The Most Democratic Party?

Thursday, June 4, 2009 18:30 | Filed in Politics

Tim Ireland has been taking a look at the BNP’s published policies and seeing what, which and where he agrees with them. Or, as is considerably more likely, taking them apart piece by piece to find the holes in them.

Now as I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of the BNP, so I’ve volunteered to have a look at one of their policy documents and comment accordingly. Only in the interests of fairness, which I believe ought to be applied even to people I disagree with, I’m going to look at all of the policies listed in this section, not just the ones I believe I can do a better job of taking apart.

So here goes, starting with the intro.

The British people invented modern Parliamentary democracy.

Hmm. This isn’t quite the same as saying the British invented democracy, which is traditionally assumed to have been the Greeks (they certainly came up with the term), but earlier examples of democracies may have been found elsewhere. Indeed, you’re using the term ‘modern parliamentary democracy’. What counts as “modern”? And how have you invented a “modern” one, if it’s based on an older style?

Of course, that’s just badgering with semantics. The key to the assumption is that somehow a parliamentary democracy is better than other democracies. It has advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages — particularly with the first past the post system we have — is that it is much easier for the ruling party to get through legislation.

One of the disadvantages is that minority parties — like, er… the BNP … have less power than their share of the vote would suggest they ought to have. Another disadvantage is that it tends to lead to the adversarial insults-across-a-playground style of politics which most of the British citizens are fed up with.

Ah, yes. And that’s another point. Citizens or subjects? Of course, in the British parliamentary democracy, there’s a whole unelected chamber — the House of Lords. There’s the fact that you have to swear allegiance to the Queen to become an MP. It’s theoretically impossible for a republican — at least one who is not being hypocritical — to become an MP (or for that matter a magistrate).

I don’t therefore see that our form of ‘modern parliamentary democracy’ is necessarily “the best”.

Next is a passing reference to how the British people have been denied democracy:

On immigration, on capital punishment, on the surrender of British sovereignty to the EU and in numerous other areas, democracy has been absent as Labour, Tories and Lib-Dems conspire in election after election to offer the British people no real choice on such vital issues.

I’ll not look at immigration, as I believe someone else is covering that, but let’s take capital punishment. In general the British public has been seen as having been in favour of capital punishment. That’s the the hanging, beheading sorts of thing. You know, which when carried out by Johnny Foreigner means that they are barbaric; when we do it, it’s simply Good Old British Justice. You have to decide where you stand on the issue: it’s either justice in both cases or it’s barbaric in both cases.

I’m quite happy to believe that the majority of people — BNP supporters or otherwise — understand this, and have formed their own views on the rightness or otherwise of capital punishment. Personally, I’m against it. But the BNP’s point is that in a democracy, we ought to enforce the will of the people, whatever that will is, and they imply that the will of the people is the reintroduction of capital punishment.

That’s maybe a fair point. It might not be something I would like to see, but if it’s the will of the majority…

…only it may or may not be, as it happens. As far back as 2006, less than 50% supported the death penalty (although that survey actually shows slightly more in favour than against — don’t knows make the difference), and support for the death penalty is declining. It also tends to fluctuate: rising in the wake of high-profile murders, and dropping after miscarriages of justice. The point is, it’s not really clear cut precisely where the British public stand on this right now.

We favour more democracy, not less, at national, regional and local levels.

I can’t really argue with that sentiment, but it’s a bit of a Barnum statement. I don’t see any of the other parties arguing for less democracy. Nor do I see the BNP explaining exactly how they would put in place these extra layers of democracy — how they would be costed, and whether they would be imposed whether or not people wanted them.

I wanted a regional assembly for the North East. The majority of people decided that the costs weren’t worth the benefits the ‘extra democracy’ might bring. So there’s a down side to extra representation. Who does it, and who pays for it. If you’re going to say you want extra democracy, you really ought to explain how you’re going to achieve it, and what it will involve.

There’s also an interesting question: is it democratic to insert an extra layer of democratic government that people democratically said that they didn’t want…?

We will implement a Bill of Rights guaranteeing fundamental freedoms to the British people.

Again, it’s something that sounds good, but as always the devil is really in the detail. What freedoms or rights will be guaranteed? Who will get them? I could suggest that I take over the country tomorrow, ruling as a tyrannical dictator (indeed, I’m well up for that idea) and that I would implement a Bill of Rights. The problem is that unless I say exactly who gets those rights, and what they are, it’s a bit meaningless…

All citizens of Pickardia have the right not to be tortured for fun and entertainment more than three times in one week

But now we come to the ‘meat’ of it. The actual policies.

Abolish “anti-discrimination” laws which prevent people from making a free choice;

I’m not entirely sure why “anti-discrimination” is in quotes, but I’m taking these to read that the BNP are in favour of abolishing all of the equal opportunities legislation, and allow employers to not choose someone because they are of a particular skin colour, ethnic background, sex or whatever, even if they are a better candidate than the person who does get the job.

I have to say I am against this. It’s not a difficult one to explain, and it’s rather central to the BNP’s perceived message: that British (read: white British) people are more entitled to a job than someone else, even if that person is a better candidate. I find that wrong. I suspect the BNP voters won’t have a problem with that, so that’s really just a fundamental political difference.

