How can we force politicians to do what they say?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

We need to talk about the culture of deception that is festering at the heart of the British political classes.

Every party is guilty of this to some degree – all of them. They have all made promises to the electorate and then, once in positions of power, they have done exactly whatever else they wanted.

On Tuesday, Patrick Mercer resigned as an MP rather than face suspension from the House of Commons over allegations that, rather than carrying out the will of his constituents, he had corruptly set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to life Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, after having been offered money to do so by undercover reporters.

His resignation came 11 months after he resigned from the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and this decision was made in the knowledge that a TV documentary was about to present the allegations to the country. Would he have taken these actions otherwise? It’s highly doubtful. Nobody resigns when they think they got away with it.

Nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that this allegedly corrupt MP managed to keep his seat in the Commons for 11 months after the allegations came out – that’s nearly one-fifth of a Parliamentary term when he was still drawing his taxpayer-funded salary. Is that reasonable?

Mercer is, of course, just one individual case. In the lifetime of this Parliament we have seen entire Parliamentary political parties turn on their electors in betrayal. It is to be hoped that nobody has forgotten Labour’s betrayal of the unemployed when it failed to oppose the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that retrospectively imposed penalties on people who refuse to take part in state-sponsored ‘slave labour’ schemes.

Labour’s front bench claimed it had negotiated important concessions, including an inquiry into the effectiveness of mandatory work activity – and when is that due to report? Around 30 Labour MPs are still entitled to hold their heads high, because they rebelled and voted against the legislation in any case.

Far worse is the behaviour of the Conservative Party, who promised that the National Health Service would be safe under a Tory government and then set in motion the wholesale upheaval that we have witnessed over the past few years, with funding squandered on reorganisation and privatisation of services that is intended to lead to the abolition of the publicly-funded health service in a few years’ time.

Pensions are going the same way; the Workplace Pension discourages employers from participation, meaning they are trying to push their workforces into taking up private schemes instead. Meanwhile the state pension has been ‘simplified’ in a way that means people have to work longer before receiving it. The intention is, eventually, to privatise pension provision altogether and ensure only those on higher pay can afford them.

And the Tories are busy abolishing the rest of the welfare state as well. The harsh regime of sanctions and slave-labour schemes run by the Department for Work and Pensions is intended to soften up the workforce – and potential workforce – for the introduction of privately-run schemes, into which you will be expected to pay to insure against the possibility of becoming jobless – the policies would provide your income during any such period (as long as you didn’t stay out of work for very long) instead of the government.

The problem with such proposals is that, if they are run along the same lines as certain health insurance schemes, they would be scams – as the conditions would be rigged to ensure that the companies running them never had to pay out. This is what we have learned from the fact that the criminal Unum Corporation has been advising the DWP on its policies.

And then, worst of all, we have the so-called Liberal Democrats, who promised to eradicate student fees in the run-up to the 2010 election and betrayed that pledge two months before the poll took place, in a backroom power-sharing deal with the Conservative Party.

The same organisation has gone on to support the Conservatives every step of the way to dismantling the welfare state and reducing the vast majority of the UK’s workforce to conditions we have not seen since the early 20th century at the latest.

Many of us have been dismayed at this apparent betrayal by an organisation that we all hoped would have put a brake on the more excessive Tory policies, but VP Facebook commenter John Elwyn Kimber has cast illumination on the reasons we were mistaken.

“19th-century Whiggery, ‘Orange’ or ‘Manchester’ Liberalism, call it what you like, was about the unfettered power of new money – hence identical to modern ‘Toryism’,” he wrote.

“Just as Eisenhower was the last civilised Republican president, traditional patrician Downton-Abbey-style Conservatism of the more socially-responsible sort finally departed British politics after the MacMillan government. Even the sitting-on-the-fence Heathites, the ‘Tory Wets’, were gleefully kicked out of the cabinet by Margaret Thatcher after the ‘Falklands election’ in 1983, with the exception of Whitelaw who was retained [though sidelined] as a sort of sop to the traditionalists.

“Since when, the political consensus has been for whiggery-pokery all the way up till now. So while the understanding of ‘Liberal’ by Lib Dem grass roots voters is a mid-twentieth-century one, all about tolerance and socially-progressive policies, it seems obvious that Clegg’s cabinet are only too happy to be rabid whigs nuzzled up to another lot of rabid whigs – the only difference is in the mood-music provided for the grass roots in each case.”

The message is that we were all deceived – again.

The problem is that there is almost nothing we can do about it that doesn’t take a lot of time – a commodity that is in short supply.

