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Archive for the ‘Constitutional change in Britain’ Category

Supreme Court ruling heralds constitutional chaos

Posted by seumasach on January 24, 2017

Cailean Bochanan

24th January, 2017

It is not necessary to read beyond the first sentence of today’s Supreme Court Ruling to arrive at the heart of the matter

“The devolution Acts were passed by Parliament on the assumption that the UK would be a member of the EU, but they do not require the UK to remain a member.”

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NI group to bring Brexit challenge

Posted by seumasach on July 25, 2016

ITV

25th July, 2016

A cross-community group comprising politicians, including former Justice Minister David Ford and human rights activists is to bring a legal challenge to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

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George Osborne offers devolution route to cities with elected mayor

Posted by seumasach on May 14, 2015

The Tory program to end “big government” nows goes ahead although, of course, it was scarcely discussed in the election campaign. Central government will no longer be able to play its traditional role in terms of spending and, at least potentially. standing as a barrier to oligarchy.

Guardian

14th May, 2015

George Osborne will on Thursday invite England’s big cities to join Manchester in bidding for devolved powers, as long as they agree to be governed by a directly elected mayor.

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Devolution and the welfare crisis

Posted by seumasach on December 19, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

19th December, 2014

The Smith Commision report on more devolved powers to the Scottish government contradicts the wider asserted claim by the the “Yes” campaign that a “No” vote would lead to a roll back of devolved government. Many of them are now attacking the report as inadequate and calling for greater devolution of financial powers to Scotland. I wouldn’t rule out that happening but I would question the assumption that such devolved powers, even if they amounted to Devomax i.e. full financial control devolved to Edinburgh, would lead to increases in social spending as claimed.

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Magna Carta: The Rule of Law’s foundation?

Posted by seumasach on December 2, 2014

As this article correctly points out Magna Carta “was, for the large part, an agreement between the State and rich and powerful stakeholders. It was never intended to be a charter that protected individual rights. The “free man” in Clause 39 did not refer to the majority populace who were serfs and were always oppressed by the rich and powerful feudal lords.” How then did it become “…the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”? It didn’t. Nothing in Magna Carta protects the individual against the arbitrary authority of the rich and powerful. Only the sovereign state, independent of oligarchical control, can do that and it was precisely this power that Magna Carta was directed against. It is appropriate that Magna Carta should be coming back into fashion as devolution of powers away from central government creates a weak state or an ensemble of weak administrative entities easily subject to corporate control. Furthermore, if Magna Carta was such a significant and historic document why did the Great Bard himself make no reference to it in his play “King John”. Instead, he recounts a treasonous plot by the barons against the legitimate sovereign- precisely the point!

Magna Carta: The Rule of Law’s foundation

The Star

1st December, 2014

THE United Kingdom, unlike Malaysia, does not have a written constitution. What this means is that there is not a single document, like our own Federal Constitution, which is the highest law of the country. That is not to say that the United Kingdom has no constitution; the constitution of the United Kingdom can be found in several different sources.

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The Scottish referendum and the decentralization of Britain

Posted by seumasach on September 28, 2014

The election result yesterday reinforces my analysis, below, of the 2014 referendum campaign. So, after having won an election on the basis of opposing “the break-up of Britain”, David Cameron can proceed with the break-up of Britain. It took some deft maneuvering to get to this point but the coup de grace was delivered, with an air of complete innocence, by Ms Sturgeon in the form of her pledge to keep the Tories out by allying with Labour. This was a red rag to a John Bull and provoked massive tactical voting against Labour in England. It also helped top up the SNP vote in Scotland as many fell under the spell of this mythical “progressive coalition”. And so the Tory/SNP axis has come into being and it will indeed dominate British politics for years to come, or, at least, until 2020 which is a very long way away in political terms.

