European Commission President hopeful Jean-Claude Juncker suggests British people aren’t getting a vote on who becomes President but ignores one fundamental problem: the British people never get a vote and neither do the rest of Europe’s citizens. Ridiculously, this is the first time that the Commission President has been installed by elected members (MEPs). Former Presidents have all been selected by state leaders, a woefully undemocratic process.
But the new system isn’t very democratic either. Parties with MEPs form “super-parties” in the European Parliament and it’s the controlling “super-party” that gets to decide who is the Commission President. In this instance, that’s the European People’s Party
With 274 MEPs out of 766 in the European Parliament belonging to the EPP, it’s quite obvious that the decision on the EC President lies with a group of MEPs who have been voted into their roles by a tiny proportion of the electorate.
Percentage of electorate who voted for EPP: 15.57%
So, less than a fifth of the electorate voted for the EPP who get to make one of the most important decisions about the governance of the entire European Union. This is clearly not a very democratic system and so Juncker’s claim is baseless. The EPP hold too much power without sufficient mandate from the electorate. If Juncker wants the people to have their voice heard, he should concentrate on making the Commission Presidency a more democratic appointment, perhaps even directly elected by the people themselves.
I have mixed feelings about the Big Society. I’m all for devolution and more decision making power for communities, but I worry that the coalition’s plans will see local accountability suffer as more and more public services are provided by charities, private companies and social enterprises who are not subject to transparency legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act.
So today, at Austin Court in Birmingham I had the opportunity to put this question directly to the Prime Minister, David Cameron;
With the Big Society empowering charities, private companies and social enterprises to take on public services what are you going to do to ensure that communities themselves can effectively hold those providers to account?
You can watch the whole questioning session in the video at the bottom, with my question and the PM’s answer at 45:55.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the answer, to be honest. I had contemplated adding a bit at the end about Freedom of Information Requests but I decided not to risk pigeon-holing the answer into one area and to see what the PM came up with.
He seemed to say that accountability would come from two places; take up of services and local authority oversight.
Firstly he said that the Government would pay on results and so public service providers would have to get the users to justify the funding suggesting that those providers not doing a good job would lose users and thus funding. The big mental barrier I have with this – and the whole big society idea (which I generally welcome) – is how it works in practice. For example, if Lichfield District Council outsource bin collections to a private company who do a rubbish (‘scuse the pun) job where do I go? Will I actually have a choice of who collects my bins without moving outside the area? What if the schools my nephews go to are taken over by a local charity who do a poorer job? My sisters won’t be able to move to another catchment area for a different school so my nephews will be stuck with a lower standard of education because of where they live and no chance to improve their prospects.
The second was more worrying. “Empowering local government” and making sure they have an overseeing role just sounds very thin to me. There was no mention of how local government would actually oversee those providers and ensure they are accountable to the community. More, that didn’t really answer the question because local government is not the local community and I asked how the community can hold providers to account.
I was hoping he’d go further, but he didn’t. I was hoping to hear that the FoI Act would be expanded to include all public service providers, regardless of sector. It wasn’t forthcoming and I’m still left with the same feeling.
That the Big Society sounds like it could really work. Devolving decision making power and making Government less controlling and more supportive. But it doesn’t feel like the implementation of the idea has been thought through, and I get the sense that too little has gone into thinking about the consequences of what the shift in power could really mean.
At least if central Government is more proselytising we know who to shout out if it goes wrong. If power is in the hands of many though, who do we turn to when we need to question that authority?
I’ll be writing to my MP about this to see if he can shed any more light. In the meantime I’d appreciate your thoughts, too.
What Nick Clegg needs to do now is be tough with the Conservatives. They are on the back foot and desperate to get into power but Clegg holds the keys.
Let’s face it, they’ll be no LibLab coalition – they just don’t have the electoral mandate. They’d need too much support from nationalists who would soon drop their support when their primary aims comes up. Neither Brown nor Clegg could ethically claim to be PM and putting in David Milliband or Harriet Harman would prompt “unelected PM” outrage.
So we’ll either have a LibCon coalition or a minority Conservative government, the way I see it.
In order to get a LibCon coalition, though some massive concessions need to be made. Cameron and the Conservatives are desperate for power under a majority Government. Nick Clegg who is showing himself to be a man of massive integrity, holds the keys and probably has more bargaining power.
It seems to me the concessions would mostly have to come from the Conservatives and that would not go down well. To the point where the coalition would either be very shaky or not go ahead at all. If such a coalition fell apart we’d see another general election in which both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would be punished. We’d probably get a majority Labour government with a landslide victory and the LibDems would go back to being nobodys.
I believe that Nick Clegg should go in tough, sticking to his four campaign priorities as non-negotiables. If the Conservatives don’t concede on electoral reform they will have to form a minority. Clegg’s integrity will be intact and he’ll keep the support of his party as well as those who voted for him (and all those who voted tactically to keep the Tories out).
By the next general election (which may follow the collapse of a Conservative government) we could well have electoral reform and Clegg’s action will likely reward him a much greater share of the vote and push him and the Liberal Democrats into opposition, if not Government.
So, don’t do it Nick – stick to your guns, let’s get electoral reform!
This week, David Cameron announced that he is prepared to impose all-women shortlists for the next general election. The Labour Party has already used all-women shortlists and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he would consider introducing them if the number of women MPs in his party didn’t ‘improve’ at the next general election.
The issue that Cameron, Brown and Clegg are attempting to address is the lack of female MPs. They’re also talking about a lack of black MPs at the same time. They see the Commons as unrepresentative of Britain.
According to ONS, there were 1.1 million more women than men in the UK in mid-2007. So with just 20% of MPs being women, the Commons definitely isn’t representative of the UK when we look purely at the figures.
In my view – and please challenge me on this – the Commons is not supposed to be representative of the population, but rather to represent the population. An MP does not have to be able to identify with a constituent, only to empathise with a constituent. For example, if my MP was female I would not consider her less capable of representing me in the House of Commons than the male MP that currently represents me.
A good MP, in my opinion, will act in a manner that is in the best interest of their constituents, regardless of their own gender, race, heritage or religious beliefs. Implementing women-only shortlists should not make any difference to the representation that the electorate have. If MPs feel that the people are not properly represented then that suggests to me serious failings in the MPs themselves, not whether or not they were born with a penis.
Forcing men out of power and allowing more women in will not necessarily improve the representation of the people in Parliament and I challenge anyone who says otherwise to provide evidence that suggests the Commons is likely to be more effective if more of its MPs are women.
By introducting women-only shortlists the political parties are actively excluding some males from the process. This to me is gender discrimination in it’s most obvious form. I remember very clearly as a kid being told that two wrongs don’t make a right. I strongly believe that to be true and consider women-only shortlists proposed by the main political parties to be just that. They are trying to right (what they consider to be) a wrong by openly discriminating against males. That, to me is wrong whatever the intention.
Instead all those wishing to run as PPCs should be judged on their merits, whether they be male or female, ethinic minority or majority. Then leave the public to decide which of those PPCs are deemed worth of sitting in the Commons. The lack of female candidates is merely a sympton of a wider problem. Forcing more women candidates is not a solution – it’s a hypocritical action that damages the integrity of the political system.
So, at least in this election both the Labour Party and the Conservatives have lost any chance of getting my vote by openly discriminating against men with hopes of becoming MPs.
Agree? Disagree? There’s a comments box below… use it.