Reflections on Elections, 2009

June, 2009


Contents List:

Two Variations on
Party "Democracy"

Debasing the Ballot
Racism and the BNP
Immigration and "Belonging"
Settling In
Politics

Return to:

World Views
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

Cleaning the Political Augean Stables
The Republic by Plato
In Search of Justice — 8
The Golden Proportion
Life As a Game
Satisfaction


Two Variations on Party "Democracy"

I went to my local polling station on Thursday, 4 June, 2009 to participate simultaneously in two supposedly "democratic" elections — one to elect someone to represent me on Buckinghamshire County Council and the other to enable me to express my preference for a political Party, one or more of whose nominees would represent the SouthEast Region of the United Kingdom in the European Parliament.

If I remember rightly, the ballot paper for the county election bore the names of four persons, each of whom had been nominated by a political Party. No-one who was not a registered member of such a Party would have had any influence over the selection of a candidate. Hence Party preference was the only criterion by which to determine where the individual voter should place his or her 'X'.

The ballot paper for the European election bore the names of about a dozen political parties, most of which I had never heard of because they had only recently been formed for the sole purpose of establishing an electoral presence. Why? Because the election was conducted on the basis of "Proportional Representation". In proportion to what? In proportion to the number of votes received by each Party named on the ballot paper.

You will conclude from the above that the great majority of voters in both elections were being invited to vote for people about whom they knew next to nothing except that they represented a political Party first and foremost, and the individual voter not at all. I hope you will agree that this is but a poor basis for trusting any or all of them.

You will probably agree too that whatever metaphysical virtues may be claimed for the Party system, its indubitable effect is to pit one set of partisans against another and thus to promote and sustain disunity in what is supposed to be a United Kingdom.

The most wonderful thing about humanity is that while there is an important sense in which we are all outwardly and obviously the same, there is an even more important sense in which each of us is inwardly different from all the others. This diversity is not extinguished by membership of a political Party, which only implies the subordination of some of one's inner values to what seems to be a means to what purports to be a desirable end — even if it is never very clearly defined. If you think carefully about it, you may reach the conclusion that the political Party is merely a Machiavellian device for enabling professional politicians to enjoy the privileges of office. Granting a vote to every UK citizen over the age of eighteen but simultaneously restricting the exercise of that vote to a narrow choice of political Party leads only to a sentimental tyranny by proxy. Unproductive voters, whether because of old age, incapacity, irresponsibility, or idleness, have to be kept "sweet" by the taxes extorted from the productive remainder. No self-serving Party can afford to distinguish between the deserving poor and the deservedly destitute, for it would mean choosing between genuine concern and electoral bribery.

Such a lunatic system inevitably impoverishes any nation which adopts it and, once it has been established by a socialist government, no other Party can reverse it because the combined votes of the sentimental and the self-serving will for ever maintain the status quo ante to which they have become accustomed. This imposes a psychological stranglehold on the Party politician for whom the horrendously wasteful National Health Service, for example, has become a sacred cow, the costs of which will have to be borne by generations yet unborn and who will not be able to vote for at least another eighteen years. Thus, once pseudo-democratic socialism has become entrenched, only a grass roots revolt by living and alert tax-payers can get rid of it.

Debasing the Ballot

Another feature of both ballot papers made me despair for the future of my country.

In 1872, Prime Minister William Gladstone introduced the Secret Ballot Act, which required that British Parliamentary and local government elections be conducted by means of a secret ballot to eliminate the particular form of tyranny whereby employers and land owners were able to dictate to their employees and tenants how they should vote and could appoint representatives to ensure that the voters did as they were told.

The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices are confidential. The key aim is to ensure that the voter records a sincere personal choice by forestalling attempts to influence him or her by intimidation, bribery, or blackmail.

An essential feature of any secret ballot is a method of ensuring that each voter's choice is, and remains, confidential. The method requires three provisions, the first and most important of which is a ballot paper designed to be simple to use and to prevent anyone from subsequently linking the individual voter to the ballot.

The polling station must contain a booth or booths where voters can record their choices without being overlooked and a sealed box with a slit through which the completed ballot paper can be inserted without being read by anyone else; but these by themselves do not guarantee secrecy unless the ballot paper itself remans anonymous.

Thus in previous elections I had been accustomed to a ballot paper which bore the names of the candidates (whether persons or Parties or both) on one side and was blank on the other. Imagine my dismay when I found that each of the ballot papers handed out on this occasion bore on the back a unique code which the polling station staff cross-referenced to the unique polling number allocated to each voter, thus enabling any duly-authorised snooper to find out precisely who had voted for whom or what.