Cameron’s first move will be to shore up the position of the SNP by bringing  substantial devolution, greater, he claims, than that existing anywhere in the world, which presumably will mean full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. This will in turn trigger English devolution including restrictions on SNP voting on English affairs. England will be divided into “city/regions” after the pattern already established with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Cameron has pledged to renew Trident and hold a referendum on European Union membership. Both proposals are unrealistic oand destructive. The SNP opposes both and has suggested that a “no” vote on Europe would justify a new referendum on Scottish independence. Could they help Cameron get off the hook on counter-productive electoral pledges?

Far from being “anti austerity” as the Scottish electorate have been led to believe, devolved power will end forever neo-Keynesian deficit financing and inaugurate a period of structural austerity- local  or regional bodies lack the credibility for deficit financing, hardly surprising since central government already does too, hence quantitative easing. Despite the SNP’s clear commitment to balanced budgets, a policy once associated with the likes of Newt Gingrich, they were very generously given a free run on a completely imaginary “progressive, anti-austerity” agenda by the media and their rivals. On the other hand, their very positive programme of bringing foreign, mainly Chinese investment into Scotland was not , to my knowledge, given a mention. They will be betting that the ensuing economic growth will save their skins when the reality of devolution sinks in.

I see no grounds for dismay in this outcome- there is everything to play for. The Tories have always showed themselves capable of adapting to new global realities and despite the reappointment of hotheads like Hammond and Fallon and the consequent torrents of hot air and bluff and bluster, they know that Britain is no longer in a position to dictate to Russia or anyone else. The  bottom lines are that Britain must remain in Europe (for the sake of incoming investment), Trident must be scrapped since, amongst other things it is unaffordable and the people, already suffering under perpetual austerity must unite to defend basic, decent living standards for all, especially the most vulnerable.

Cailean Bochanan

28th September, 2014

When Nicola Sturgeon spoke back in January of the inevitability of change whatever the outcome of the referendum and appealed to the “No” campaign to come forward with their proposals for further devolution to Scotland she must have known that a response would be forthcoming. All political parties had been focused for some time on the issue of the decentralization of the British state and the referendum was to be the cue for these ideas to come to the fore. However, from the point of views of both campaigns this issue was to become the elephant in the room that no one wanted to see. The “Yes” campaign , notwithstanding Sturgeon’s remarks, continued to insist that it was all or nothing for Scotland, that not only was further devolution not on the agenda but that a “No” vote would see the rollback of devolution already conceded. The “No” campaign evoked the enduring stability of the union and an era of innocence in which good old Great Britain was not about to be eviscerated. As a result, it was only when “panicked” representatives of the leading UK parties came to Scotland late in the campaign, following polls suggestive of a “Yes” vote, that it became evident to all that further devolution was indeed on the agenda. The “panicked” UK leaders, far from making up policy on the hoof, were, however, merely putting forward what they had always intended in an opportune manner which would give themselves credit post-referendum. They were also shoring up the position of Alex Salmond and the SNP post-referendum who could claim that their campaign and a surge in support had forced the hand of the Westminster establishment.
That major constitutional change was on the cards was made clear in a speech in April by Labour leader, Ed Milliband, a speech which was studiously ignored by everyone. In it he blamed overcentralisation for all Britain’s ills and promised to devolve power and spending to English cities and regions. He also revealed the real point behind this “bringing of power to the people” as the Tories like to call it:
“With power of this sort comes responsibility.
These changes will only bring new jobs, greater prosperity, if the towns and cities are willing to put the private sector at the heart of decision making.”
Welsh Conservative leader Stephen Crabb was to pick up on the same theme as he launched the pre-panic, Tory devolution response in July,:
“I am very comfortable with the way devolution is developing. It is quite an exciting landscape that is emerging for devolution. So fiscal devolution I see as particularly important because of strengthening accountability for devolved government.”
This, he thought, would help to “challenge socialist orthodoxy” citing the influence of leading Thatcherite ideologue,Lord Brian Griffiths, in his conversion to devolution.

