Monday, September 25, 2006

"true Libertie is lost"

posted by k

Sometimes it would be better to be wrong.

Suppose the invasion of Iraq had found weapons of mass destruction. Suppose the country had morphed swiftly into a happy and prosperous democracy. Suppose invasion really had led to an extension of freedom in the Middle East. Just suppose ...

If that had happened, I and many others would be wondering why we marched against war in February 2003. We would ask if children dead and maimed by bombs was a worthwhile step to peace.

When we spoke of fears for people in Iraq, the region and the world, we were called "doom-mongers", fools and cowards. Uncertain next the to grand certainties of government, we wondered if our critics might be right. The two million who marched were not naive nor triumphal at the turn-out but were mostly thoughtful and concerned.

As we listened to each other, those in power had already decided. They were wrong.

Now headlines tell us of more evil than we feared. Torture is worse in Iraq than under Saddam. Deaths of U.S. troops alone (no-one manages to count Iraqi civilian dead) are twice the total of those killed on 9/11. The region is in chaos and its horrors (Fallujah, Abu Ghraib ...) are tipping many into terrorism.

What more could we have done?

How could we have recognized the many lies by which the British parliament was duped into sanctioning mass murder? And how can any of us, singly or together, halt the horrors yet to come?

Friday, September 08, 2006

"suns of glory"

posted by k

A few months ago, Labour Party MPs and journalists were arguing about whether there should be a contest or a coronation. Gordon Brown would look great in robes and the state crown.

But this isn't about a nominal head of state. There's going to be a change in prime minister. The prime minister can enter into treaties and declare war on behalf of the country. He or she can make all kinds of laws, sneaking them through parliament as "statutory instruments". Lately cabinet government - let alone parliamentary government - has seemed like a myth. There are no votes in cabinets and sometimes there are debates without votes - or without effective votes - in parliament.

In theory the queen will appoint the prime minister - he is her prime minister just as we are her subjects. If she wanted, she could sack Tony Blair tomorrow and appoint Glenda Jackson or Rowan Atkinson or Alex Ferguson or the Marquess of Bath.

She probably won't do anything so interesting - though (who knows?) it might be an improvement. Instead she will accept the choice of the governing Labour Party.

But why should she? And why should we?

At the last election, Labour Party candidates received about 36% of votes cast. Because a large number of people didn't vote at all, those votes represented the wishes of 26% of the elctorate.

The new prime minister won't even be appointed by Labour voters but by Labour Party members. A small percentage of the population will take a decision that will affect everyone. It will affect people abroad as well as in Britain. People may be killed by guns and bombs and starvation because of the decision of that small percentage of British voters who gave money to New Labour.

Restricting the vote for prime minister to party members creates an electorate who paid for their votes. The people who vote for the next prime minister will have paid at least £24 (the lowest annual subscription to the Labour Party) for the privilege.

If Britain were a real parliamentary democracy, in which all MPs could affect decisions and change minds, this might not matter so much. But Britain has a system of command by powerpoint presentations in cabinet and dictatorial party whips in the House of Commons.

As for genuine debate public political debate ....
Genuine debate which had a real effect would almost certainly be more responsible than the mess of fears encouraged by a number of politicians and newspaper owners.

The appointment of a new prime minister, under the current system, may be an unusual new soap opera - or even the cause for fierce concern among the members of his party. I shall watch the process and be entertained.

But I should be involved.

The entire electorate of Britain should be involved in process. It's time for democracy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me."

posted by k

Do you remember that Portillo moment? It was early in the morning of 2nd May, 1997. We cheered and opened a bottle. We thought that Thatcherism had come to an end and the world had changed for the better

It's hard to look back to that optimism.

It was always based on falsehood - the hope that Blair didn't mean what he said and that he would at least undo some damage from the Thatcher era. He asked us to trust him. We tried to, ever so hard, even though the Bernie Ecclestone affair should have raised questions.

We ignored the praise of the free market, the rich friends, the hint of arm-twisting behind the scenes.

We watched the new Millennium arrive. We couldn't go to the big celebration on TV. That was too exclusive for the likes of us.

War came. We didn't believe the lies. We thought that this time surely those in power would listen. They didn't.

Our liberties went and we hardly noticed.

But we got tired of Tony, tired of the cabinet, tired of not trusting those in charge.

So we hope again - for a change -a new leader who will make things better. If a leader will do it for us, we don't have to think and campaign for ourselves.

There aren't perfect leaders. There aren't heroes. There aren't role models. The best solutions aren't served up as five promises printed on a handy, wallet-sized card. People have to talk, think, listen and debate together. We all have to take political action. No one person has the solution.

Not Tony Blair. Not Gordon Brown. Not John Reid. Not any single radical campaigner. Not even Nelson Mandela nor Mahatma Gandhi come from the dead.

All of us, with our different views and different lives. Thinking, talking, listening - taking action together. We need to be responsible for our own lives and the life we make together.