I try to keep abreast of significant political developments and was surprised as well as disgusted to find that such a fundamental change in constitutional practice had escaped my attention. I cannot now find any reference to a recent Act of Parliament that might have abolished the secret ballot; indeed, in Hansard of 21 May 2009, starting at Column 1665, Mr Graham Allen (Labour MP for Nottingham, North) is quoted as saying: "The secret ballot is the enemy of undemocratic institutions abroad and at home", and several other MPs agreed with him. I must therefore assume that the counter-democratic practice of linking voters with their ballot papers has been introduced by stealth.

I derive no comfort from being told that my vote can be divulged only with the authority of a Court Order. The obvious conclusions are that the British Secret Ballot is no more, that what passes for democracy has been deprived of its principal safeguard, and that what used to be at least a pseudo-democratic Great Britain is heading rapidly towards the tyranny that Socrates wisely foresaw ensuing from widespread abandonment of personal responsibility and failure on the part of the people to exercise the eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty. [See Tyranny]

I hereby give notice that I shall never again vote in any local or national election in which I cannot be certain that my vote will, if I so wish, remain a secret between myself and my conscience.

Racism and the BNP

In the days leading up to the European election, the British media concentrated on two main topics of political interest — MP's fiddling their expenses [see Cleaning the Political Augean Stables] and villification of the British National Party (BNP) on grounds of "racism". Despite (or could it have been because of?) their efforts, the BNP for the first time gained a presence on the European political stage by winning two seats in the European Parliament.

Racism originally had two meanings: 1. an assumption that the characteristics and abilities of an individual are determined by race and that one race is biologically superior to another. 2. a political programme or social system based on these assumptions.

The first of these meanings is clearly untenable. It is obvious that many British people with long Anglo-Saxon or Celtic pedigrees may be included in the lowest economic, educational, or other social categories while many people of other races may be included in the highest. Hence racism cannot constitute a sound basis for any serious political programme.

However, in confrontational politics, "racism" is a word that gets carelessly or insultingly bandied about — sometimes by people who are ignorant of its true meaning and all too often by people who are unwilling to acknowledge their personal prejudices against people of different colour, belief system, "class", willingness to undertake hard or unpleasant manual work, or any other lack of conformity to "notional" norms, none of which has anything to do with race.

The BNP speaks, often truly and eloquently, for people born and bred in Britain who have sound reasons for feeling themselves discriminated against by policies and regulations imposed upon them by an "establishment" which they find themselves powerless to influence by any means short of violence. The BNP is thus a much-needed safety valve whereby the inarticulate down-trodden may at least hope to open the reluctant ears of the front-line Parties.

The day after the election, when the BNP's two elected MEPs tried to hold a press conference outside the Houses of Parliament, it was distressing to see on television how they were assailed by an anarchic egg-throwing mob seeking to deprive them of their right to free speech. It was even more distressing to read that the mob had been organised by a movement calling itself "Unite Against Fascism" and allegedly "supported by trade unions and MPs from all parties, including Tory leader David Cameron and veteran left wing campaigner Tony Benn".

I have never been able to attach any meaning to "Fascism" except as referring to a twentieth-century Italian political Party of little relevance to the UK of the twenty-first century; but whatever insults and eggs may be thrown at them on whatever pretext, I am glad that the leaders of the BNP have the guts to stand up in public and try to say unpopular things that urgently need to be heard. This un-British demonstration against them is the best evidence that they are at last beginning to be heard where it matters.

Yet I wonder how some of those who sincerely voted for the BNP on 4 June, 2009, will feel when they become aware that the "establishment" can now easily find out who they are and expose them and their homes to the sort of violence exhibited by the bigots of the UAF. Where are British people to seek asylum once their own country has turned against them?

Immigration and "Belonging"

The main appeal of the Britsh National Party is to a sense of belonging — a sense which I myself feel very strongly and which is my principal reason for supporting the United Kingdom Independence Party because I have no sense of "belonging" to Europe.

Belonging is to "be long" in a timely sense; to be used to; to be comfortable with. Seeking to become established in a foreign country inevitably implies a period of discomfort while becoming habituated to local customs and culture, adopting accepted styles of dress and behaviour, and, in particular, becoming fluent in the national language. All this can take a long time.

