Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Admin : Cameron has a "responsibility" to breach democratic principles

Given that Bomber Admin has spent a fair bit of the last couple of years fighting to maintain the "good old British" right of the minority to outvote the majority, it's somewhat curious that he still feels qualified to lecture the rest of us on democratic principles. Nevertheless, that's what he's been up to this afternoon on Twitter. Apparently he feels that the SNP have no "mandate" to add a devo max question to the independence referendum. Hmmm. Leaving aside the fact that the dogs on the street have known for years that the SNP were minded to do just that (ie. it wasn't exactly kept a secret from the electorate in May), I have a bit of a problem with the idea that a 'mandate' is a prerequisite for holding a democratic vote. It's almost a contradiction in terms - the whole point of a referendum is that you're conceding you can't act without a mandate. Doing something that isn't in your manifesto is much more problematical if you do it without a referendum - for example, if you introduce top-up fees in spite of being elected on a manifesto pledge that "we will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them". But I digress. Let's have a closer look at Tom's logic -

Democratic Principle 1 - It is illegitimate for a government to hold a referendum that they do not have a specific mandate for.

Democratic Principle 2 - If the SNP government hold a Devo Max referendum, David Cameron's government would then have a "responsibility" to breach Democratic Principle 1 and hold an independence referendum they have no specific mandate for.

Oh-kaaay. I think I can perhaps translate the Harris doctrine into plainer language -

The SNP require an unambiguous mandate to do anything. But everyone else has a duty to act without a mandate if it would thwart the SNP.

It's not hard to see that Tom is a keen student of the Blairite dark arts. It rather calls to mind the novel principle of the "unreasonable UN veto" that Blair plucked out of thin air in his more desperate moments in the run-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. It went something like this -

International Law Principle 1 - Even if the vast majority of Security Council members vote for a resolution, it carries absolutely no weight if one of the permanent members veto it. There's no use complaining about Israel using their American chums to get them off the hook time and again - them's the rules.

International Law Principle 2 - Principle 1 naturally doesn't count if it's France or Russia vetoing US/UK military adventurism. In those circumstances, we really have to stop being so fussy about "rules" and consider other relevant factors, ie. that George and me really want to do this.

Ah, Tom and Tony, you guys - killing us with Reason.

1 comment:

  1. I actually think that Labour are all at sixes and sevens about this, "Devo-Max", question.

    On Labourhame Dougie Alexander says that Labour's two central beliefs are, "A belief in social justice, and a commitment to home rule within the United Kingdom.", even though two paragraphs up he doesn't think that more powers for the Scottish Parliament are needed.

    On Labourhame Malcolm Chisholm wants Devo-Max when he says, "Scottish Labour must respond by developing a Devo Max position."

    Tom Harris doesn't want a, "Devo-Max", question on the referendum ballot paper even though it would probably adversely affect the independence option.

    However McLeish does wants Devo-Max.

    The only Labour man who has publicly come close to working out what Salmond is doing and what are the ramifications and consequences of a Devo-Max option is Ian Smart even though he still thinks the SNP are going to write it.

    Indeed, the more you consider it, the more you see the difficulty in putting two different, and ultimately inconsistent, propositions on the same ballot paper.

    But that's not the only problem. It's difficult to see who is going to frame the non-independence option. Presumably, the SNP Government, even though it's not their desired outcome. The problem with this is that any settlement short of full independence is not a matter for the Scottish people alone. So what happens, in advance of a referendum, if the rest of the UK says that what the SNP want (as their fall back position) is not on offer? That it's independence or bust. What's the point of then asking the "other" question? The question becomes redundant whether or not the full independence question is won or lost. If the referendum produces a yes vote to independence the "other" question is redundant per se and if the Scots have rejected the nuclear option of "full" independence then why should the rest of the UK make any further constitutional concessions in the aftermath of that? After all, the SNP could hardly hold another referendum but this time with a single question. That would be silly.

    Salmond has offered to put Devo-Max on the ballot paper but not to write it and the unionists will fail to come up with a worked out solution which they all can agree to implement if it wins.

    It will come back to the options of the status quo or independence on the ballot paper but the SNP hasn't failed to offer the voters a choice, it's the unionists who have failed by not supplying the terms of Devo-Max and an agreement to implement it.