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Let the people speak

PARLIAMENTARY government in Great Britain originated as a .check on the powers of the king who sought absolute power as his 'divine right'. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 curtailed the monarch's power and laid the foundation of civil and religious liberty in these islands. However, the present parliamentary system has become as corrupt and tyrannical as any Stuart king. The British State is an elective dictatorship.

The problem with our present system of `parliamentary democracy' is that once elected, Members of Parliament can act without consulting their constituents for the next five years. Once the ritual of gathering our votes is over, MPs cease to be accountable to their electorate. The parliamentary system assumes a body of men and women who listen to arguments and debates before making up their minds and voting to pursue a certain course of action or to pass a certain law. This is a fantasy! MPs are generally not free to vote in such a manner. MPs instead are party fodder, subject to the party whips rather than to the public who elected them.


The recent parliamentary debate on the Maastricht Treaty was a case in point. The debate in the Commons chamber itself was meaningless. The real business was conducted in the tea-rooms, bars and corridors outside the chamber. The real issue was the vote - whether the government would win or lose. In the event it won by a slim majority of only three votes after party whips put enormous pressure on backbench Conservative MPs to ensure that they voted the `right way' in favour of the treaty. The views of the electorate were not even considered! Unlike their fellow Europeans in Denmark, France and Éire, the British electorate will not be allowed to have any say on this issue. They can't be trusted to vote the `right way'.

Voters` views are only likely to be sought by occasional opinion polls. Such polls often have interesting things to reveal, but their findings are open to manipulation particularly in the manner in which questions are phrased and the interpretation put upon the answers given. In important issues such as Maastricht the people's views are not wanted. Major and Smith have both denied the people the right to have a referendum on the issue. Fewer people than ever trust their elected `representatives'. It is no wonder that politicians are viewed with such contempt by so many people. Clearly something will have to be done if genuine accountability and trust is to be restored in any of the institutions of government.


The Third Way movement has long been critical of the present parliamentary system and argues for its replacement by a form of genuine participative democracy. Such a system would take power away from the professional politicians and restore it to the people themselves through a series of popular congresses. In the meantime we should keep an eye on an interesting development in Canada which could be of great significance.

Mr Jack Weisgerber, the leader of the Social Credit Party in British Columbia, has introduced a Recall Bill into the Provincial Legislature. This proposes that a recall of votes could be initiated if 200 of the electors in an MP's constituency have signed a petition to the Chief Electoral Officer calling for his or her removal. Both the petitioners and the MP would have the right to state their cases in writing to the constituents. A recall vote would require a simple majority to unseat the erring MP until the next general election. Ulster Nation wishes Mr Weisgerber and the BC Social Credit Party well with this Bill. It will be interesting to see if Canadian MPs are genuinely interested in furthering democratic accountability. Such a law would have a startling effect on the behaviour of arrogant MPs. The people would have the final say on issues of national importance.  

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