24 Sep

3 months on: On REALLY taking back control…

3 months ago today, you had the experience of voting in a referendum where your vote counted. You were told that, if you voted ‘Leave’, your vote would be ‘taking back control’. Well, 3 months have gone by: do you feel ‘in control‘?

This article originally published on The News Hub

In the recent EU referendum, you had the experience of your vote counting.

Image by Luke James

Image by Luke James

Each person’s vote had the same weight as everyone else’s, whether you were in a ‘safe seat’ or a ‘marginal’. Because, for once, the whole country was voting in one election (rather than 651 elections). There were lots of problems with the referendum campaign, but at least the voting system for it was fair.

In those countries (nearly all the democracies in the world, in fact) where all elections are by ‘fair votes’ systems, all elections are like that: Wherever you live, your vote then counts the same as everyone else’s. The number of seats a party gets is then proportional to the number of votes it gets: that’s why ‘fair votes’ systems are called ‘proportional representation’ systems (PR, for short).
In the EU referendum, the Leave side promised that you would be able to ‘take back control’, if you voted Leave. But: what exactly did they mean by this?
Who controls Britain?
Parliament consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Lords is of course little more than a worldwide joke, because it isn’t elected at all. If we are really going to take back control, then we have toreplace the House of Lords by a democratic alternative.
The House of Commons is little better — because it is elected by ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP), and so most voters (including everyone living in ‘safe seats’, and that in fact is most voters) — are simply irrelevant. It’s high timeto replace the unfair, outdated and undemocratic FPTP system with PR.
These two changes represent a big step toward really taking back control. For they would mean a Parliament responsive to you, wherever you live, instead of the undemocratic out-of-date Parliament that currently exists, where you vote counts for little or nothing.
But these changes to how Parliament is elected are only the start. Much more is needed, if together we – YOU – are going to take control:
· For far too long now, globalised mega-businesses have called the shots as to what governments can and can’t do. Fat cats have become obscenely rich, while escaping from paying their fair share of tax by offshoring their assets. It is essential now torein in out-of-control ‘markets’, multinational businesses and the super-rich. To prevent private banks from creating money out of thin air. To shut down the tax-havens that secretly steal your money, and we will force the richest 1% to pay their fair share, for the common good. It’s time that your life and your money were in your hands, not in the hands of some mega-business with its offices in Jersey or Bermuda.
· Successive governments have flogged off precious public institutions such as our trains, our water, even some of our hospitals. This must end. These things were in public hands for two good reasons: because everyone needs them; and because they are naturally monopolies (It makes no sense to have two water companies with two water pipes to your house, or two rail companies building tracks side by side with each other). It’s time torestore these institutions to public ownership, so that they work for the common good and not merely for the purses of the few. I want us to ensure that schools, hospitals, the trains, water are yours, not theirs.
· ‘Globalisation’ has basically meant unaccountable rule by the super-rich, wherever they are in the world. This is unacceptable. It’s time toforce business to take place: If a company wants to sell its products here, it needs to be sited here. As well as taxed here. It’s time to start to reverse economic globalisation: it’s time for localisation, instead. Putting power back in your hands. It’s time torevive and drastically strengthen local government, no longer starving your local councils of cash, and to introduce innovative new techniques such as ‘citizens juries’, ‘participatory budgeting’ and Internet voting to ensure that you get to be involved in what your local Council decides to do. And toinitiate a new debate about a federal or confederal future for the UK: it is time for Scotland, Wales and England to be recognised as countries in their own right – within the overall context of a continuing role for the UK. It is time, in particular, fora real English Parliament.
· 1% of the people own 70% of the land in England. In Scotland, the figures are even more extreme. This is just plain wrong. This land is ours – that is to say, yours and mine, everyone’s. It’s time initiate a gradual programme of land-reform: every citizen who wants some land and has an idea on how they want to use it will be entitled to be granted some, every year.
· Nature has been ruthlessly exploited by big business (and government) for far too long. And communities have suffered, whether from open-cast mining, fracking, housebuilding on green belts, destruction of woodland, or the building of roads or runways where local people don’t want them. This must end. It’s timecreate community rights to resist ‘development’. It will no longer be possible for you to be forced by distant monied powers to trash nature and pave over green, where you live.
· Finally: none of this can be done while our press is the worst in the Western world. The press in this country is a dead weight stopping any real reform, any real taking back of control. Our press remains unreformed despite even the lessons of Hillsborough, despite the despicable phone-hacking scandal, despite the terrible coverage of the EU referendum itself. It’s time toend the absurd situation of ineffectual press ‘self-regulation’: we will implement the Leveson reforms; and to make it impossible for one man to control entire fleets of newspapers. To fund independent community journalism and investigative journalism. To turn the media from an albatross around the neck of democracy in this country into something which we in this country will be able to be truly proud of. To create a press that you have a say in.
When you were told you could ‘take back control’ by a Leave campaign that was happy to keep intact the electoral system for the House of Commons, the unelected House of Lords, big business control of our country at the deepest level, and unaccountable big business control of the press, you were sold a pup.
It’s time to really take back control:
· Real democracy
· The reining in of corporations that profiteer from your hard work
· Public ownership of ‘natural monopolies’ such as the railways and water;
· Real localisation of power
· Land-reform
· Community rights never to have ‘development’ in your area that you don’t want and…
· Media-reform, to end the power of the press barons and put the media closer to the people’s hands.
Democracy means, literally, ‘the people govern’. It’s been a long long time (if ever) since the people governed in this country.
So it’s high time for all that I have outlined above. But: How are they going to happen?
The way they might finally happen, in four years time if not before, is through a government with wide popular support and a movement behind it being elected, a government that will be determined to make these changes happen. The only government that would make these things happen is a government with a strengthened cohort of Green MPs.
Give us the chance to lead, and, as we have set out here, you will at last have the chance to govern.
It’s time for Britons to really take control.