There is a lot of talk of ‘sovereignty’ in the E.U. debate. Of leaving the E.U. in order to regain our sovereignty – defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘supreme power or authority’. It might be worth thinking for a moment as to how this supreme power may be used should we break free of the unelected Eurocrats who are said to be running our country like a puppet state.
Let’s start with democracy. We have essentially a two party, first past the post electoral system. In the 2015 General Election UKIP received 3.9M votes (12.7% of the share) but only one seat in the house. We have a majority conservative government on 36.8% of the vote. Under proportional representation (used for EU elections) UKIP would have secured 83 seats making them the third biggest party ahead of the Lib Dems and SNP. election-2015-proportional representation Would a strengthening of sovereignty deliver electoral reform? You only have to ask yourself whether the winning party would ever change the odds. Throw into the mix that in at least 24 constituencies there are investigations into electoral fraud regarding breaches in spending limits by the conservative party Guardian 13.5.16 that the increased use of postal votes is wide open to corruption beware the banana republic postal ballot and the suggestion that Rupert Murdoch may be in charge of digital voting in the UK for 2020 and you start to wonder whether a government elected under these circumstances should be given ‘supreme power’ over all the poor saps who didn’t vote for them.
Administrative justice is the cornerstone of democracy, using tribunals, ombudsmen and courts to give the citizen redress for the misuse of government power. It affects every aspect of the citizen’s contact with the state including health care, pensions, workers rights, child support, education and complaint handling across all government departments, yet administrative justice is continually treated with disdain by one government after another. Created and modified in a piecemeal manner the system struggles to gain any cohesion or consistency. In at attempt to make the process fair, accessible and efficient the Administrative Justice and Tribunal Council (AJTC) was formed in 2007 as the only body with oversight of the whole process. Able to work with all stakeholders they soon produced ‘general principles’ and started to share ‘good practice’ in a series of reports. These put pressure on Government for wholesale reform and the acknowledgement that poor decision making and poor complaint handling was wasting money and damaging lives. By 2011 an inquiry was underway to close the AJTC down as part of the cost-cutting austerity measures. Because we live in a democracy there was a public consultation and a number of experts duly submitted their written and verbal evidence to parliament all in favour of keeping AJTC open and active. public-administration/written-evidence-OAJ
The suggestion was that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) could easily fulfil the role of AJTC and effectively monitor its own performance. An advisory council of sixteen experienced justice experts would be replaced by one or two newly appointed MoJ officials. Dr Jeff King from University College London drew the committee’s attention to a letter sent to Government on 4th October 2010 and signed by the most senior professors of public law in the country all in favour of keeping AJTC open and active. Although the submission from the MoJ states that,
“The Department does, and will continue to take account of the views of service users. It will consult widely with experts, including those who represent users, as part of the policy formulation process.”
All the ‘experts’ were ignored and the AJTC duly closed down in 2013. ajtc.justice.gov.uk
The submission from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) made the comment that, “It is also notable that the AJTC is shortly to publish a report that will challenge the government to recognise the scale of unnecessary cost generated by its own actions. The report will be critical of complex and badly drafted laws in some areas of administrative justice without strategic action to improve it.” Telling truth to power is inevitably a short-lived career, just ask Natasha Devon the axed Mental Health Champion. theguardian/mental-health-champion
Although we have a public consultation process the Government of the day are not required to take any notice of a single suggestion, no matter how ‘expert’ that opinion may be.
Public consultation is the fine veneer which separates our democracy from dictatorship.
A great many people will have signed a petition in their local pharmacy to prevent the Government from reducing funding for this vital service. Hoorah for democracy! Once you have over 100,000 signatures (pretty sure in this case) then you are given a parliamentary debate and quite possibly a vote in the house. Before you get too excited you need to know that our democracy does not stretch to making the vote binding and at the end of the day, despite all the hard work of unpaid campaigners the Government can do exactly what the Government wants to do.
Our present Government wants to shrink the size of the state and under the guise of austerity they have cut benefits for the disabled and vulnerable, cut legal aid, introduced charges for tribunals, increased the use of food banks, increased child poverty, attempted to turn all schools into academies, under-funded the NHS to near breaking point, tried to impose a contract on Junior doctors, refused to give Junior doctors protection for whistleblowing and want to introduce a British Bill of Human Rights removing us from the Universal Bill of Human Rights.
If this Government and all future Governments are handed ‘supreme power’ following our exit from the EU is there any evidence that ‘sovereignty’ would improve our everyday experience of democracy or simply make it even easier for them to run a dictatorship of decision making with nothing more than lip-service to public opinion?
Be careful what you wish for.
Exactly right Della with your 7.07PM reply and a really good analysis of our country and the EU in or out debate. For me, with the experiences I’ve encountered the European Convention Of Human Rights is critical for any citizens rights to help towards justice if a person is knowledgeable in relation to his/her rights. The Human Rights Act alone is a reason for me to vote to stay part of the European Union and I shall use my vote accordingly.