Historically, the UK does not carry a box on the ballot paper marked “None of the above”. This means there is no direct democratic way of refusing all the candidates for election to a particular constituency and demand better. Nor is there ever likely to be, because our corrupt politicians know that would be equivalent to turkeys voting for Christmas.

Alternatively, we can form new political parties and try to beat the corrupt old parties at their own game. The problem with this is one of traction; it takes new parties many years to gain enough recognition to become a serious force. UKIP is only beginning to gain such recognition now, after more than 20 years – and this is as a protest party against membership of the European Union. If that party’s supporters took a look at its other policies, they’d desert en masse.

Another possibility is similarly time-consuming: You actually join one of the main political parties and try to effect change from within. The problem here is that you would be fighting established members every step of the way. It has been done effectively in the past, though – look at the way Labour was transformed into New Labour by the influence of a few neoliberal infiltrators, and consider the damage that has done to the party’s reputation and effectiveness.

The worst option is the most popular: You do nothing. This is, of course, the wide and easy path to disaster – but so many people are feeling disaffected because of the barriers that the corrupt political classes have put up against democracy, that they honestly can’t see the point of voting.

This of course means our government will be elected by an ever-diminishing group of electors, and makes it all the more possible for our ever-more-elite group of corrupt politicians to argue for those who don’t vote to lose the right to take part in elections. You will be disenfranchised.

Then you really will have no power to change anything at all.

Is that what you want?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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19 thoughts on “How can we force politicians to do what they say?

  1. Joseph Smith

    Manifestos should be enforceable in law, non compliance should mean simply that we, the public should be a able to demand and force the removal of any prime minister via a vote of no confidence. Firstly we need to rid ourselves of the five year term which guarantees people like Cameron control for five years.

  2. Guy Ropes

    “Nothing in life is perfect – except our expectations”. A phrase I coined a few years ago, and it can – I think Mike – apply in part to your plea for new, ‘clean’ politics to be available to the electorate. We who believe we have a social conscience will never get anywhere because we squabble between ourselves in respect of what is ‘right’ i.e. what is ‘perfect’. There is very, very little give and take in this respect. When someone does put their head above the parapet to expose the corruption and worse that afflicts this Country, which you mention, they receive precious little support. I was at Downing Street yesterday helping to present a petition in respect of whistleblowers and the protection which they should be afforded by law. This classification of people are wanting to tell the truth in respect of wrong doing – for the most part in Government circles. What real support do they get? Certainly none from anyone with sufficient money to start a new ethical party. They are ignored, and some of the stories I heard yesterday about Government collusion to stamp out any dissent whatsoever were heartbreaking. Every single MP, Lord or Baroness, protest group or political party has completely ignored their evidence (sic) and continue to do so. Every MP (bar one) who I have spoken to in the past 6 years is a liar and/or a Grade ‘A’ hypocrite – and I’ve spoken to a few. They do nothing which is important. They cultivate long grass into which problems can be kicked. They exist to protect Parliament – nothing else. The electorate merely get in the way except when votes are expected. But you know that. Let me mention one subject which if the proverbial Martian came to Earth would, I think, leave him completely bewildered: the education of our children. In a nation that has given to the world some of the most brilliant minds ever, in 2014 it STILL cannot be agreed how we educate our young people to best effect. That is an example of the scale of the task. For their ultimate good and that of the Country, can a pan-party group not be assembled with a remit – say within 5 years – to compile a once and for all agreement as to how and what they’re taught? (to be reviewed at suitable intervals). At the moment it’s a complete shambles from where I stand. I await the wrath of every commentator to fall upon my head and prove that your dream Mike, noble though it is, is illusory.

    1. Mike Sivier

      What dream? All I did was state the problem, to the best of my ability today.

      Regarding your comments on education: Even if a pan-party group could reach an agreement, your own admission that it would have to review that agreement at suitable intervals leaves the field wide open for more tinkering to the detriment of the system.

  3. Barry Davies

    I don’t think you can make manifestos to be legally enforceable, they do have to have democratic debate, and lets be honest whichever party you support only the terminally insane would agree with every part of what they stand for, hence MP’s. As a Kipper Mike I have looked at UKIP’s other policies and will not be leaving anytime soon.

