Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Honesty & Transparency

In the document "The Coalition - our programme for government" much is made of the word 'transparency'. For example, from the Foreward: "So we will extend transparency to every area of public life.". The document even has a section about 'transparency', namely: "16. Government Transparency. Under the heading: "24. Political Reform" the document states: "The Government believes that our political system is broken. We urgently need fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform, much greater co-operation across party lines, and changes to our political system to make it far more transparent and accountable."

Returning to the Foreward, this also contains a wish to devolve power and states: "We share a conviction that the days of big government are over; that centralisation and top-down control have proved a failure. We believe that the time has come to disperse power more widely in Britain today....In short, it is our ambition to distribute power and opportunity to people rather than hoarding authority within government."

It is logical to believe that 'transparency' means being 'open', 'honest' and 'telling the truth' so it is a great pity that this does not seem to extend to our politicians, especially to the two men that signed this 'programme for government'. To illustrate this, consider the article that appeared in the Evening Standard by Nick Clegg, in which he writes about the intended referendum on the voting system, Clegg states: "That leaves the question of the voting system. The right system for UK general elections is a hotly contested issue. Just ask the constitutional boffins and watch acronyms and diagrams abound. And many ordinary people are dissatisfied with the status quo; it's high time we had the debate. So the referendum will ask people whether they want to keep the current system or move to the Alternative Vote." If "it's is high time we had the debate" then surely that debate should be about all voting methods - not between a choice of two - a choice 'cobbled' together out of negotiations that took place. This is surely not 'an ambition to distribute power and opportunity to people' and more a case of 'hoarding authority within government' by dictating to the people what their choice is to be.

It can be argued that if someone does not present the full facts then they can be accused of lying. This can be illustrated quite easily by considering the question of a 'recall system for MPs' and on this question the Coalition document, a programme for government, states: "We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents." What is not stated is that the voters will only be able to exercise their power of recall if a Select Committee rule that the MP has in fact engaged in serious wrongdoing - hardly 'allowing voters to force a by-election' when, in the opinion of an MP's constituents, wrongdoing has taken place.

It would be logical to also repeat other examples of 'politicians saying one thing and then doing another', including the infamous 'U' turn by Cameron on the question of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and I will resist that temptation. Suffice it to say I am totally fed up with politicians phrasing something in such a way as to allow them to wriggle out of what can be initially taken as a firm commitment. That type of behaviour is disingenuous, deceitful and downright disgraceful.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights regards democracy as the only legitimate form of government. Article 21 (3) of the document states that "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".  In respect of selection of an alternative voting system and of a recall system for errant MPs the Coalition breaks Article 21 (3) on both counts, as the will of the people to express a choice is not available as the full choice is not being provided on the first matter - and on the second, the will of the people is being curtailed by MPs themselves.

It can also be argued that the Coalition is breaking another 'international agreement' in that, in 1997, the Inter-Parliamentary Union issued a 'Universal Declaration on Democracy' which stated that democracy "goes hand in hand with an effective, honest and transparent government....."

This entire post and the last two documents beg the question: Well you 'Two Cs', what have you to say for yourselves? 

I'm listening.............