Many "native" Britons are justifiably disturbed by the apparently uncontrollable torrent of immigration into the country in the last decade or two. This is, of course, partly due to world over-population; but there is no doubt in my mind that socialist largesse funded by extortionate taxation of the relatively poor native has made the UK a magnet for the even poorer foreigner. Long-established natives who "belong" here cannot fail to notice how people who obviously do not "belong" reap the fruits of taxation they would far rather have spent on themselves, their homes, and their families.

Whatever the reason, the United Kingdom is presently "home" to far too many people who do not yet properly "belong" here. This places an intolerable burden on scarce resources such as housing and, especially, on an education system whose sole medium of instruction is English. It is no wonder that many British parents perceive their children's education being adversely affected by a huge influx of "classmates" who speak only foreign languages.

Admitting too many immigrants too quickly places too great a strain upon a national material and cultural infrastructure which has been centuries in the making in what used to be "a tight little island". Professional politicians detached from the common people and living in a state which is only a creation of their political imaginations are ill placed to be guardians of the national character. Any dictatorial government that attempts to improve on the natural market as a means of re-distributing wealth, whether in the form of money or people, will not last long. Failure to learn this lesson is the main reason for the present discomfiture of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. If the other major Parties will not lend a listening ear to the BNP, their leaders too will be discomfited in their turn.

Settling In

Pressure of globalisation and over-population forces all of humanity closer together. Neighbourliness has therefore become more important than ever. If we are to live peacefully together, we must continually exercise our best efforts to avoid treading on each other's toes or intruding upon each other's privacy as the space at our disposal is restricted.

St Ambrose (c. 339-397), an Italian bishop of German extraction, is reputed to have advised his flock: "If you are in Rome, live in the Roman style; if you are elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere."

No better advice can be given to any would-be or recently arrived immigrant to the United Kingdom. When in Britain, do as the British do (or used to do before the torrent of immigration into the country obliterated long-established norms).

Being "British" implies being distinctive in a way that is easily recognised and respected. It implies accepting, and behaving in accordance with, the values that characterised the British nation in about 1945 when, after surviving a long period of genuine hardship under a "national" (i.e., non-Party) government, the United Kingdom was more united than at any time before or since. The cardinal and defining values at that time were being good neighbours at home and being polite abroad. Wouldn't it be "nice" if that were still true today? A prolonged period of austerity may be required before we re-learn the lesson that solving problems together may be more satisfying than indulging ourselves in a comfortable carefree existence. [See Satisfaction]

The best advice I can offer my newly accommodated friends and neighbours from other countries is to learn to speak clear English, to dress as the British do, and try to be polite to everyone — because otherwise you will draw attention to yourself as "outlandish" and may become a focus for fear and suspicion at a time when mutual trust between neighbours is already at a very low ebb and people are "jumpy". When "jumpiness" affects the "establishment", traditional British freedoms are politically eroded and our long-established national sense of "fair play" [see Life As a Game] is in dire peril.

Politics

The political version of St Ambrose's dictum seems to be "When in power, do as the powerful do."

Recent experience seems to suggest that too many professional Party politicians take this to mean: "Help yourself to as many 'benefits of office' as you can, because your hold on power is precarious". It is plain that such representatives serve the interests of the people (if at all) only after they have first taken care to feather a "nest" (or two) for themselves.

It has been amply demonstrated that no political Party is free from self-interest on the part of its members and representatives. The pot keeps calling the kettle "black" (I do not mean this in a "racist" but rather in a "colloquial" sense!) and politicians keep putting false words into their opponents' mouths. But however it seeks to evade any accountability to the public which mechanically put it in power, no Party can escape factual reality by averting its attention from that public until the next election is looming.

In any case, shuttling the well-being of the nation from one set of more-or-less dishonorable politicians to another can hardly be a recipe for long-term prosperity; and no system of "proportional representation" will effect a cure so long as the sole basis for proportionality is the political Party itself. For a possible alternative, please see Cleaning the Political Augean Stables.

Members of the government of every State must be humble enough to acknowledge that remote mechanical administration is but a poor substitute for self-regulation by people who have to live together or not live at all.

What I would personally like my representative at any level of government to do is:

In my ideal State, if there were no more than five or six levels of political hierarchy, the highest level would need to concern itself only with the very highest responsibilities of providing a final court of appeal for the settlement of disputes and an adequate means of defending the realm against any form of bullying from without.

In an age when military might is increasingly seen to be powerless as a means of implementing or enforcing foreign policy, there should no longer be any need for British military personnel to die on foreign soil — not even under the auspices of an imaginary "international community".

Of course, no British government can restore any of the above degrees of freedom to the British public until it first liberates itself from the strangling tentacles of the European Union.