they appear parasitical, unable to champion their constituents' interests.

Politicians are parasitical. It could be argued that, once upon a time, they were more like symbiotes—like the mitochondria that power our cells—but that is certainly no longer the case.

Incidentally, when Dan emailed me today, I objected to his stance that "we" get the politicians that we deserve. He replied...
As the greatest of all human beings observed: “Treat every man after his desert and who should ’scape whipping?”

It seemed only fair to reply with another Hamlet quote...
"This above all—to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

It is here that Dan's argument—that if one assumes all politicians are crooked, it is only natural that they should think "may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb"—falls down. If a politician is truly honest, he will take the criticism and he will remain true to himself: he will not start cheating simply because people call him a cheat. Unless, of course, he is, at heart, a cheat looking for a justification for cheating.

It is, Dan, a fundamental tenet of libertarianism that one does what one knows to be right, no matter what the provocation—as I pointed out a few days ago.
Libertarians believe that each individual is responsible for their own decisions: if you do not believe that, then you are not a libertarian. As such, given a temptation, a libertarian has two choices: give into that temptation or do the right thing.

Whichever you choose, it is your decision, and you must accept the consequences.

I don't give two shits if someone is calling you nasty names: if you give in to temptation and you cheat and you lie and you steal, then you must still accept the consequences—because it was still your decision to do so. You could have chosen the morally correct path and, even in the face of provocation, chosen to remain honest.

For fuck's sake, how many fucking times have I seen libertarians point out that—even if someone grows up in the most shitty conditions of poverty and violence—it does not excuse their turning to crime, or even just sitting on their arse doing nothing?

How many times have I seen even the less militant point out that a crappy childhood might explain someone's foetid lifestyle, but it does not excuse it?

We are human beings and the ability to think—and to make rational and moral judgements and to order our lives accordingly—is what sets us apart from the animals. The belief that every human has this capacity, no matter what their upbringing, is a fundamental libertarian precept.

And if we expect the poor and underpriviledged to exercise moral judgement, then we most certainly should expect it of those who are rich (by the ordinary working man's standard) and who consider themselves fit to dictate what that same ordinary man's morality should be.

But, as many people have concluded, the expenses row and, especially, the resignation of Michael Martin, are simply sideshows: the real issue is the powerlessness of Parliament. Some MPs and their accolytes are now using this as an excuse: it is not.

After all, who was it who ceded the power to the EU in the first place? The politicians.

Who is it that has failed to hold the Executive to account or to curb its power? The politicians.

Oh, but that's not fair, is it? Many of these politicians were not in Parliament when these changes were enacted. No, that's true: they were not.

But they still have the power to change things. If they want their power back from the EU, for instance, they need only repeal the European Communities Act 1972 (time is running out on this though: once the Lisbon Treaty is signed, this relatively simple option will no longer exist). Sure, there would be a lot of law to unpick afterwards, and a lot of negotiating to do with the rest of the EU countries—but isn't that kind of thing precisely what we pay the fuckers to do?

But not one of these bastards has proposed that.

In fact, have you seen one single proposal from any of these cunts that would return power to Westminster? No, nor have I.

At every turn, they have attempted to shirk any kind of responsibility.
  • Fraudulent expenses? "Not my fault, guv, it was the system."

  • Need to stop expenses fraud? "Oh, I can't be held responsible. We must set up a QUANGO (at your expense and controlled by me)."

  • MPs powerless? "Oh, not my fault. It was _________________ [insert bogeyman of choice here.]

And so we come to something of a chicken and egg situation: which came first? Did a rotten Parliament breed rotten MPs, or did the rotten MPs rot Parliament?

Well, since Parliament is the MPs—they are the lawmakers—it must be the latter. No, these particular MPs might not have destroyed the power of Parliament, but they have eagerly allowed the rape to continue.

As long as the MPs were able to fill their capacious fucking boots, they were happy to turn a blind eye to the destruction of Parliament's power and the growth of unaccountable bodies. In fact, it made life far, far easier for them: they had all of the perks, but none of the responsibilities (whilst simultaneously deeming it suitable to chastise us for following their lead).

In the meantime, your humble Devil finds himself split: you see, I want a powerless Parliament. I want a legislature that cannot pass knee-jerk and illiberal laws.

First, however, I want a Parliament strong enough to tear down the totalitarian state that has built up over the last century; I want a Parliament strong enough to rip it up and start to build a libertarian society—and that means a Parliament strong enough to dissolve the thousands of laws that have since accrued.

But, whatever the situation, I always want a Parliament strong enough to protect its citizens and, when dealing with foreign nations, always to put the interests of its own citizens first and foremost.

And it is in this regard that our Parliament has so signally failed us. It has utterly failed in its duty and is now so corrupt, powerless and rotten that there is little hope of its rescue. And, unfortunately, that means that we are fucked too.

And so we find ourselves gleefully welcoming scandals, such as those which have arisen over expenses. Inevitably, with nothing concrete to believe in, self-belief lacking, and no authority to fight on our behalf, we demand bread and circuses whilst Rome burns around us.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Not us, that's for sure and, alas, not our Parliament either. And so we sit about—deluding ourselves as to our worth, desperately waving a flag that once symbolised something but is now devoid of meaning—pointlessly singing that old song...
Britons never, never shall be slaves!

Don't be naive: we already are.

UPDATE: as an aside, Douglas Carswell has emailed me and, I hope, will not object to my posting this relevant bit.
You are very kind.

You are also right to say that I'd be the wrong person for the job of Speaker.