I’m not in favour of “positive” discrimination, so I’d happily support arguments to remove that, but that’s because I feel discrimination is wrong, so I’d want to keep the discrimination legislation. To summarise (and apologies if I’ve missed a key point somewhere): I believe discrimination on grounds of something other than ability to do the job is wrong. I therefore believe positive discrimination is wrong because I believe it is just as inherently unfair as ’standard’ discrimination. Other people would argue that positive discrimination is necessary to address significant imbalances; I disagree because the people being turned down are — in my eyes at least — being discriminated against by precisely those things we say it is wrong to discriminate on.

But I’m wandering off track here: giving you my opinions, rather than theirs

Abolish the “Human Rights Act” which has been imposed on this country through the European Union, and which is nothing but an excuse to prevent British laws stopping the scroungers of the world parasiting off this nation;

Only this is where I start to get a bit confused, you see, because the BNP also want to

Reject ID cards, intrusive surveillance and the retention of DNA samples of the innocent;

…and it is that very Human Rights Act which has been used to force police to stop retaining DNA samples of the innocent, and avoid intrusive surveillance. So why would you replace something that already works and then bring in extra laws to reintroduce those things?

And then you’ve got this:

Abolish all restrictions on traditional free speech; common law provisions against incitement to violence are the only proper limits in a free society;

Er… well, I’m not clear what precisely is meant by “traditional” free speech or “common law provisions”, but the um… well, I hate to say this, but the Human Rights Act specifically says that you have a right to “freedom of expression” and “freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to express your beliefs”.

I accept that there might be things that the BNP supporters don’t like about the Human Rights Act (the right not to be discriminated against, and the right not to be subject to the death penalty, for example), but I think their language, while emotional, might not be strictly accurate. I don’t know for sure, but I rather suspect the overriding purpose of the people coming up with the act wasn’t to find a way for scroungers to get round British Law. I think it was more likely something to do with er… Human Rights.

Your Human Rights, incidentally, as set out by the Human Rights Act, and British law concerning it, are:

  • the right to life
  • freedom from torture and degrading treatment
  • freedom from slavery and forced labour
  • the right to liberty
  • the right to a fair trial
  • the right not to be punished for something that wasn’t a crime when you did it
  • the right to respect for private and family life
  • freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to express your beliefs
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of assembly and association
  • the right to marry and to start a family
  • the right not to be discriminated against in respect of these rights and freedoms
  • the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
  • the right to an education
  • the right to participate in free elections
  • the right not to be subjected to the death penalty Human Rights Act

Other than the the right not to be discriminated against, and the right not to be subject to the death penalty, where I presume the BNP are in favour of discrimination and the death penalty, is there really anything in there which is worth objecting to? Can someone give me an example of any one of the others — “the right to an education”, “the right to participate in free elections” which the BNP (or indeed, anyone else wanting out of the Human Rights Act) would say that they are actually against?

Getting rid of the Human Rights Act would be a nonsense. Of course, that’s just my opinion, and one of the wonderful things about a democracy is that everyone gets the chance to vote for their beliefs…

Introduce an English parliament within the United Kingdom;

Darn. You got me. I actually think, what with the whole West Lothian question and everything, they’ve got a point. Why should a Scottish MP be able to vote for something that affects England, if that same issue in Scotland cannot be voted upon by an English MP.

But that’s one of the problems of the modern Parliamentary system we have. If you want an English assembly, it’ll cost money. But if you don’t do it, there’s an inherent unfairness. Although I’d argue the fact that there’s an entire unelected chamber capable of blocking a democratically elected government of getting through legislation to be a greater unfairness. I’d argue the fact that republicans can’t get an MP to represent their views in parliament to be more unfair.

There’s quite a lot unfair and wrong in the political system. Whether I’d have an English Parliament as my first port of call of things to fix, I don’t know. But I can’t help thinking that I may have to concede the point on that one…

…although if I was going to be a little more critical, I could maybe ask who they would consider to be English for the purposes of said parliament…

Introduce citizen-initiated referenda whose outcome is binding on Parliament.

Again, an interesting idea, but without much ‘meat’. How many people need to step forward asking for one before you can have a binding referendum? 1%? 5%? Are there things that parliament can over-rule? I’d presume not, otherwise there’s not much point having this in the first place. But of course the problem with that is you just need public sentiment to swing against democracy and into the “banning things we don’t like” territory, and then you could have someone saying:

Hey, maybe we should have a referendum to ban the BNP ever winning any seats in any election. I reckon we’d get more than 50% of the public to support that…

And of course, if it’s binding on parliament, like you’ve just asked for…

So no, I’d not want to see that. Because I am in favour of democracy. And I want the BNP to have the chance to stand at an election. I want people to be able to vote for them, should they choose. I want the BNP to have the right to win seats and represent their constituents, should they get enough votes.

It’s just that I don’t want people to choose to vote for them. I don’t want them to win seats. But I don’t think it’s fair to discriminate against them just because their political beliefs are different to mine; maybe their cultural background is slightly different. I still want them to have the same human rights as me.

Just because I disagree with someone, with their political stance or their religious beliefs, or the way in which they choose to live their lives doesn’t mean that I think they’ve got less rights than me to have their say. To me, that is what democracy is. And that’s why I hope people didn’t vote BNP, even though I would respect their right to do so.

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1 Comment to The Most Democratic Party?

  1. The BNP’s Crime and Justice Policy - Chicken Yoghurt says:

    June 5th, 2009 at 9:42 am

    [...] at Housing and Welfare – Sim-O on Defence – Irritability Incarnate on Foreign Policy – 5cc and The Pickards on the BNP’s claim to be Britain’s Most Democratic [...]

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