Lewisham’s Democracy, it could be better

Lewisham’s Democracy, it could be better

Writing up what I think for Lewisham’s Democracy Review is proving harder than I thought, the source material i.e. Lewisham’s Constitution [www] is very long(483 pages), it’s .pdf, can’t easily be indexed or highlighted, so item No. 1. is to increase the transparency of the rules so citizens can understand how decisions are made.

This is a very Un-British way of doing things and all our instincts are wrong. Every decision is reserved for the Mayor who must present a number of plans to full council. the decisions are then taken in the context of the agreed plans which only require ⅓ voting in favour. The Mayor delegates all their executive functions to the Cabinet as a collective but also to the council’s principal paid officers. The backbench Councillor’s Scrutiny Committees can only delay these decisions. There, apart from criminal sanction, is no way to recall the Mayor. The Mayor does not hold office due to their ability to command a majority, they do not need to get many decisions agreed by Council. This is not just a first-amongst-equals “Leader” with a different mandate, it’s an alien form of government, lifted from the US & France and designed to reduce the accountability of the decisions from people and their political parties.

My first proposal would be that the Council agree to ask the people of Lewisham to abolish the Mayor and return to a collective committee led Council. It might seem to be less democratic but a committee led council has to maintain its mandate throughout it’s term of office, a Mayor led council supported by a just ⅓ of the Councillors can ignore civic society and wait for the next election.

The other ideas I need to develop,  and we’ll see how much detail I can research, would cover Recall, maybe requiring a more than 50% vote of the Council, Term Limits, something about an Ombudsman & Compliance Committee and independence, having the Cabinet appointed by the Council, the move to a Green Paper/White Paper process for decision making, improved citizen communication, the web site is shite, smaller wards and some thing on the need to use the powers in the Localism Act to get the changes in law that some of these things would require. …

One Man Rule

While talking to a friend, about Lewisham Council’s Democracy Review, I came to the conclusion that while I have opposed Executive Mayors because I feel the Labour Party is incapable of holding them i.e. Labour Mayors to account to their manifesto promises, actually the Council can’t do that either; it doesn’t have the tools; Scrutiny can only delay a decision and every decision except planning and licensing is taken by the Mayor. 💩

I need to look into the law and see if this can be changed/improved within the context of a Mayoral system, but as you may know my preference is a return to committee led councils. …

Democracy in the EU and the Trilemma

While writing up the last article, I also looked at “Labour’s Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome” on the Open Democracy web site. It refers to Rodrik’s trilemma., which was designed to examine the Bretton Woods currency regulations and the international trade regime it spawned.  I have marked up the first of these article with what I think are the interesting bits on diigo which can be viewed here. The OD article adopts the trilemma and sees a Lexit option as maximising (national) democracy and national control of economic policy and poses it against a “remain and reform” position which it argues maximises economic integration.

My biggest problem with the trilemma, which was designed to describe the Bretton Woods global currency regime is that it seems to believe that the UK’s democracy is superior to that of the EU. Within the EU, British Citizens are protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU’s Court, which as I an others have mentioned is chock full of the children of the opponents of fascism and Stalinism. It is also a republican construct without a House of Lords, without First Past the Post and without a hereditary Head of State. The people elect the European Parliament, the biggest party in the Parliament nominates the President of the Commission, the members of the Council and Commission are nominated by member state governments and the latter are confirmed and can be removed by the Parliament.

The Open Democracy article, also asks some tough questions of the Lexiters, not the least important being what makes you think that a more independent UK can manage Capital and the economy more effectively; it is clear that the Bexiters in the Tory Party don’t believe this. It also points the impossibility of being independent; the WTO places constraints on Trade Policy and if we want to sign a Trade Agreement with the EU, most of their same red lines will exist. …

Labour’s Democracy Review

Labour’s Democracy Review

Labour List reports the initialisation of the Labour Party’s “Democracy Review, together with some snide comments about its pace, suggesting that it is designed to  cement Corbyn’s leadership and succession rather than ensure it reports to the membership in time to debate the changes before conference.  They also publish the document passed at the OrgSub, also available as a mirror from this site.

