Monday, August 14, 2017

Will "The Democrats" respect the Scottish democratic process?

James Chapman, the former political editor of the Daily Mail, seems to think he's the British Emmanuel Macron.  That's questionable enough, but in fact he thinks he's more than a Macron, because apparently his new political party "The Democrats" is going to save us all from the historic error of Brexit.  Well, good luck with that one.

Bizarrely he's already announcing firm policies for this as-yet-unfounded party (no internal democracy for The Democrats, it seems) and one of them is that referendums will be completely forbidden in future -

"Referendums will be outlawed by #thedemocrats. We believe in parliamentary democracy"

This raises a couple of obvious questions as far as Scotland is concerned.  Firstly, what does it mean for devolution?  Legal opinion may be divided on whether the Scottish Parliament currently has the power to hold a consultative referendum on independence without Westminster's consent, but there's no doubt at all that it has the power to hold referendums on devolved matters.  Are The Democrats planning to follow in the Tories' footsteps by stripping the Scottish Parliament of some of its current powers?

Secondly, if this ban on referendums is indeed going to be arrogantly extended to Scotland, which parliament is James actually talking about when he uses the phrase "parliamentary democracy"?  With referendums no longer a possibility, the decision on whether Scotland should become an independent country would instead have to be taken by an elected parliament - and logically that parliament should be the Scottish Parliament.  That would of course make the path to independence somewhat simpler, because both of the last two Scottish Parliament elections have produced clear pro-independence majorities.  But if James is instead suggesting that Scotland's constitutional future should be entirely at the whim of a parliament in which only 9% of members are elected by Scotland, that would be rather tough to square with the concept of democratic self-determination.

If I was going to offer a small piece of advice, it would be to choose a completely different name for the party.  There is actually a precedent in Britain for a party called The Democrats, and it's not a happy one.  The merger in 1988 between the Liberals and non-Owenite Social Democrats initially produced a party called the Social and Liberal Democrats, but for everyday use that was shortened to The Democrats to avoid the "alphabet soup" of being referred to as the SLD while in competition with the SDP, the SNP and the SDLP.  The twelve months or so that the name was used proved to be a very dark spell, with the party slumping to just 6% of the vote in the 1989 European elections.

27 comments:

  1. The Scottish Parliament can hold a referendum on any subject it wants.

    It can only legislate over devolved matters.

    A referendum over a reserved matter must be enacted by Westminster.

    As the people of Scotland are sovereign the word 'must' in the preceding sentence is important.

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  2. I don't mind referendums per se, but I'd prefer it if we did something like having 3 over 18 months so it was less of a single snapshot that could be influenced by last minute news, weather, turnout and other factors.

    It's not perfect, but it would be an improvement, and it would somewhat strengthen the mandate of the winning side.

    And The Democrats sounds a bit like an indie band. Kind of superficial. 'The Democrats Party' just doesn't sound right.

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    1. I think he means you would have to pass it three seperate times.

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    2. No, just aggregate them.

      I'm a bit wary of any large decision being based on a single day's voting. Remember the flooding in London on the day of the Brexit vote?

      A single day can get skewed by some short-term news event, by weather, by all sorts of things. Spread it out a bit more and get more of a mandate.

      Alternatively extend the voting period for a referendum to something like a week, so nobody has an excuse not to put forward their view.

      The idea is to avoid these close votes where people don't accept the result because they feel (rightly or wrongly) that the other side 'got lucky' on the day.

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    3. Even better - let's elect a government with a clear mandate and let them get on with it.
      People will happily elect others to do brave things on their behalf but will always tend to default to 'no change' in a binary choice.

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  3. We could have a referendum every other month like Paddy did until the ruling class win.

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    1. Lucky for us the ruling class don't run Britain.WATP FTP GSTQ

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    2. The troll, shrieking allegations of child abuse at anyone mocking it. #stayclassy

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    3. He's deleted another one! Holy shit! GWC2 has self-awareness and boundaries! There's hope for the world after all praise Jesus

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    4. Oot, fae unurr ah stane. Awaw hame, tae yurr howff.

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  4. It seems fairly ballsy to me to call yourselves "The Democrats" at the same time as promising to get rid of just about the most democratic process anyone will see in a modern democracy.

    Heck knows that referendums aren't perfect but the problem isn't so much with referendums per se as it is the politically illiterate electorates who vote in them. And that's mainly driven by a general background of political debate and discussion that, if it were a book, would spell "See Spot run" incorrectly.

    And what's the slogan there?

    "Vote for us to have less of a say in things" ?

    "Vote for us if you think this politics thing is really rather tricky and you'd rather it was just dealt with quietly by someone else" ?

    "Vote for us if you think democracy is just a once every 5 years sort of thing" ?

    "We're the party who think people just can't be trusted to vote the "right" way on any single issue but can definitely be relied upon to vote for the right party to do it" ?

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  5. In Daily Mail land,there is only one parliament in the isles of Britain and it ain't in Scotland.
    The direction of travel from the Westminster establishment is the defenestration of the devolved administrations and centralisation of power in London.
    It doesn't matter which English based party ends up in government,that will be the result.
    The attitude is,we have had our decisive independence referendum and have given our whole hearted support to the UK state for ever and ever so we no longer require any differential say and won't be getting any.
    Brexit is only going to accelerate this process as the UK state finds itself more and more isolated globally and needs to suppress internal dissent.
    They can call themselves Democrats if they like but,as usual,that will only apply in England.


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    1. It's never too early for a Fusilier, eh, eh, amirite, GWC2? Yeah I am.

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    2. Aw he's run away. Poor sport old chap.

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  6. As a general rule of thumb, the more prominantly a country includes the word "democratic" in its official name the less democratic its government is. I think it's probably the same with political parties.

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  7. James Chapman is just one more voice of insanity howling at the moon.
    He and any party he's involved in founding should slot quite neatly in beside the fascist, homophobic, racist, xenophobic, creationist dark age sect from Northern Ireland, the entirely inappropriately named Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP illustrate perfectly the phenomenon described by Holebender in which the more prominent the use of the word democratic in a political party name, the more opposed to actual democracy that party tends to be.
    Mr Chapman's view of democracy appears to be very much on a par with the DUP.

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  8. Perhaps referenda should only include educated people in the franchise - people who can demonstrate, through a test, for example, that they know a wee bit about economics, politics and current affairs.

    That would probably kill brexit (boo!!) and Scottish independence (yay!!)

    I think I could reconcile myself to such a system.

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    Replies
    1. Please remove the deceased feline from the table...

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    2. I think it should be based on the ability to make accurate political predictions.

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    3. That's Salmond ruled out then...

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    4. #AldodamusPredicts. Like #McTernanPredicts, except no-one pays Aldodamus the seer for his predictions...

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    5. I don't need the pay. I am already considerably well orf.

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  9. The thing to remember about James Chapman is that these days he's working for Bell Pottinger.

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  10. The Democrats. Reminds me of a joke, the punchline of which is 'The Aristocrats'

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  11. The British "democrats" had better be more effective than their American cousins - who hold a minority of seats in all branches of government and who were beaten by Donald Trump.

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