BBC BLOGS - Mark Mardell's Euroblog
« Previous | Main | Next »

In the bag for Barroso?

Mark Mardell | 08:15 UK time, Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The socialists have given notice that Jose Manuel Barroso, the current Commission president, will not hold onto Brussels' top job without something of a struggle.Jose Manuel Barroso

The socialists' president in the European Parliament, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen - himself a likely contender for the job if it was in the gift of the Left - has signalled in a blog that Mr Barroso shouldn't consider it in the bag.

During this election period I find myself repeatedly trying to explain how and if these elections matter. This is but one illustration of how they do have a real impact. Just not a straightforward, simple-to-understand one.

In essence Mr Rasmussen admits that the Christian Democrats, the EPP, may well remain the biggest party grouping when the elections are over. But he's pointing out that these supporters of Mr Barroso won't have an absolute majority, and a combination of greens, liberals, the new British conservative group and his socialists could push an alternative candidate. Rather generously he offers not himself but the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, who is a liberal - and confusingly a candidate in the elections to the European Parliament.

Of course, the decision is not up to the parliament, but the 27 presidents and prime ministers of the EU: although I suspect it boils down to five or six of them and the rest will go along.

Opinions are sharply divided about Mr Barroso, although I am unsure how his critics expect him to be bolder and braver without the support of major governments. Brussels is not the place for dead heroes but achievable compromise.

Gordon Brown supports Mr Barroso, rather to the annoyance of other socialists. But Nicolas Sarkozy has fired a warning shot across the current Commissions president's bows, suggesting that a deal cannot be done at the planned summit in June. What would you like a new Commission president to do?

Comments

or register to comment.

  • 1. At 09:30am on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    The problem with the presidency is as much to do with the way he or she is appointed as their identity. Those who argue that the proper role of the president is to be the front man for the policies of the commission will probably be happy for the existing arrangement to continue. Mr. Barroso has managed to put a few eurosceptic noses out of joint for his public pronouncements on ever closer union but it is after all part of his job to promote the EU as a respected body in the international forum with which others can negotiate. Hardly surprising therefore that he would talk up the project at every opportunity.

    I would like to see a much more engaged president with a clearly expressed preference for more transparency and accountability - a reformer who sees an increasing role for parliament and much more public involvement and access. But herein lies the problem. Such a candidate will not emerge all the time the appointment is filled by horse trading between national leaders most of whom are more than happy if the president promotes their shared agendas which do not necessarily coincide with popular opinion amongst the people.

    So the answer to your question - what would you like a new Commission president to do? - is a whole host of things that he/she is currently unable to do because of the nature of the system. The best thing the electorate could do at the forthcoming election is to signal an appetite for reform on such a scale that the national governments cannot ignore it. I am not holding my breath.

    Complain about this comment

  • 2. At 09:41am on 26 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    What would we like a new commission president to do?

    Myself, I would like to hear the new worthy explain how wonderfully democratic the process by which he came to his authority seems to himself and his party faithful.

    I never tire of listening to politicians who spend 50% of their time listening to the party executive, and the other 50% listening to the party media analyst.

    This is a grand farce, if we must call the method "democracy". It is said to be democratic because we choose the representatives who choose this guy. Except, we don't. Their party chooses them. We choose between one party and another, and regardless of which party we choose, the two dominant European parties share the spoils at the european level. Which is to be the supreme lawmaking power.

    Has there ever been such a rude and blatant usurpation of democratic participation as this EU stunt? The two party system has been perfectly distilled into a process whereby the parties negotiate to share authority, an the voter has absolutely no chance to influence to proceedings whatsoever.

    Now the EU supporters will try to argue this point, but I would like them to take the time to explain precisely how a voter can influence the way power is distributed in Europe. No matter who you vote for, you have absolutely no way of knowing how the parties will horse trade on a European level.

    Who do I vote for, to achieve what outcome? It simply isn't possibly to know, and therefore any semblance of democracy has been erased.

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 09:58am on 26 May 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    What would we like a new commission president to do?

    I'd like him (or her) to admit that there is a massive democratic deficit and that the Commission has no real mandate from the peoples of Europe.

    As such, the Commission is resigning until all member states have asked their electorates - in referenda - whether or not they wanted a European Union of 'ever closer political union' and, abiding by the results which confer some legitimacy at last, would go on to reform the EU accordingly.

    And then I woke up.

    Complain about this comment

  • 4. At 10:02am on 26 May 2009, TV Licence fee payer against BBC censorship wrote:

    #2 "democracythreat" wrote:

    "This is a grand farce, if we must call the method "democracy". It is said to be democratic because we choose the representatives who choose this guy. Except, we don't."