The review will work in three phases, liberation organisation and autonomy, organisation & structure.

The first phase, about the Liberation Groups is planned to end by 12th Jan. One of the drivers for this is almost certainly the need to have new systems in place when the NEC Youth Rep is to be elected, and the need to rerun the election for the BAME representative on the NEC. From my conversations though I know that our BAME members have more to say.

The paper says there will be a hub, presumably a wiki at which members, CLPs and affiliates will be able to access the consultation questions and respond, there will also be an email address, (presumably for those without a browser) which is less satisfactory as any contributions become secret. The paranoid amongst us, assume that by not having a closed membership open wiki, where members can set the agenda, they are building a means of control. …

We have a choice

We have a choice

The events of the weekend have led me to the conclusion that my review of the manifestos as they relate to the internet and civil liberties were too factual and too dry. Over the weekend, three islamist terrorists attacked London with a white van and knives. It is now believed that at least one of them has been radicalised by Al-Muhajiroun a banned group and had been, yet again, notified to the security services and police. I suspect we’ll learn more over the next couple of days. This was a week after an attack in Manchester on a concert. Overnight the political parties agreed to suspend the campaign for the following day, but one of the parties broke that agreement. I look at the responses of May and Corbyn, linking to their speeches and analyse the meaning of the promise to deny the terrorists a safe space on the internet, to increase prison sentences together with the impact of the cuts to the police and intelligence service staff numbers.  …

Renewing Party Democracy

Renewing Party Democracy

The LP NEC is having an away day to discuss reforming its rules and internal democracy, mainly in the light of the massive increase in membership to more than half a million members.  Here’s my manifesto for a member led party, I hope to supplement it with some ideas on the use of IT to aid in policy development and expressing the membership voice, but in terms of rules reform …

London’s Labour Leadership Hustings

4 leaders

So the Leader debate is becoming about winning in 2020, how to win back the Tories and the Presidential qualities of the candidates, that’s what the Press are saying and that’s what the supporters of the three wise monkeys are arguing. The question that needs to be proved by them is that they are any more likely to win than Corbyn with his Keynesian anti-austerity policy. I attended the London Hustings for Labour’s Leadership yesterday. I don’t think it will have changed many people’s minds.  …

pictfor: democracy 2.0

pictfor: democracy 2.0

Last night I went up to Westminster for a Pictfor meeting; this time, Parliament 2.0: How can the internet revolutionise British Democracy. The panel speakers were, Jaan Priisalu, Director General of the Estonian Information System’s Authority, Katie Ghose, CEO, Electoral Reform Society & Ruth Fox, Director, Hansard Society, while the meeting was chaired by Stephen Mosley MP, it was kicked off by the John Bercow MP, the Speaker. The centre piece of Bercow’s speech was an introduction, for me at least, to the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy which is reviewing Representation, Scrutiny and the legislative process. Jaan Priisalu talked about Estonia’s e-voting paltform, while Ghose and Fox spoke about democratic engagement.  …

Cleaning Up Labour’s Politics II

Cleaning Up Labour’s Politics II

I have just published and backdated my first thoughts in response to Ed Miliband’s speech on “Cleaning Up” politics. This has been written over a six month period. It was started as I shaped my thoughts and was originally written as a contribution to what became the Collins Review but I decided it was insufficiently focused and made no proposals. It merely expressed my anger. The final version of the article was published today and backdated to near the point I started it. It was thus published after the closure of the Collins Review deadline, and before the publication of the Special Conference agenda.  …

Cleaning up politics

Cleaning up politics

Dear Ed,

Thank you very much for announcing that you were going to ignore the “Refounding Labour” consultation by writing to me from a “no reply” address. I always appreciate those. I’d also like to thank you for when you got round to it, allowing me to submit my views by posting them to what is becoming a classic one nation labour’s web property, the  ‘consulting bit bucket’. I shall be putting this on my blog, and posting a summary to my member’s net bog. …