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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Never Mind The EU, Can The UK Parliament Be Reformed?

In yesterday's post, Dr North referred to a 1973 Newsweek article by Milton Friedman on "barking cats"; the link he gives is now "404: not found", but another copy can be seen here:

https://miltonfriedman.hoover.org/friedman_images/Collections/2016c21/NW_02_19_1973.pdf

- and one paragraph stood out, for me:

"The error of supposing that the behavior of social organisms can be shaped at will is widespread. It is the fundamental error of most so-called reformers. It explains why they so often believe that the fault lies in the man, not the “system,” that the way to solve problems is to “throw the rascals out” and put well-meaning people in charge. It explains why their reforms, when ostensibly achieved, so often go astray."

The phrase "throw the rascals out" is often used in connection with the British electoral system, compared favourably with the EU where the electorate cannot dismiss a bad or incompetent Commission.

But does Friedman throw light on a problem we have with the UK Parliament, too?

When the overwhelming majority of MPs are Remainers, most of whom representing constituencies that voted clearly for Leave; and when many of those MPs in their several political parties are doing their best to oppose and subvert the results of a referendum which they repeatedly assured us would be decisive; and when they are visibly upset and angry if reprimanded by impertinent members of Question Time audiences who seem to think that this is a democracy; then should we adapt Mrs Thatcher's judgment* and say:

"The British Parliamentary system as a whole is fundamentally unreformable"?

For if their subversion (and the complex public relations assault they are using to scare, distract and confuse the voters) succeeds, they will call into question the legitimacy of their own power. This is not merely theoretical quibbling. To quote the Scottish play:

"Thoughts speculative their unsure hopes relate,
But certain issue strokes must arbitrate."

Even if it manages to put down revolt - and Government has such powerful tools these days - the relations between rulers and ruled will be deeply tainted.

This is now about more than the EU.

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*"Statecraft" (2003), p. 321 - "Europe" in the original, not "The British Parliamentary system"