    Then you will be happy to support the Lisbon Treaty and it's direct election (by the citizens of the EU) of the EU president - yes, without the Lisbon treaty democracy is indeed under threat...

    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 10:45am on 26 May 2009, monkeynullnull wrote:

    Mr barosso is just a politician among others and we are feed up with the class of people that do not have other occupations besides politics.

    what EU needs is a possibility to engage ordinary people in creating a world where we start to deal with what concerns the ordinary man.

    A EU top leader is not what the eu people want

    Complain about this comment

  • 6. At 10:56am on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #2 - democracythreat

    I agree with almost all of that. Which is why I would like to see such a dramatic shift away from the big two mainstream parties next month that they no longer control the EP. That would precipitate precisely the kind of soul searching that is needed. It is also so improbable that, as I said, I will not hold my breath.

    Failing that, Boilerplated may be right about Lisbon holding out the prospect of the people voting directly for the president but I am still uncomfortable with the underhand way in which it was foisted on the people and proceeding on the basis of a constitutional arrangement that was secured dishonestly ought to be out of the question.

    Complain about this comment

  • 7. At 11:06am on 26 May 2009, TV Licence fee payer against BBC censorship wrote:

    #5

    "Mr barosso is just a politician among others and we are feed up with the class of people that do not have other occupations besides politics.

    what EU needs is a possibility to engage ordinary people in creating a world where we start to deal with what concerns the ordinary man."


    How would that be done without making politicians out of them, once someone (formally) starts making decisions for others they have become involved on politics - surely you are not suggesting that every decision is put to a referendum?

    "A EU top leader is not what the eu people want"

    Says who, you, or have you asked ever adult within the EU?! Half the problem is that the EU elections always seems to have a low percentage to the turn out, but then the anti EU parties like that - it gives them some legitimacy, they are able to say "Look at how many don't agree, they don't even bother to cast their vote", but who knows, how does anyone know, what non voters think. Perhaps rather than going backwards, to 'peoples courts', we should be moving towards a legal requirement to vote (some countries already have this) even if it's just to abstain (spoil your ballot paper) or decline any candidate (the non of the above option)?

    Complain about this comment

  • 8. At 11:45am on 26 May 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #4, Boilerplated,

    So the prospect of having a directly elected EU President under Lisbon make the whole of the EU more democratic, don't make me laugh. The Lisbon treaty/constitution that you are so fond of does nothing to quell the inherent horse trading and secrecy. It gives some things and takes away others, personally there are a number of things it takes that I don't like, that may be the horse trading that took place when it was cobbled together from the ashes of the constitution. What this confusing badly written abortion of a treaty does not do is change the malaise of the system, it makes lip service to democracy and transparency but there is little of real concrete benefit to improve the democratic accountability of the EU. Things will simply carry on just as now but the EU will have even more power over member governments which can't be democratic.

    As for the possibility of the demise of Barroso, I think that would not be unwelcome in many places and it's curious that the Socialist leader mentioned the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, as a possible replacement. All I can say is that he seems to have a very high reputation here and was able to keep the differences between the French and Dutch here under control, which is itself amazing. He seems to be a fairly moderate diplomat/politician and would be preferable to a federalist hobby horse Barroso.

    Complain about this comment

  • 9. At 11:45am on 26 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    Let me first say that Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, who has been PM in Denmark, so far has said he is not a candidate for the job. Secondly the new Danish PM, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has said he will not support the candidacy of Nyrup Rasmussen.

    If Nyrup Rasmussen none the less gets the job, the new president will be a man with economic expertise. He will also work in favour of integration in the EU (I have already mention, the voters in Denmark are against it but the majority in the parliament is for it), and finally in the field labour market the commission will get a emphatic man with insight and experience in unions.

    As a MEP Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has been quite a sharp critic of certain parts of the economic politics of the commission, and though I am not a friend of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, indeed, I must admit that he will be a very capable man as a president.

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 12:55pm on 26 May 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    President of the EU - ah no president of the Commission- what on earth is that - anything to do with The European Parliament eh no. So the President of what - the committee of heads of state - eh no again. The place is a bit of a constitutional mess and it badly needs a constitution so that when we hear of a President we have some idea what he is president of!

    The problem is that most of the national legislatures are absolutely against ceding any power in name to Europe although they are happy and indeed want to do so when it helps their own country. So we are left with a hugely inefficient, but very small federal organisation and a President!

    Complain about this comment

  • 11. At 1:27pm on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #9 - Mathiasen

    ". . . the voters in Denmark are against it but the majority in the parliament is for it".

    Is this the Danish parliament or the EU parliament? If the latter, all that might be about to change.