Any doubts about major constitutional change were dispelled in Cameron’s speech following the announcement of the referendum result. He called for English votes on English issues, effectively a call for English devolution. It also launched the 2015 election campaign with a shot across the bows of the Labour as Cameron sensed blood and seized the moment when the Labour/Tory duopoly gives way to a Tory/SNP axis which could dominate Britain for a long time to come. Labour’s hesitancy regarding English devolution doesn’t mean they won’t support it: they have no choice, but they wish to delay it beyond the next election. If Milliband has written their suicide note in the above mentioned speech they can be forgiven for pacing the room in a state of high agitation before finally putting the bullet through their head.
The British ruling class have embarked upon a major transformation of Britain. Milliband’s speech gives an indication of what they have in mind. The essence of this change is more easily grasped within the context of US politics and the politics of the Republican right. The goal is the end of Big Government. As Britain heads towards another crisis resembling that of 2008 it will face similar dilemmas to those they faced then. In 2008 they bailed out the banks without taking control of them. This time overwhelming popular pressure could force their hand and result in nationalization. Similar pressures could lead to renationalization of the utilities and even land and the housing stock. These measures are unacceptable and dangerous to the post-Thatcherite oligarchy. By devolving spending and tax raising powers to the regions they are vetoing that particularly noxious, in their view, outcome. Admittedly, the state is bankrupt anyway but they will not be presiding over the bankruptcy of Britain with the tax-payer as the priority creditor, the state taking on our assets and our debt to our international partners being resolved through intergovernmental negotiation as I have been proposing for some time. Instead, they will proceed through “the market”.
It could be objected that there is little left to privatize. But Britain’s privatization programme is really just a corporate welfare scheme whereby public funds are transferred to private companies. The companies would not otherwise be making money. This process is inordinately expensive to the British state and is not sustainable. The British state will then withdraw its largesse and as it does so foreign states or their agencies will take its place. This process is already well underway as James Meek has documented and is about to accelerate dramatically. The British oligarchy instead of going down for a very, very long time have opted to be bought out by the Chinese and retired to the Cayman Islands.
It is a great irony that the “yes” campaign regard further devolution as a well earned consolation prize and continue to shout betrayal in the form of its non-implimentation. They have been joining in the fun too, dancing on the the grave of the Labour Party but it is also the grave containing the corpse of their neo-Keynesian spending strategies. The active component of the “yes” campaign is basically on the left, contemptuous of Scotland’s national status except when referring to it, hilariously, as “one of the richest nations on earth”, and these heady days have been like the last faint echo of Blair’s, 1997 “Things can only get better” surge, before we finally sink into the abyss. So they’re celebrating their own demise too: it’s just one internal contradiction too far.
That the coming crisis of Western imperialism will have a neo-liberal solution is at first sight dismaying but it has its logic. I was a struck by the insistence of a Chinese academic, speaking at at Glasgow University’s Confucius Institute, on the resolution of Britain’s debt and current account deficit with China via the market. What, I thought, did we have to sell back to them. Not much, but we can let them relocate factories which produce for our market to Britain. That way, they don’t have to accept sterling fiat money in payment and we can start to correct our trade deficit. That is definitely win-win. They can also facilitate this by taking control of our utilities and building other essential infrastructure. Finally, they can take over our banking system, after its major shareholders and creditors have taken the hit,opening up control of a significant portion of Britain’s land and real estate for re-industrialization. The British government has already taken us some way down this path and we have signed a formal strategic partnership with China and are now proud issuers of Renminbi-denominated UK government bonds. Other sovereign wealth funds will, of course, participate. Just as free-market ideology furnished us with a cover for imperialism in the 18th and 19th century, so it now provides a cover for a policy for end of empire. This is anxiously sought by the Chinese and the Global South and their investments will not be just about profit but drawing the sting out of Anglo-American imperialism. In exchange for life-saving inward investment Britain will de facto renounce its imperial or hegemonic project and become a neutral, demilitarized state. Perhaps Scotland could become a Chinese concession just as we once had concessions in China. That would be poetic justice and leave us staring survival in the face.
The constitutional transformation will go through and it will also be as many have pointed out a dog’s dinner. But the goal is purely negative from the point of view of the British oligarchy: to veto Big Government. However, it contains other potentialities as Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein was quick to grasp when he pointed out that, despite the “no” vote, “the British state is not static”. Britain is not suitable for federalisation and the regionalization of England is a completely synthetic agenda which is being foisted on a reluctant people. Hence another irony: the “No” vote may be the real “break up of Britain” agenda. The constitutional agenda compromises Britain’s sovereignty and at a certain point when all the wars and tumult of empire are a fading memory that issue of sovereignty will return and, in all likelihood, resolve itself as four sovereign nations in these islands.

