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Our political-constitutional system is broken.Can we fix it?

 
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UndercoverElephant



Joined: 10 Mar 2008
Posts: 9987
Location: south east England

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 1:22 pm    Post subject: Our political-constitutional system is broken.Can we fix it? Reply with quote

The scale of the political-consitutional crisis currently engulfing the UK cannot be overstated. And we have not yet reached the peak of the crisis. That will come when brexit either happens or is cancelled. The list of broken things includes:

1) The viability of an unwritten constitution based on precedent and people choosing to behave “reasonably”. Do we need a written constitution? If so, how do we decide how to create it?

2) The role of the monarch. The monarch has nominal powers but no real scope to use them. This leaves a vacuum where there was once a role for the monarch, and in which other democracies is performed by some sort of president.

3) The first past the post electoral system, which denies much of the population any meaningful vote at all, and seriously limits the options of those whose vote does mean something.

4) The balance of power between the executive (the government) and parliament. It is not at all clear who really should be in charge of what.

5) The fixed term parliament act, which is a truly terrible piece of legislation, but which also replaced an unsatisfactory system which gave the Prime Minister too much power to determine the timing of an election to the advantage of the government and disadvantage of the opposition.

6) The public school system, which acts as a giant conspiracy, giving vast advantages to those who can afford to use it, which then allows them to earn enough money to pay for their own children to use it.

Brexit is either going to be very traumatic (if it eventually happens) or it won't happen at all, which will be a complete democratic travesty. We were told the referendum was it. A one-off decision taken by the entire electorate to determine our future relationship with the EU. It looks very much like the only result that the electorate was actually able to choose was to remain in the EU. The political class has been unable or unwilling to implement the leave victory, and that is a failure of government and democracy of the highest order. There is no legitimate way to reverse the result, and yet it is likely to be reversed anyway.

Brexit is such an almighty mess that it has the potential to completely destabilise our entire constitutional-political system. The future of all of the above is now uncertain. There may be other things I've left off the list which also need radical reform or abolition.

The question I am asking is where we go from here, not so much on brexit, but how to fix the broken system which led us into this mess, or what to replace it with. There can be little doubt that if it is not fixed, the United Kingdom probably won't survive as a sovereign entity.
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
Posts: 7088
Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Rules", or lack of them, are not the problem. We are not here because people did not have rules to avail themselves of. This has nothing to do with rules. It is about power and who has the capacity to wield it.

America went through and is still going through a similar crisis because a significant rump of the power establishment there did not want Trump and all of their constitution has counted for nothing in terms of resolving that issue.

The "crisis" here will stop just as soon as one side of the establishment become sufficiently afraid of the consequences for them out there in the wider population. For so long as they are not afraid or, at least, not sufficiently afraid, this shit will continue and rules wont make a damn of difference either way.
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UndercoverElephant



Joined: 10 Mar 2008
Posts: 9987
Location: south east England

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Little John wrote:
. This has nothing to do with rules. It is about power and who has the capacity to wield it.


But that is the same thing. The rules in question determine, among other things, who has power and the capacity to wield it.

Quote:

The "crisis" here will stop just as soon as one side of the establishment become sufficiently afraid of the consequences for them out there in the wider population. For so long as they are not afraid or, at least, not sufficiently afraid, this shit will continue and rules wont make a damn of difference either way.


But nobody knows what the rules actually are anymore. Nobody knows which rules are sacrosanct, which are out of date, and which can be invented on an ad-hoc basis by the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the monarch, the courts or parliament. Nobody knows who really has power and the capacity to wield it.

You may well be correct that the crisis when stop when one side of the establishment is sufficiently afraid. But that is how our constitution has evolved since the Norman conquest. The question is whether the time has now come for that evolutionary process to be brought into the modern world.
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
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Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

UndercoverElephant wrote:
But that is the same thing. The rules in question determine, among other things, who has power and the capacity to wield it.


No they don't. Money and, ultimately, material force or the threat of it determine that.

Quote:
But nobody knows what the rules actually are anymore. Nobody knows which rules are sacrosanct, which are out of date, and which can be invented on an ad-hoc basis by the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the monarch, the courts or parliament. Nobody knows who really has power and the capacity to wield it.

You may well be correct that the crisis when stop when one side of the establishment is sufficiently afraid. But that is how our constitution has evolved since the Norman conquest. The question is whether the time has now come for that evolutionary process to be brought into the modern world.


Again, the "rules" have nothing to do with this. It's just about power.

Power comes first and rules are then implemented by those who have power in their favor.

Such parliamentary and broader political rules as we have are a function of the common people gaining power over the course of the industrial revolution on the back of the formation of unions and all the rest. The rules that were then implemented were a reflection of that power shift.

Believing that changing the rules is even possible, never mind that it will make a jot of difference, in the absence of a preceding change in power relations, is like believing it rains because the ground gets wet.
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UndercoverElephant



Joined: 10 Mar 2008
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Location: south east England

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Little John wrote:
UndercoverElephant wrote:
But that is the same thing. The rules in question determine, among other things, who has power and the capacity to wield it.


