Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 27 February 2006

The 'Power Inquiry' and Baroness Helena Kennedy

I've just been reading about this 'Power Inquiry' thingie, fronted by Baroness Helena Kennedy, and my first impression is that it seems like an incredible mish-mash of all sorts of mixed-up ideas; some, at first reading, strike me as potentially workable, and acceptable, others seems frankly designed to push various political agendas.

I don't have particular qualms about lowering the voting age to 16, for example - if a person can marry at this age then I think there is at least an argument for them being able to vote, and of course for those who leave formal schooling at this age, get a job and probably start to pay tax, then its seems a reasonable argument. On the other hand I do wonder whether 16 is too young for any of these things to become the defining age - consent, marriage, etc. But that is unlikely to change, so 'turning the clock back' is not really an option.

Where I do take issue is the idea that one might tick a ballot paper to contribute to a political party, or indeed (and even more so) the idea that political parties should, in any way, be funded by the state. No! I never want to see this. This seems an idea being pushed for purely political reasons by people such as the LibDems - and I saw their President, Simon Hughes, opining to this effect on BBC News 24. It may be a reasonable idea to have some kind of 'cap' on donations to political parties - that would force these monsters (all of them!) to get back to the priciple that they should communicate directly with their electorates - hustings meetings yes, yet more television appearances no, broadly speaking. This would put smaller political parties, such as the LibDems, at less of a competitive disadvantage with the two main parties, I suppose, and that seems like a reasonable enough idea, even if I don't support them - better that way, in any case, than by funding parties centrally who cannot get support themselves!

Oh, and there is the privacy angle, which just goes to show that this purported idea is certainly not a move to re-engage politics with the public, but to entrench yet more deeply the existing political [party] structure into the fabric of the nation! What am I getting at? Well, the idea that one might tick a ballot paper to donated something like three pounds to a favoured party - firstly, at a technical level, this implies some kind of centralised database which would contain one's bank account details - in other words this is tacitly accepting the universality of a massive database necessary to administer the government's ID Card scheme. Secondly, the ballot is supposed to be secret - if I say I want to give money to one party then it blows the whole idea of a secret ballot out of the water. And do I wish, under any circumstances, to establish some kind of centralised record of which party everyone in the country votes for? No! Is it, in fact, a completely mad and dangerous idea to put this kind of knowledge (and power) in the hands of whomever is able to have access to such a database (e.g. the government, the police)? Yes!

In summary, I think this is yet another report put out on a Monday to grab the 'news agenda' for a few hours or days at the beginning of a week and highly unlikely ever to come to anything much. Indeed the shoddiness of many of the conclusions, and those who seem to be pushing them, makes me very suspicious of this whole little episode. Be very wary of members of the established political 'elite' saying they wish to do something for the public! Do you buy things from every chancer that comes to your door trying to flog you 'tat', entirely for their advantage and not your own? Well, it's that straightforward!

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