Human rights must be universal rights or they divide people and cause resentment. This is the bedrock of war and aggression. Any government who want to take us away from the Human Rights Act are not to be trusted with ‘supreme power’.
Totally agree, any government wanting to get rid of the Human Rights Act should NOT be in government.
Human Rights are vital. The UN Convention is specific.
Thank you very much for your analysis of the current state of the nation.
It appears to me that we are at a crossroads and nothing will be the same thereafter.
I share your serious concerns about accountability.
The big issue for me is has this occurred because the PHSO is not accountable to a high European Aurhority eg European Ombudsman?
I think this is where I begin to question whether the EU has hampered legitimate debate and discussion as it refuses to look at serious alleged shortfalls in any nation’s infrastructure.
Are we perhaps going to be sucked into something worse if we stay in the EU rather than make our own laws and get parliament itself to investigate the PHSO?
I know that the issue is far more complex than I have said here, but it is this very complexity that is engendering worry both for the Remain and Leave groups. But what of the people in-between who like some of what the EU gives us but not the rest?
We won’t know until we vote out just what the EU did give us, but leaving to win back our ‘sovereignty’ is a red herring. Sovereignty is not a power to the people but a power to those who control the people.
Some of us are old enough to know what we voted for and how it has not been delivered- we voted for an economic union. The rest has been stealthily imposed. We used to take out european travel insurance instead of EHIC – life did not start at Maastricht! all the pundits speak in conditional tense- might, would, should. They use models to generate scenarios, and choose which model to start with, thus predicting the outcome. The euro was the brainchild of the EU and it is failing. I cannot trust that the EU is competent or accountable so I am out. A change in cultural outlook will energise the stale bureaucracy we have now, maybe honesty and truth will re emerge from our rulers- to meet the aspirations of the electors.
laissez faire (left to do) = EU. get up and Go = GB.
Reblogged this on hypnogogicjerk and commented:
I am sick to the ‘brack’ teeth of the Eaton Mess that is the Brexit debate. ‘Broris’ stance is pure ‘brollocks’. All he wants is his former classmate Dave’s job, he doesn’t really care whether brexit happens or not.
If we vote out then Boris will be one step nearer the top job. Will he use the opportunity to ‘take back control’ for the good of the people?
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Della another stunning post, telling it exactly as it is. Food for thought. It reminds us that no matter what we think is happening in Government, it is often nothing but an illusion. It is controlled exactly the way they want it to be. The people must become enlightened and push for change.
I do believe that we can push all we like for change but the system has it all buttoned down. There have been a number of (angry) marches across Europe and in the UK against the imposed ‘austerity’. On 16th April thousands took to the streets of London to protest against the cuts. This is met with a virtual media blackout. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/anti-austerity-protest-50000-london-david-cameron-resignation-trafalgar-square-a6987276.html
So what hope do we have then?
We don’t have a lot of hope using only the toys in the democratic playroom – ie. petitions, marches, lobbying – they have all of these buttoned down. We have to hope for a charismatic leader to unite the people into one clear voice for change. In the meantime we need to think outside the box and be more creative in our call for change.
I know Della, I asked myself ‘Where’s the coverage of these protests?’ We are being manipulated as ever, and we have to fight and never give in to this cancerous ruling system. I believe we are all disillusioned, some more than others, but the disenfranchised are growing, and I believe the elite know this. Time for change and more importantly ACCOUNTABLITY AND TRUTH! After all this is all most decent people want, because it’s from that starting block that good things begin to emerge. And the blog was, as ever, thought provoking. The only reason I’d vote Brexit is to get Cameron out along with Osbourne, but you have made me think beyond ‘blind hatred’. We have to be as tactical as those running the ‘show’.
If you want the continental Inquisitorial system of justice to continue ..where the ombudsman’s work is done in secret, vote Remain.. Because that’s exactly what we’ve got.
The continental system – which annoys so many complaints kept in the dark.
The PHSO is effectively the only judge of the entire evidence.
If you want the secrecy replaced by the British system of justice,where the evidence is open to two sides..the complaint and the public authority – The Adversarial – then vote Exit.
Because if we Brexit we can vote for a party that promises to replace the inquisitorial ombudsman ,..where the ombudsman has the power to investigate, deciding what evidence e the complaint sees, to the British two-way system ( as in our courts) where BOTH sides get to see the entire evidence of the other.
The inquisitorial Ombudsman investigation process was established in 1967, long before we entered the EU in 1973. If you ever get a political party put Ombudsman reform on their manifesto then that would be a first and by all means vote for them. Just be aware that sovereignty is filtered down to the people through a corrupted and self-serving political process; whether we are in or out that won’t change.
But JtOakley how do you explain then, how much better some other European countries ombudsmen are than ours?