No they don't. Money and, ultimately, material force or the threat of it determine that.


I think you're missing the point here. Money and material force are the drivers, but the game they play is determined by constitutional rules. To use an analogy, you are confusing the game of chess with the players themselves. Part of the reason the UK is in such a terrible mess is that our game doesn't have formal rules. You may well argue that one of the players is stronger than the other, but that isn't a justification of continuing to have blurred rules.


Quote:


Again, the "rules" have nothing to do with this. It's just about power.


What on Earth are you talking about??

The power in question is currently being expressed by a game of who can get away with bending the rules by the largest amount, which is being made much easier than it ought to be because the rules aren't formally agreed.

The rules have everything to do with it. Without rules, there can be no expression of power, because there would just be chaos. As soon as you have anything as complex as a civilisation, those in power start making rules, and the rules provide the structure through which they wield power. As already explained, our rules go back to the Norman conquest, at which point all the pre-existing Anglo-Saxon rules were thrown away and William invented some new ones. Domesday book and all that.

Quote:

Believing that changing the rules is even possible, never mind that it will make a jot of difference, in the absence of a preceding change in power relations, is like believing it rains because the ground gets wet.


Of course the rules can be changed. They've been repeatedly changed throughout the history of all civilisations. And yes, very often power relations have to change before the rules can be changed, but in this case we have a stalemate between various different factors of the establishment. This opens up the possibility of being able to force a rule change on them. In effect, their inability to find an agreement internally has provided an opportunity to permanently erode their power. That is why it is so important that the tory party is split, and why they are so terrified at the prospect of a pseudo-marxist in Downing Street. They are scared that Corbyn will indeed be able to change the rules. If brexit is cancelled and the tory party splits, there is an open goal to change those rules. The question is in what way they should be changed.

Just to take an obvious example, a Corbyn-led minority government may well opt to change the electoral system. If FPTP is abolished then it is very hard to see how the tories could re-establish themselves as the dominant ruling party in this country. They'd never win another overall majority. And that opens up the possibility of real reform of the public school system. This is how power relations are changed.
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Corbyn government will only get to change the rules if the established power structures in this country are afraid of the consequences out in the real world if they try and stop them. In the absence of that fear, a Corbyn government would not even get a sniff of 10 Downing Street or, if they did squeak in, would be undermined and shackled from day one.

It was no accident that the immediately post-war Labour government enacted the changes they did at precisely the same time that millions of trained working class killers were heading back home.

Your quaint belief in "rules" is petite bourgeois personified

Furthermore, I note your obsession with the destruction of the Tories, as if they are source of the power, instead of what they actually are, which is the current representatives of one particular flank of power. If and when the Tory party finally expires, it will be replaced with some other set of representatives in short order.

The "Tories" and "Labour" are just two cheeks of the same establishment arse and everyone knows it now.
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UndercoverElephant



Joined: 10 Mar 2008
Posts: 9987
Location: south east England

PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Little John wrote:
A Corbyn government will only get to change the rules if the established power structures in this country are afraid of the consequences out in the real world if they try and stop them. In the absence of that fear, a Corbyn government would not even get a sniff of 10 Downing Street or, if they did squeak in, would be undermined and shackled from day one.


I am not sure how they can stop them if Corbyn has a working majority for whatever he tries to do. There is no way of knowing exactly what he would try, since we don't know what the parliamentary maths will look like, and the Labour leadership has proved itself to be quite shrewd in the past. But he has both the motive to try something significant, and the potential opportunity as well. The right wing press can't stop a parliamentary majority from passing legislation. Their power to stop him ends when he is elected.

Unless you are suggesting he will be assassinated or something. And even that might not stop it, because he represents the views of many members of his party.

Quote:

It was no accident that the immediately post-war Labour government enacted the changes they did at precisely the same time that millions of trained working class killers were heading back home.

Your quaint belief in "rules" is petite bourgeois personified


And your denial of the existence and relevance of such rules is absurd.

Quote:

Furthermore, I note your obsession with the destruction of the Tories, as if they are source of the power, instead of what they actually are, which is the current representatives of one particular flank of power. If and when the Tory party finally expires, it will be replaced with some other set of representatives in short order.


Not necessarily. Political parties sometimes just die, and the ones that spring up to replace them are not just clones. They have changed in some fundamental way.

Quote:

The "Tories" and "Labour" are just two cheeks of the same establishment arse and everyone knows it now.


Of course they aren't. If that was true, the tories would not be working so hard to undermine Corbyn. What you are saying was true of the Blairites, but not of the current Labour leadership. If Corbyn were to get a Labour majority government (which of course it won't), the establishment would have a real battle on its hands. Corbynism is a direct response to accusations like yours. That's why they crushed the Blairites. It is why Chuka Ummuna is now a liberal democrat. There is your second cheek of the same arse: Jo Swinson.
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