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All Hail The British Revolution!- All Power to the Oligarchy!

Posted by seumasach on May 28, 2009

 

All Hail The British Revolution!- All Power to the Oligarchy!
At first sight the whole MPs’ expenses scandal looks like a carefully prepared  and choreographed stratagem to divert attention from the mega-corruption of the oligarchy, the financier insiders, to the micro-corruption of our representatives’ little pilferings. The oligarchs have taken everything we’ve got upfront and in advance; surely it’s ungenerous for them to deny the House some small reward for their supine passivity in the face of this greatest of all heists. But its not soft-heartedness that got our robber baron’s where they are today: they know more than any that wealth without power is ultimately vain and that absolute wealth demands absolute power. And so it is that they have decided add to their great financial coup a political coup which will, they hope, free them from political hassles in perpetuity. The new man in their life, the one chosen to undertake this task, (the undertaker, if you like, for what remains of British democracy) is David Cameron. For revolution is in the air and who better to entrust with “the transfer of power from the powerful to the powerless” than one freshly sprung from their own privileged ranks.
At the heart of Cameron’s reform programme is a theme which I have dealt already in these columns: the oligarchy don’t like strong executive power fearing that, no matter what precautions they take in grooming the candidates for no 10, at a certain point it may be the focal point for a counter attack based on popular or establishment disaffection. Better then to completely emasculate the executive to preclude any power  rivalling theirs. So it’s not enough to have humiliated Brown and reduced him the the pathetically pliant creature we see today: the prime ministership itself must be dimished to the point of impotence. This the first plank of Cameron’s programme.
Here, the beauty of Britain’s constitution , or lack of one, pays dividends: the executive power is inextricably bound up with the legislative. The head of state is the monarch and only through a process of evolution did the prime minister, from the time of Disraeli, onward accrue power. It did this indirectly through the development of the party system and the whips. Therefore, by weakening these the Prime Minister’s status and power is undermined. This is precisely Cameron’s elegant solution. In general, all these plans to reform the legislative look quite sensible except that they all require one thing to complete them: a president elected by a popular vote. But that would be Jacobinism; it wouldn’t do as we Brits say. Similarly Cameron knows not to put forward proportional representation thus allowing a chamber which represents a range of views and not just the endless mudge and fudge of the mire that is the middle ground of British politics. That wouldn’t do either.
Having knobbled the political process at its core and put the politicians in their place(for it is to these that he refers when he talks of “the powerful”) let us turn to the powerless. There is a strange admission in Cameron’s terminology since how can people be powerless in the world’s foremost democracy. Did we fight and win two world wars to be powerless. The answer is “yes” as Cameron implicitly concedes in what I suppose you could call “ a breath of fresh air”. Anyway, what remedy for the powerless? Power is to be decentralised; we are to be given local power. Yes, it’s the old power to the people trick. We can concede the importance local government without being so stupid as to think it a substitute for central power. Without central power, oligarchy, corporate and financier power rule. They can knobble local councils easily and just to make this solution even more elegant, they have already done so. I’ll leave readers to speculate on or explore the modalities of this vassalage for themselves. It is all around us: just look at how the mobile phone companies have enforced their will on local bodies.
The third plank of reform is taking power back from Brussels. Here in Britain both left and right oppose Europe because it’s “bourgeois”. You know bourgeois law, all that stuff- regulation, what have you. Too  many hassles, man! Like, do your own thing! Oligarchs particularly dislike the rule of law since it contravenes their right to loot whatever they can get their hands on. That’s why they have effectively privatised the courts system in this country. But if Europe won’t move with the times, won’t “modernise” then we must shun them. And so say all of us! And anyway, what’s wrong with the Pound? ( I’ll come to that point further down)
So here, in a nutshell, we have the principles which will guide us through the rapids of revolution under the infallible guidance of the Dear Leader to Be, once everyone has been told to elect him. Does anyone see any problems with it? It has every chance of success, will be supported by all parties apart from a bit of quibbling about PR and should guarantee bankster power in our time.  Never in the field of class conflict have so few owed so much to so many (and so many just let them get off with it).
Still, there is a problem. This is so very a much a British affair. A rerun of that pageant of history in which barons, big whigs, financiers and oligarchs made their stand against sovereign and constitutional power in the name of that timeless British ideal of private interest. From the treasonous barons at Runnymede, to the genocidal Puritan lunatics; from the Dutch invasion and coup d’etat of 1688 to the unabashed delinquency of the Gordon riots, always the same theme dominates: oligarchy. Why should it not do so now?
Were our wars not to have been so disastrous; were our productive capacities not so diminished; was our credibility in the world not to have sunk so low; was our currency not about to become the but of short sellers and jesters, this  apotheosis of Britishness might be accepted as an unpleasant but inevitable culmination of our development, the fulfillment of our spirit as the Prussian state was of Hegel’s. But in a global world, our position looks precarious. A global paradigm shift is in process and we’re not part of it. We’re locking ourselves out and, quite frankly, given the state of the place, the utter shambles, we might be  better off as North Korea. The reality of today’s world is expressed in geopolitics: the power shift from West to East  and the alliance of creditor nations from Russia and China to the Arab world are the predominant emerging facts on the ground. If we want the capital inflows, on which we are totally dependent, to continue we must start to recognise these new factors. The power of the City of London, the Empire, in other words, is over and their little plans to stitch up what’s left of the realm, though quaint, will hold no sway in this greater scheme of things.C