    #8 - Buzet23

    My point exactly. I have no problem with an elected presidency. It would be a whole lot better than an appointee arrived at by the likes of Gordy, Angie, Silvie and Sarky behind closed doors. The problem is that the treaty which brings that about has been discredited by not being offered to the people. This simply cheapens the office of president.

    Complain about this comment

  • 12. At 2:10pm on 26 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    # 11 threnodio
    It is the Danish parliament, the country with the many opt-outs. Democratically seen a most interesting situation.

    A number of constitutions (among the EU member states) have a paragraph that says the members of the parliament are bound of their conscience only. It is written in art. 38 in the German constitution and art. 56 in the Danish.
    Many voters are not aware of this. They therefore believe that MPs are bound to promises, political programs, or other presciptions. (Are they in the UK?)

    The intention of such paragraphs is to secure that a parliamentarian makes a decision according to his best assessment and knowledge and not the (incomplete) knowledge of the voters.
    If parliamentarians in favour of integration (in such countries) none the less vote against it, because it is the wish of the voters, they are acting in conflict with their conscience and the constitution. The have the right to ignore the opinion of the voters.

    Complain about this comment

  • 13. At 2:37pm on 26 May 2009, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    Verhofstadt?

    Got Belgium out of a pickle and is used to dealing with stubborn self interest and jingoism. Not a bad name to put forward.

    Still won't be voting though...

    Complain about this comment

  • 14. At 2:55pm on 26 May 2009, Tortilein wrote:

    @ 12, Mathiasen:

    "A number of constitutions (among the EU member states) have a paragraph that says the members of the parliament are bound of their conscience only. It is written in art. 38 in the German constitution and art. 56 in the Danish."

    I love your interpretation of the German constitution. But beyond their conscience they are of course bound of the constitution itself as every other government body (Staatsorgan in German, no clue whether government body is the right word), too. Therefor they are surely bound of every single interpretation (aka decision) of the constitution which the constitutional court does.

    Complain about this comment

  • 15. At 3:01pm on 26 May 2009, TV Licence fee payer against BBC censorship wrote:

    #11 "threnodio" wrote:

    "#8 - Buzet23

    My point exactly. I have no problem with an elected presidency. It would be a whole lot better than an appointee arrived at by the likes of Gordy, Angie, Silvie and Sarky behind closed doors."


    But of course if the they appointed a EU sceptic to the presidency you would be all supporting, no doubt...

    Complain about this comment

  • 16. At 3:56pm on 26 May 2009, meznaric wrote:

    democracythreat:
    You are implying in your post that the only truly democratic system is a two-party system. In many European countries with proportional representation, coalitions are needed to ensure working majority within the government. You could then equally say that the "horse-trading" between the parties depends on the result of the elections and therefore the system is not democratic. This kind of trading is inherent in politics.

    Don't get me wrong, I support the idea of making the EU more directly accountable than it is. But I disagree with the assessment that it is not democratic now.

    Complain about this comment

  • 17. At 3:57pm on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #15 - Boilerplated

    Do you actually read my posts? I have been standing full square behind you in my support of the EU. I have no wish to see a EUsceptic presidency. We have enough genuine, dyed-in-the-wool EU haters here as it is without falling foul of each other. Watch my lips . . .

    1. I am an EU enthusiast.

    2. I am in favour of the project including many aspects of the integration agenda.

    3. In order to construct an EU which is open and democratic, the people must be consulted and be seen to be consulted.

    4. The Treaty of Lisbon is fundamentally flawed not so much for what it contains but in the underhand way in which those elements taken from the original constitution and dovetailed into it enabling evasion of the democratic process. It is basically a good treaty completely undermined by the collective dishonesty of the heads of government.

    5. I believe in a democratic EU. The present generation of leaders appear to consider democracy a secondary consideration. That must not stand.

    #12 - Mathiasen

    "They therefore believe that MPs are bound to promises, political programs, or other presciptions. (Are they in the UK?)"

    Yes and no. It is a very strange arrangement. The vast majority of MPs are elected as party members. The parties take the view that candidates standing on a party ticket are committed to the party manifesto - all of it. Therefore, they have in Parliament the Whip system. The party whips are there to ensure discipline. Bills are presented with a two line whip, which means that you will get very firmly talked to if you vote against it or a three line whip, which means that all hell will break loose if you vote against it. Possible suspension from the parliamentary party, possible expulsion and even deselection can follow. So yes MPs are theoretically allowed to vote with their consciences but often it is not a sensible thing to do. This is why MPs will wait for something really controversial and 'gang up' on the whips in a full scale rebellion. Such events do not occur that often but when they do, they can bring governments down. In other circumstances, the general policy if you disagree with the party line is to abstain. You are not actually being disloyal but you are leaving no doubt as to what you actually think.

