Reform of Labours Candidate Selection

Reform of Labours Candidate Selection

On Saturday, Labour Conference changed the rules as it pertained to the Local Campaign Forums now named Local Govt. Committees, the Rule changes were published in CAC 1 and I have made a copy that exclusively refers to Chapter 12, LCF Rule Proposal extract from CAC1

The key reforms are,

  1. Voting power on the LGC will be ⅓ for the Council Group, ⅓ for the CLP Reps, and ⅓ for delegates from Trade Unions. This is voting power it is not dependent on the number of delegates.
  2. Councillors may only sit in the Council Group class of delegates
  3. The Leader/Deputy Leader are to sit on the LGC Executive.
  4. There are strong, or maybe weak, but at least some rules to constrain Councillors from impacting seats they are interested in, but obviously not swapping favours.
  5. CLP’s delegate numbers will be representative of the number of wards represented in the LA area.
  6. The authority for the manifesto remains unclear.

This does not increase the accountability of the Labour Group.

Have a look and make a comment if I have missed anything. …

but democracy!

but democracy!

As we approach Brexit Ground Zero, Labour’s leavers, at least those too embarrassed to talk about immigration are pinning their hopes on the “but Democracy” argument.

In March 1975 Margaret Thatcher described referendums as “a device of dictators and demagogues” but she got a lot wrong and I ask myself if this is true.

Britain is run as a Parliamentary Democracy but there is no basic law and Parliament can do as it pleases. Many if not most of the checks on the Executive or on Ministers are based on convention not statute. We have an unelected upper chamber in which both hereditary peers and Church of England bishops have votes and we have a hereditary Head of State. I thought and wrote about the UK’s Democracy last year and found it wanting.

A democracy must exist under a rule of law; Britain does not because Parliament, which means the House of Commons can do as it pleases. Our only Human Rights guarantee is two Acts of Parliament, which can both be repealed. We should note that Government impunity is increased as the Coalition Government took away legal aid for judicial review and while this was designed to stop benefit claimants suing the Government when it broke the law, it also makes it much more difficult to defend more political rights.

Political systems must be designed to resolve priorities either by building a consensus or by articulating a majority view when the issues are such that there is a polarisation in society. We have furthermore the need to define and defend basic Human Rights which the world has developed a consensus around the UN Declaration of Human Rights, although in Western Europe we tend to ignore economic rights, such as freedom from poverty.

The problem of a dual mandate is not uncommon. Presidential systems based on the US model have this built in, as does the French system and on a smaller scale our system of Executive Mayors.  It should be necessary for a President to build a wide-ranging coalition to win, which should be a protection against the degeneration of Democracy, but history would suggest this is not the case. Where a society is split on critical social & economic issues, or religious[1] or national identity issues, the “winner takes all” nature of Presidential systems and Plebiscites is a centripetal force on the unity of the polity. (This is powerfully identified in Juan Linz’s paper, Democracy: Presidential or Parliamentary, Does it make a difference?) I say,

Only a Parliament can represent the breadth of interests[2] in a complex society, only a Parliament can negotiate popular compromises based on 2nd choices and changing priorities.

Presidents and plebiscites pose a tyrannical threat to the nuances of the people’s will, only a Parliament has a mandate and capability to resolve & negotiate these complexities and we should note its mandate is comprehensive and current. The issue of developing a compromise may be critical, particularly in the terms of the Brexit debate where a number of advocates of Leave have changed their minds from seeking a deal to opposing one. I was of the view that the advocates of Leave should negotiate the terms of exit and then as Unions do, ask if the deal was acceptable. This allows people to change their mind, and consider their opinion when the detail of the proposal is concrete.

The history of the degeneration of democracies, most recently and obviously in Turkey, is one where a Parliamentary system is transformed by plebiscite into a Presidential one, and then bit-by-bit the checks and balances are removed, starting usually with an attack on the independence[3] of the judiciary.

We are sleep walking along a similar path.