Cailean Bochanan

28th May, 2009

At first sight the whole MPs’ expenses scandal looks like a carefully prepared  and choreographed stratagem to divert attention from the mega-corruption of the oligarchy’s bailout to the micro-corruption of our representatives’ little pilferings. The oligarchs have taken everything we’ve got upfront and in advance; surely it’s ungenerous for them to deny the House some small reward for their supine passivity in the face of this greatest of all heists. But its not soft-heartedness that got our robber baron’s where they are today: they know more than any that wealth without power is ultimately vain, and that absolute wealth demands absolute power. And so it is that they have decided add to their great financial coup a political coup which will, they hope, free them from political hassles in perpetuity. The new man in their life, the one chosen to undertake this task, (the undertaker, if you like, for what remains of British democracy) is David Cameron. For revolution is in the air and who better to entrust with “the transfer of power from the powerful to the powerless” than one freshly sprung from their own ranks.

 

At the heart of Cameron’s reform programme is a theme which I have dealt already in these columns: the oligarchy don’t like strong executive power fearing that, no matter what precautions they take in grooming the candidates for no. 10, at a certain point it may be the focal point for a counter attack based on popular or establishment disaffection. Better then to completely emasculate the executive to preclude any power  rivalling theirs. So it’s not enough to have humiliated Brown and reduced him the the pathetically pliant creature we see today: the prime ministership itself must be dimished to the point of impotence. This the first plank of Cameron’s programme.

