Thursday 14 December 2023

Parliament is neither sovereign nor has it taken back control.


The point of democracy as opposed to any other form of government is that voters have the power to bring about change. This is the difference between previous forms of government such as absolute monarchy. The power that voters have has always been limited. We have elections only every few years. We elect representatives rather than have direct democracy. We have constitutions either written or unwritten that may require additional steps or larger majorities to change some laws. But it ought to be possible for voters to change policy or law eventually if they consistently wish it, otherwise we are back in the days of absolute monarchy.

The problem of democracy in the UK is not as the SNP thinks that Scotland does not always get the government it votes for. This assumes that Scotland is already an independent country in order to justify that it ought to be become one. It is not problematic for a part of a democracy to sometimes lose otherwise all democracies would be impossible.

If an independent Scotland existed, it would still be the case that a small largely rural area like Aberdeenshire could be outvoted by a large urban area such as Glasgow. But this is how democracy works the world over. You don’t get extra votes because you are from Scotland any more than you do if you are from California. You have to accept the will of the majority in the demos that you are a part of. That is what democracy means.

The problem with democracy is not that Scots vote Labour but end up with a Conservative government. The problem is that it doesn’t matter who Scottish or English voters vote for as they are ignored. This is just as much a form of absolutism as existed under Henry VIII.

There were two reasons why voters in the UK chose to leave the EU. One was we wanted Parliament to be sovereign rather than subordinate to the EU. Personally, I would have been happy to live in a United States of Europe that was as democratic as the USA. But this was not on offer.

There is no equivalent in the EU of the structure of power in the USA with an elected president, two elected parliaments with real power and a federal structure for each state with genuine separation of powers. Instead in the EU power rests with those who are appointed rather than elected.

So, we voted to take back control to the UK’s parliament, because the alternative was to end up in an undemocratic United States of Europe with no way out. We also secondly voted to control our borders and determine who had and who had not the right to live in the UK.

Since 2016 we have had 7 years of Conservative government. Parliament is neither sovereign nor has it taken back control.

It is quite clear that voters in 2016 wanted to limit mass migration. We couldn’t do so while in the EU because of freedom of movement so we voted to leave. But did it make any difference to mass migration? No instead it increased.

The problem is partly international law that makes it impossible to prevent anyone arriving illegally and almost impossible to deport them no matter what they do when here. But the real problem is that our representatives who were elected in part to limit mass migration choose to do the opposite.

We could in theory have direct democracy where each of us every night voted on every issue with our phones and computers. We choose representative democracy because it is less troublesome, and we hope the representatives know more than ordinary voters. But this only works when the representatives follow the wishes at least to an extent of voters. When they ignore voters consistently the situation returns to absolutism.

Voters in 2016 chose to abolish freedom of movement with the EU only to have it replaced with freedom of movement with the whole world. This makes us worse off. At least when there was freedom of movement with the EU we too could go to live and work in France or Spain. Now we have open borders with much of Africa and Asia, but we still need visas to live in these countries and the EU too.

It turns out that it was not enough to leave the EU to make parliament sovereign and to bring back control. A series of treaties signed by previous governments and laws made by previous parliaments not only prevent us stopping people arriving, they also prevent us sending them elsewhere e.g. to Rwanda.

But if parliament is sovereign, it cannot be prevented by what previous governments signed nor can it be prevented from repealing previous laws.

International law turns out to be just as undemocratic as the EU. There is no world government nor ought there to be because there are more people in the world who prefer absolutism and tyranny than democracy. The only hope for democracy is the sovereign nation state. But even here democracy is under threat.

But if international law is not made by voters, who is it made by? It is made by unelected judges and unelected appointees.

But what guarantees my rights in the UK is not unelected judges or unelected appointees nor is it the United Nations, nor various courts in Strasbourg or the Hague. What guarantees my rights is my fellow voters who can elect MPs to repeal bad laws. So long as I live in a democracy, I have no fear for my human rights. The only thing that scares me is that I don’t live in a country where parliament is sovereign, because then someone unelected can take control of me.

Democratic values took centuries to develop in the UK. They are very unusual in the world. There are only around twenty fully democratic countries where I am sure that my human rights will be respected.

In each of these countries human rights are not protected by international law which applies just the same in tyrannies as it does here. The only countries that care a toss about international law don’t need it because they are protected by being democracies.

But let’s say after many centuries you develop a country where people accept democracy as the method rule and of making laws, what happens if you allow migration from countries which overwhelmingly do not accept democracy? The likelihood is in time you will get a country where the demos ceases to believe in democracy.

If overnight you transfer the population of Saudi Arabia to Britain and vice versa, then Saudi Arabi would immediately become a democracy and Britain would become a theocratic absolute monarchy. It’s the same if you do this gradually.

This is a far greater threat to my human rights in Britain. It turns out then that international human rights law is the one threat that in time could deprive us of our human rights by turning our country into a country similar to those from which the vast majority of migrants are arriving.

The problem of democracy in the UK is not merely that parliament remains just as constrained as it was under the EU. In fact, almost nothing has changed and instead we are merely worse off than we were. Parliament is still subordinate to a whole body of undemocratic international law that it can neither change nor cease to obey. But this once more puts us back under absolutism.

It wasn’t enough for us to vote to leave the EU. We need to replace our representatives who no longer represent. The first task is to replace those members of the Conservative Party who view Conservative voters with contempt and spend their lives ignoring those who vote for them.

If that means a Labour government, so be it. It will help us in time to root out corruption in the SNP. Only a change in the Scottish government can get to the bottom of everything. It may also be that Labour will be better be able to deal with the NHS and it might like the social democrats in Denmark better understand voters on immigration.

If on the other hand Labour turns out to be as awful as usual it will be the task of voters to kick Labour out. We must continue to kick out MPs until parliament is once again sovereign and MPs accept that they are in control and unconstrained by anything that we the people did not vote for.

Then we will have democracy.

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