  4. david

    yep enforceable manifestos with duty on parliament to prove absolute need for change as necessary. Public power to recall MPs for breach of civil laws (whether in our out of Westminster) and for failure of duty to his electorate. Change to legislation that criminal charges apply to offenses committed in their duties (if same act would bring criminal charges to a member of the public committing same offence) Remove 2nd home subsidies build purpose built flats for use when in parliament. Devolve powers to regional assemblies. Block all conflict of interest (see power to recall) Reduce salary to a multiplier of the national average wage (say 2x). Get people who don’t want to be in power to sit there.
    As to your point on small parties if every person who is unhappy with the system joined the smaller parties. Then they wouldn’t be. Trouble is most smaller parties don’t have the funds for big advertising or door to door. So it becomes our job to find them. We need to politicise the public Mike, get them engaging. It has worked on me suffering at the hands of the system. People need to turn of x strictly come benefit street under the hammer , wake up and realise that although they’re not in the cross hairs yet they’re next. First they came…….

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  6. amnesiaclinic

    Reblogged this on amnesiaclinic and commented:
    A very important blog which deserves to go viral! This is such a very important topic – holding our politicians to account. The only way is to go to the meetings and challenge every inch of the way. We need to hold our politicians accountable when they are in office and to challenge, question and sort out as a contract when the manifestos are being drawn up. It’s about putting on the pressure at every level. Let’s go!

  7. Cedawnow

    I have voted in every election since turning 18 many moons ago. I also joined the Labour Party in the thought that I can moan about it or do something about it. This was a complete and utter waste of time. The meetings were attended by a bunch of white middle class people who looked down their nose at council tenants. I know this because they wanted me to leaflet for an ALMO. Before I said no I asked if anyone was a council tenant and the look of disgust was clearly evident on their faces. I ended up chatting to two old blokes outside who told me they refused to be pushed out of a party they had been a part of since their youth, all be it a party they no longer recognised. They had stronger stomachs than me. So this is the first year that I honestly do not know what to do. I’ve struggled with this as voting rights were hard fought for and effectively the only way we as the electorate get to have a say in our so called ‘democracy’. I know all this and yet I will still struggle to attend my local polling station because I already feel disenfranchised. I have finally decided I will write non of the above on my voting slip.

    1. Bring back immediately women's state pension at 60 / Against loss age related tax allowance at 65

      This year is the biggest left of labour voting available in 60 years. You can vote Trade Unionist and Socialists Against Cuts on May 22 – links on my website’s home page: http://www.theswansnewparty.org.uk

      There is also No2EU for the European Elections.

      Labour party members who are councillors are being sacked for voting against cuts in council funding to the frontline. These are joining TUSC.

      TUSC is the only party who said the truth of state pensions (funded entirely fromt he ring fenced National Insurance Fund, that is well in funds to date).

      The state pension is not some generous gift from government to be withdrawn at whim, but deferred wages from our youth.

      The Pension Bill was bad enough, but the Flat Rate Pension is worse, leaving millions with no money in old age at all forever.

      See if you lose most or all of your state pension from 2016:
      https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/state-pension-at-60-now

  8. amnesiaclinic

    An excellent blog, Mike. Thanks. 38 degrees are getting organised country wide and doing door-to-door canvassing to persuade people to vote. I am very torn because I think it is the whole system that needs to come down as it is so corrupt and start again but that needs everyone to abstain or mark their paper ‘none of the above’. Someone has changed their name to that but we can’t all do that – or can we?
    As to education. The problem started after the Plowden Report in the 1960’s. The tories responded with the Black Papers and education became a political football. The Ilea had brilliant resources and training seen as left wing and was destroyed along with the the London County Council and now taken over by Common Purpose and privatisation.
    I do see the answer as community schools, community local government with the government held very firmly to account and limited to things which are their remit such as safety legislation etc. And out of Europe or at least a referendum…

  9. wildthing666

    Not only that he was creaming off expenses possibly lots of expenses that were not his to feather his nest until the storm blows over and he can try to be a corrupt MP again.

  10. NMac

    Why is Mercer not being prosecuted for corruption and/or misconduct in a public office? This man should not be allowed to take the easy way out.

  11. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mike here discusses the difficulty of actually holding politicians to do what they say they’d do, with examples not just of Patrick Mercer holding on to his seat, but also of the way all the parties have betrayed the electorate. The refusal of politicians to abide by their promises is so old, that I can remember Mike Yarwood on his show waaaaay back in the 1970s making a joke about ‘lies = election promises’. What is most enlightening here is John Elwyn Kimber’s explanation of the Libs turn to Neoliberalism. It’s a return to the ‘Orange’ Liberalism of the laissez faire ‘Manchester School’. Hence presumably the title of the ‘Orange Book’, the statement of their ideas.

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  13. MrChekaMan

    Some things that would help

    -None of the above on the voting papers.
    -A party that is an alternative to the Big 3 that is not neo-fascist like UKIP is.

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