 

Here, the beauty of Britain’s constitution , or lack of one, pays dividends: the executive power is inextricably bound up with the legislative. The head of state is the monarch and only through a process of evolution did the prime minister, from the time of Disraeli onward, accrue power. It did this indirectly through the development of the party system and the whips. Therefore, by weakening these the Prime Minister’s status and power is undermined. This is precisely Cameron’s elegant solution. In general, all these plans to reform the legislative look quite sensible except that they all require one thing to complete them: a president elected by a popular vote. But that would be Jacobinism; it wouldn’t do as we Brits say. Similarly Cameron knows not to put forward proportional representation thus allowing a chamber which represents a range of views and not just the endless mudge and fudge of the mire that is the middle ground of British politics. That wouldn’t do either.

 

Having knobbled the political process at its core and put the politicians in their place(for it is to these that he refers when he talks of “the powerful”) let us turn to the powerless. There is a strange admission in Cameron’s terminology since how can people be powerless in the world’s foremost democracy. Did we fight and win two world wars to be powerless. The answer is “yes” as Cameron implicitly concedes in what I suppose you could call “ a breath of fresh air”. Anyway, what remedy for the powerless? Power is to be decentralised; we are to be given local power. Yes, it’s the old power to the people trick. We can concede the importance of local government without being so stupid as to think it a substitute for central power. Without central power, oligarchy, corporate and financier power rule. They can knobble local councils easily and just to make this solution even more elegant, they have already done so. I’ll leave readers to speculate on or explore the modalities of this vassalage for themselves. It is all around us: just look at how the mobile phone companies have enforced their will on local bodies.

 

The third plank of reform is taking power back from Brussels. Here in Britain both left and right oppose Europe because it’s “bourgeois”. You know bourgeois law, all that stuff- regulation, what have you. Too  many hassles, man! Oligarchs particularly dislike the rule of law since it contravenes their right to loot whatever they can get their hands on. That’s why they have effectively privatised the courts system in this country. But if Europe won’t move with the times, won’t “modernise” then we must shun them. And so say all of us! And anyway, what’s wrong with the Pound? ( I’ll come to that point further down)

 

So here, in a nutshell, we have the principles which will guide us through the rapids of revolution under the infallible guidance of the Dear Leader to Be, once everyone has been told to elect him. Does anyone see any problems with it? It has every chance of success, will be supported by all parties apart from a bit of quibbling about PR and should guarantee bankster power in our time.  Never in the field of class conflict have so few owed so much to so many (and so many just allowed them to keep it).

 

Still, there is a problem. This is so very a much a British affair. A rerun of that pageant of history in which barons, big whigs, financiers and oligarchs made their stand against sovereign and constitutional power in the name of that timeless British ideal of Private Interest. From the treasonous barons at Runnymede, to the genocidal Puritan lunatics; from the Dutch invasion and coup d’etat of 1688 to the unabashed delinquency of the Gordon riots, always the same theme dominates: oligarchy. Why should it not do so now?

 

Were our wars not to have been so disastrous; were our productive capacities not so diminished; was our credibility in the world not to have sunk so low; was our currency not about to become the butt of short sellers and jesters, this  apotheosis of Britishness might be accepted as an unpleasant but inevitable culmination of our development, the fulfillment of our spirit as the Prussian state was of Hegel’s. But in a global world, our position looks precarious. A global paradigm shift is in process and we’re not part of it. We’re locking ourselves out and, quite frankly, given the state of the place, the utter shambles, we might be  better off as North Korea. The reality of today’s world is expressed in geopolitics: the power shift from West to East  and the alliance of creditor nations from Russia and China to the Arab world are the predominant emerging facts on the ground. If we want the capital inflows, on which we are totally dependent, to continue we must start to recognise these new factors. The power of the City of London, the Empire, in other words, is over and their little plans to stitch up what’s left of the realm, though quaint, will hold no sway in this greater scheme of things.

Posted in Constitutional change in Britain, Financial crisis | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

 
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