It remains my aim to be Britain's last Minister for Europe.

A sensible ambition, I think...

16 comments:

Paul said...

No, no, no, no, no!

Richard Shepherd for Speaker. Whenever I hear him speak he always sounds as if the world is going to end. So him for speaker.

I've been discussing with europhiles about just how we leave the EU. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are in EFTA and have a fax democracy. How do we assert our independence if we have to submit to the EU anyway? 60 million into 400 million doesn't go unless you think that some of the smaller pro-British countries like Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Cyprus follow our path.

I fear we are locked into this dictatorship for the long haul. We are a laughing stock among Euro MEPs.

How has dear old loyal Britain come to this? I would vote for a UK unionist party that could actually do something about the state we are in.

Mr Eugenides said...

I want a powerless Parliament. I want a legislature that cannot pass knee-jerk and illiberal laws.Well, I admit to the same temptation. But this is wrong, DK.

It is the Executive that brings legislation to the House. If Parliament is powerless, it just rubber-stamps it.

Only if Parliament is powerful (and, preferably, finely-balanced) is there any prospect whatsoever of scrutinising and holding to account the government of the day.

After all, who else is going to do it? The press?

Mitch said...

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Not us, that's for sure"

It has to be us.There is no one else who cannot be bought.
Perhaps a little revolution is a good thing.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Thomas Jefferson (American 3rd US President (1801-09).

Plato said...

*applause*

I just hope [in vain] that the next set of MPs do take a match to the hundreds of laws and thousands of regulations passed in just the last 12 yrs.

My analogy is that of road signage/cameras - every road is infested with them, tarmac all different colours - look here, read this, check speedo ... and still over 3k people die.

David Davis said...

I think we will just have to start again sadly.

At least we know how Parliaments _should_ be done: we have the advantage of historical lessons to take into account.

But the collectivist, GramscoFabiaNazi Meme will simply have to be "disappeared". These people are ireemediably wicked, they will never never stop, and they must be terminally-marginalised.

Letters From A Tory said...

Carswell is far too inexperienced to be Speaker. He might have some moral fibre that other MPs lack, but you need to command the respect of the House and he simply hasn't been around long enough to do so.

Plus, Speakers usually work until they retire and that would mean Carswell would be Speaker for 20+ years - if he turned out to be rubbish, it would be a disaster for Parliament.

Anonymous said...

Not so much of a comment but a pat on the back. I think I'll have to save these views listed below as it pretty much sums up how I've been feeling for 10 years but could never put my point across in a clear manner:

"I want a Parliament strong enough to tear down the totalitarian state that has built up over the last century; I want a Parliament strong enough to rip it up and start to build a libertarian society—and that means a Parliament strong enough to dissolve the thousands of laws that have since accrued.

But, whatever the situation, I always want a Parliament strong enough to protect its citizens and, when dealing with foreign nations, always to put the interests of its own citizens first and foremost.

And it is in this regard that our Parliament has so signally failed us. It has utterly failed in its duty and is now so corrupt, powerless and rotten that there is little hope of its rescue. And, unfortunately, that means that we are fucked too.

And so we find ourselves gleefully welcoming scandals, such as those which have arisen over expenses. Inevitably, with nothing concrete to believe in, self-belief lacking, and no authority to fight on our behalf, we demand bread and circuses whilst Rome burns around us."

Sorry if that's too long and too much quoting but I can't think of anything that has managed to sum up why people feel they way they do. The sad thing is that this isn't quoted in the Sun and the Mirror so millions can read it for themselves.

wh00ps said...

Maybe powerful in relative terms: parliament needs to be at least as powerful as the executive. And truly representative of the people, natch. As for the speaker, I'm not sure if it would work, but perhaps a (relatively) powerful speaker directly elected by citizens, with the qualification that they can't be and never can have been in a political party, elected for a fixed term? Just a thought.

Dave said...

I disagree with Cranmer. The Speaker's job would emasculate Carswell.
LBJ was once quoted when questioned about a political appointee "I'd rather have him inside the tent pissing out than inside the tent pissing in."

With Carswell we need him outside the tent- and pissing in.

Anonymous said...

Very good article, it needed saying. The current political crew have brought us to a pretty pass and I do not know how we get round it. The present crop of "leaders" LibLabCon cannot do it, they are the problem with a few, very few exceptions.

Derek

thomasrichard said...

www.libertas.eu/ukip

I'm frustrated at the present MPs expenses row. It does not take into consideration MEPs! Their expenses are not suitably or properly monitored and are not public knowledge!!!!

www.libertas.eu/ukip

Lost in Devon said...

The last third (or so) of this post should be a party political broadcast - outstanding.

*Standing ovation*

Old Holborn said...

Remind me, why do we need a speaker again?

Anonymous said...

Not related to the topic, but it might interest someone here:

"OUTDOOR smoking has been banned at the University of South Australia's two city campuses."

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,25519333-5006301,00.html

"He [Quit SA manager] said he hoped a review in a year or two would end in the designated smoking areas also being removed."

Cleanthes said...

"It remains my aim to be Britain's last Minister for Europe."notable, but perhaps more entertaining - and aspirational - might be to be the first Minister AGAINST Europe (sic - needs to be clearly named the EU dirch)

Tim Carpenter said...

Very well put, DK. Libertarianism cuts through this miasma like a hot knife through butter while the other parties flail around with more box ticking and tinkering.


I do like the idea of Douglas Carswell as the last Minister for Europe - would he perform the role under an LPUK administration...?