Friday, February 29, 2008

Shutting down small parties

Trixy has an article by Nigel Farage about how Portugal is shutting down small political parties; they are simply making illegal any political party with fewer than 5,000 members.
In Portugal , UKIP have a good relationship with a eurosceptic party called PND. They are led by Manuel Montiero who is a former MP and MEP for the Portuguese Conservative Party. They are fiercely opposed to the EU Constitution and, like us, want to regain control of their fishing waters from the EU.

They have already achieved some success with an MP in the regional parliament of Madeira and, in the absence of a referendum in Portugal , expect to win MEP seats in 2009. But in a couple months time they might not exist.

A new law comes into force in Portugal in March 2008 that states political parties must have 5000 registered members or they will be declared illegal.

The names and addresses of the members must be given to the Portuguese authorities.

Of the fourteen political parties that exist in Portugal today, only four will be allowed to exist after March 2008.

This situation is truly incredible. It allows the existing parties to stay in place forever and to prevent new parties and new ideas for ever being born.

As one of the founders of a new political party with only a few tens of members so far—owing to the fact that we have deliberately not yet expanded beyond a portion of the UK political blogosphere (although that will change next week)—this is obviously of concern to your humble Devil.

As Nigel says, "could it happen here?" I can't think of a decent reason why it should not; I doubt that the Big Three would object, after all.

And, let us remember that when the first proposals for state funding of political parties was mooted, the plan was to deny funding to any party that did not have at least two MPs. This was a clear attempt to cement the position of the main parties, although the excuse given was that nobody in their right mind would want to give taxpayers' cash to the BNP: apart from, presumably, those thousands of people who vote for said party.

And that's the thing; I might personally feel that giving taxpayers' pounds to the BNP is beyond the pale, but who are the Conservatives and Labour apparatchiks to decide on behalf of those fools who have voted for a legal fucking party?

As I watched the TV tonight, I became profoundly depressed: everywhere there was talk of banning this and that "for our own good"—on Newsnight (fronted by the hideously offensive Kirsty Wark), it was bottles of water, plastic bags (an issue admirably ripped to shreds by John Band), rationed flights, banning 4x4s, patio heaters and other such draconian measures. On Question Time it was people clamouring for a national DNA database.

Truly, the people of this country are not sleep-walking into a police state: they are positively begging for it to be imposed.
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"—Benjamin Franklin

The Libertarian Party is facing an uphill struggle and yet... and yet... many people whom I met at the I Want A Referendum demo on Wednesday (a good turnout there was, too) were receptive to our ideas.

Perhaps there is a small glimmer of hope...


Tomrat said...

Portugal was a dictatorship until 1974 so nothing surprises me about the speed at which it reverts back to such illiberal tendencies; however, I think this is unworkable - unless they've applied this law to independant candidates deeming them illegal (which sounds like a breach of human rights to me) then those same parties could quite happily field independant candidates who sign up to follow a particular political philosophy - easily checked on any website for said party.

It's why I think the LP (which I signed up to Tuesday) should run a stand-off policy for districts with MP's who sign up to either a minarchistic or libertarian (depending how strongly you wish to vote on the matter) philosophy and promise to vote in line with such issues. Political parties were once just a loosely held band of individuals who believed in a particular ideal after all, and in the modern age we regularly see the system corrupted by it; how many tribalist voters would truly vote for their candidate if there were no parties? They'd take a little time to get to know their politics.

John B said...

First up, I agree with the post - although also I think Tomrat's right that we've got a more ingrained culture of free speech and freedom of assembly than Portugal and therefore this'd be less likely to happen in the UK (actually, the Portuguese decision must violate the ECHR - would be entertaining if a law basically aimed at stamping out an anti-EU party got struck down by a pan-European institution...)

Got to disagree with this logic though: "nobody in their right mind would want to give taxpayers' cash to the BNP: apart from, presumably, those thousands of people who vote for said party - you seem to be assuming that people who vote BNP are in their right minds,

Tomrat said...

John B,

Living in Yorkshire with actual BNP councillors voted in means that I've seen the people who actually vote for this particular noxious brand of scum - and they, quite scarily, are entirely in their right minds - the electoral system (quite rightly) doesn't intentionally marginalise these small minded cretins; only democracy can do that (rule by mob after all).

The way history (and lets be honest, to some extent nature)has shaped modern democracy is to corporatise it - big parties tend to pack clout and allow one set of defined principles be carried through, whether the majority like it or not (if there is a big enough passionate minority).

That is why I think it is important about these changes in Portugal; that the opinions of a silent majority with mixed interests will be lost to the vocal minority with coherent power. I dont think it will last long unless Portugal abandons all pretense of a free nation (i.e. outlaws independant candidacies as well as minor parties) - Independant candidates will simply pool their resources; we've seen this happen in Leeds at the last council election where Labour had a majority but were still defeated by a conglomerate of other parties including Tory's, Lib Dem's, Greens and even the BNP!

wonkotsane said...

I covered this a while back too. How does a new party come into being?

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