Saturday, December 06, 2008

Consent to govern

I've seen it pointed out, usually by the Lib Dems when on a proportional representation bender, that the current government governs with on 20% of the potential votes in this country.

A little bit of research shows they are right.

Now add to this some ideas that the Americans introduced with their constitution of super majorities required for changing certain aspects of their state - e.g. the Constitution and the procedures in the congress as well as over riding the presidential veto. If memory serves most of these are in the 60-66% range of eligible votes in Congress or from the states themselves.

The point being that the founding fathers of the US identified the need to stop unrestrained power by splitting the branches of government, providing the famous checks and balances as well as protecting their constitution from temporary narrow partisan majorities.

Now here in the UK the current government is preparing to take out levels of debt that will take 2-3 (at their optimistic projections) Parliaments to pay off - and run the strong risk of bankrupting the country. Indeed the main reason for not taking the necessary action now is the governing party's need to gain re-election for one of those Parliaments.

Our future is being sold by a government that does not command popular support, but also the freedom of action of the next two governments is being to a large extend removed.

This seems wrong to me. I would suggest that the current government does not have a democratic mandate for what it is doing economically. It no good expecting them to act honourably - New Labour was the end of honour in British politics.

We need to rethink democratic consent and the protection on our constitution.

If a government wishes to pass a budget that is out of balance, perhaps for the economic cycle, then it should require a greater level of support in the house. Say 66%. This would mean that it would become very difficult for governments to try and 'buy' the next election with debt.

But there are broader issues about our freedoms and the make up of our state, that should not be determined by a vote of just over 20% of the electorate.

As I said at the beginning it tends to be the Lib Dems who go on about this, but I think this is an area that needs wider consideration by the main parties.

I'm not sure we don't need a written constitution.

One thing is sure - Labour do not have the consent of the people for the wealth destruction they are currently undertaking for their narrow partisan interests.


Unknown said...

Very Good Point, I totally agree.

But then, isn't this just the argument for insisting that governments balance their budgets writ large?

I think the Americans used to have such a rule until they ended up with the ruinous costs of the Vietnam War.

Something that the "saintly" JFK embroiled the USA in, along with the French. I have never understood why Vietnam was so important but many African countries weren't. I would have thought that only South America, the Middle East and the existing developed countries such as Japan and Europe actually genuinely mattered to US interests.

neil craig said...

Some years ago Milton Friedman worked for a balanced budget ammendmentto the US constitution & a number of other libertarian restrictions on government. Eventaully they were ground down by incumbents & of course no such limits have ever been seriously proposed here.