While I cannot find an inexorable proof that plebiscites[4] are the tools of dictator’s and demagogues, their history would strongly suggest that this is the case.

ooOOOoo

[1] For a short period, Bosnia & Herzgovina had a multi-ethnic/faith presidium and the Lebanon had an ethnic/faith power sharing convention sharing the President/Prime Minister/Speaker roles.

[2] This needs small-ish constituencies and fair voting systems, and in the UK the abolition of the House of Lords

[3] Although the only independence that the UK judges has is indefinite tenure; another area we could do better.

[4] I am of the view that Presidential systems based on the US model are also less capable of representing the breadth and nuamce of the politics of the nation and are fundamentally less stable. …

Byte-ing the ballot

I went to one of the breakout rooms where there was a debate on E-voting and Democracy.

It was chaired by Michela Palese of the Electoral Reform Society who introduced a panel consisting of Areeq Chowdhury from Webroots Democracy & Prof Mark Ryan of Birmingham University, who supported the motion that E-Voting was good and Louise Ferguson of the ORG and Ross Anderson from the Foundation for Information Policy Research who were more sceptical.

Chowdhury’s argument is based on convenience and accessibility.

Ryan was more nuanced and firstly posed the question of time scales, I am unclear if he believes its possible to solve the issue, or that it might become so, that a single system can be built that offers transparency of a result and secrecy of ballot, but he did raise the question of if we can do banking why not elections and answered it in that remediating banking errors is easy compared with remediating a flawed and broken election. The latter is an issue we should all understand because of the Brexit referendum but we should recognise that IT errors caused the failure of Greenwich Nat. West and nearly brought down Knight Capital, so some banking errors are not so easy to remediate.

Ryan quoted Australia, Estonia and the US as places where e-voting is used, but there are problems in all three countries, some of it reported in this blog and much of it catalogued in Chapter 23, “The Bleeding Edge” pages 759-763 of Prof. Ross Anderson’s book, “Security Engineering”.

Ferguson argued that IT does not solve the access problems but did not mention the digital divide. She also addressed the issue of the anti-democratic nature of the adtech industry due to its opaque bidding structures. She argued to ban adverts during elections; it’s a reflection of the arguments made in the TU and Labour movements that postal balloting puts the power in the hands of the press, in particular the Murdoch press. She was also the first person to raise the issue of the unlimited use of postal votes and the extension of the vote to ex-pats. Both these initiatives can be seen to have been done for partisan reasons, but the ex-pat thing has blown up in the Tory’s faces as they seek to regain their votes in the referendum and British citizens in Pakistan claim the same rights as those living on the Costa-del-Sol.

These motivations led me to note that no-one is talking about coercion and personation.

Ross Anderson also opposing started his speech with the statement that elections and democracy have a long kill chain. I am not sure if that’s the right use of the term, but I need to read a bit more before I get into an argument with him. He identified determining who can vote, issues of impersonation, vote capture and counting all as areas where as I.T. is introduced, more vulnerabilities come with it.  He is adamant that there must be a paper trail to ensure the count is verifiable. Much of what he thinks he has put into his book, “Security Engineering” and elections are covered in Chapter 23, pages 759-763. Anderson also attacked the political parties for opening their leadership franchises to their memberships and is particularity hostile to Ed Miliband in letting people vote for £3.

In summing up, the Chair and Ferguson stated that the real answer is political culture, involving both voting to elect governments, but that governments should distribute decision making to local authorities and citizen assemblies and juries.

Someone spoke of the Trade Unions using e-voting systems, in fact they don’t and for many of their ballots, it is prohibited, so I set them right.

So that I didn’t feel to far away from home, someone raised a Point of Order on the vote about the time scales at which benefits to e-voting might accrue, probably a LibDem but the motion was crushed. People that understand don’t like it. …

Charter for a better Building Society industry

I was tidying up came across some paper work documenting the Charter for an open & democratically accountable building society industry. When googling it the only reference I came across was the labour Party’s policy forum mirror. If a member of the Labour Party or otherwise have a login to the Policy Forum site, site you might like to vote it up; it has more comments than votes but it also plays to the issue of control of the banks.

History teaches me that mirroring the charter here is probably a good idea, because I can no longer find it on the BSMA site. …

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 …