Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The UK Needs More Than 'Privacy From State Snooping'

Fresh legislation on surveillance of individual's communications is a red herring when considering what needs to be done or undone or not done to end the United Kingdom's democratic deficit.  This deficit is nothing to do with the UK's membership of the European Union although the EU democratic deficit interacts malignantly with that of the United Kingdom to produce a peculiarly authoritarian and surveillance-ridden European state in the UK.

First to be reformed must be the institution of an hereditary head of state. The feudal governance structures carried in the train of an hereditary monarchy have no rightful place in an advanced capitalist European democratic state.  Crown prerogative and Crown privilege (or Public interest immunity these days) are democratically uncontrolled and their distribution between the Executive, Judiciary, and the Head of State in person are unsettled and shifting to the advantage of secrecy and the manipulation of those parts of the state that are accessible by democratic means.

Which leads to the lack of a codified constitution.  The UK has no constitution.  A constitution that is capable of taking on almost any form under guise of being 'unwritten' but to be found in many sources accessed by specialist knowledge and interpretation, and whose content is undefined and without criteria for inclusion and which, further, can be wholly altered by legislative or Executive act, is no constitution at all.

There is no readily accessible route to any resolution of conflict between the individual and this monstrously over-powered and ill-defined state.  Without a constitutional court, defined as such and sitting as such any party to a conflict finds themselves without straightforward redress, lost in a fog of interpretation and application of unclear rules and precedents.  Which is precisely how sovereign, Executive and Judiciary want it.

Redress, for UK subjects, sought through the Court of Human Rights is grossly inadequate and it is here that some of the the worst aspects of the malign inter-relationship of European structures and UK structures occur.  If domestic remedies must be exhausted first and there are none or are defective UK subjects are further disadvantaged by the nebulousness of hard to realise possibilities dressed as real opportunities or even rights.  Other European states' citizens know precisely where they stand and how to get from there to somewhere else (so to speak).

It is long past the time that this pernicious, mutually reinforcing State in the UK was reformed to make all of it,  not just parts of legislature and parts of local government, open to democratic vote, scrutiny and  control.  If all the other member-states of the European Union can produce forms of democracy enabled through institutions and constitutions open to democratic control, so can the United Kingdom. 

The UK needs:  an elected head of state; an elected second chamber of Parliament; a codified constitution; a constitutional court; and local level tribunals readily accessible to the population  for early resolution of abuses of power by state officials.

Perhaps then the Union itself will no longer be so noxious to the United Kingdom through the over-zealous and selective application of its practices and policies, which are held in check in other member-states by the proper functioning of their democracies.  


Antisthenes said...

The monarchy not perfect but far from broken - leave well alone I say. As for other European states being more democratic I challenge that. I live in France and a more authoritarian and corrupt society would be very hard to find in the Western world.

Caronte said...

I will see your France and raise you Italy, Antisthenes, though even there while it may be rough, corrupt, quite scary at times, feudalism was voted out in 1946. The Italian Constitution works.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

We do NOT need an elected Head of State - which would contaminate the whole thing via party politics and the general evils of money-grubbing and patronage.

We do NOT want an appointed Head of State - merely to imagine the kind of people Blair or Brown would have put into the job, is reason enough.

The Monarchy is far from perfect (HM should have vetoed a lot of the European enabling legislation, for example) but it's infinitely better than the possible alternatives.

Vivat Regina!

We do need, a written constitution.

What would be good, would be the sort of constitution that would have been written by freedom-loving English gentlemen some time around the Napoleonic wars: such a constitution would be strong on liberty, due process, and the rule of law, and would consist largely of a list of things the State would NOT be allowed to do.

The problem is that we wouldn't get that; we would get a constitution written by the current political class, which would simply cement the current abuses in place, while leaving the door wide open to any more abuses they think of in future.

See also Raedwald's post on similar points: including the comments!

Nomad said...

Perhaps we could snitch the American one - with/without the amendments - as a reasonable place to start? I largely agree with the part time sailor above.