    Occasionally, they allow a 'free vote'. This is when the parties has no particular policy and generally arises with moral and ethical questions (embryo research, abortion and so on).

    Complain about this comment

  • 18. At 4:01pm on 26 May 2009, meznaric wrote:

    #11 threenodio:
    You say the democratic process of electing the presidency has been discredited because the treaty was not offered in a referendum. So democracy is only a desirable form of government if it has been approved in a referendum? The US constitution was not confirmed in a referendum => democracy is not desirable in the US.

    Complain about this comment

  • 19. At 5:06pm on 26 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    * democracythreat, at no. 2:

    'The two party system has been perfectly distilled into a process whereby the parties negotiate to share authority, an the voter has absolutely no chance to influence to proceedings whatsoever...I would like [EU supporters] to take the time to explain precisely how a voter can influence the way power is distributed in Europe. No matter who you vote for, you have absolutely no way of knowing how the parties will horse trade on a European level.'

    In answer to that last bit: of course you don't. At least not entirely. But that doesn't IN ITSELF signal a 'democratic deficit'. Problem is, you're bringing to bear a singularly British way of analysis political accountability--that is, from a system where the theatrics of political combat as put on display daily--against a different, and equally legitimate, form of government found elsewhere in the world. The German system is like this, and it's similar in other countries (even outside Europe) where proportional representation exists. You can't steam-roll opposition even if you have a huge plurality of votes; why? Because you most likely won't have a commanding majority.

    MEPs are selected in a mixed system of sorts--PR at the national level, but with the added twist that that PR vote obviously doesn't affect the selection of MEPs in other countries. And the system is viewed similarly as if it were PR straight-up: the governing parties govern not by outright political contestation, but through negotiation and compromise. (Hence the different lay out in the EP compared with the Commons!)

    Before you attack this method of doing things, on the basis again that it's less democratic simply because MEPs don't face each other in a mock duel, you've got to understand that the EP method is actually the norm in most countries. Even in the US where parties DO get majorities thanks to FPTP the parties operate in a similar level in Congress. This is especially true in the Senate--if less so, again, because they get majorities. But the threat of a fillibuster forces senators to compromise--they have an incentive to work together with the opposition for not-too-dissimilar reasons as we find at the EP.

    I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at comments like these; but I guess euroscepticism, like all sorts of fanaticisms, has a degree of myopia associated with it...

    * MaxSceptic, at no. 3: Plenty of European countries DID get a referendum on 'ever closer union', including Britain. And that wasn't a decision made with eyes closed. Both Harold Wilson's cabinet as well as Edward Heath's made the case rather openly that (a) the single-market would obviously involve political elements, and that these would increase over time; and (b) that European legislation would of necessity trump national law WHERE IT IS COMPETENT.

    * Boilerplated, at no. 4: exactly!

    * threnodio, at no. 1: I agree. The process is CURRENTLY flawed, though Lisbon thankfully irons it out a bit better, and it's actually a statement of who actually controls power at the European level. Such may be the facile view of the Eurosceptic press in Britain, but it's pretty obvious that power does NOT reside in some European bureaucracy; it's the nation-states and their leaders who still wield substantial control over the EU and over its functionaries, like Barroso.

    * monkeynullnull: An 'EU top leader' isn't what you get; the European Commission president only presides over--gasp!--the Commission! Yes, it is the only body that can currently propose legislation, but it is not the only body involved in making it.

    * Buzet23, at no. 8: 'The Lisbon treaty/constitution...'

    LOL. I know when to ignore comments when people use the word 'constitution' as a ruse for scaremongering. It doesn't appear to occur to anyone that the Boy Scouts of America has a constitution, or that as it stood pre-Maastricht the European Community already had a constitution of sorts--it's called the Treaty of Rome. It's a false association outwith the etymology of the word itself; rather, it conjures up the US Constitution, and what that means, despite the rather more mundane, operative definition for it.

    But to be fair enough and address a small point: ALL treaties are 'badly written', especially amending treaties. And yet, every main European Union treaty--the Single European Act, the Merger Treaty, Amsterdam, Nice--with the exception of Maastricht and Rome have been likewise as Byzantine as Lisbon. Of course, all treaties are dense, full of legalese; especially those that only amend pre-existing treaties. To the ill-informed/paranoid this obviously is a canard in disguise. To those who have to, sadly, trudge through such muck all the time it's the written compromise between legislative certainty and institutional flexibility...

    * John_from_Hendon, at no. 10: The system isn't THAT complex. The Commission represents the EU as an institution; the European Council and the Council of Ministers represent the member states and their leaders; and the Parliament represents the people.

    * meznariac, at no. 16: Yep. I think that sort of simplistic intepretation is very easy to make, but it's also terribly ignorant. It takes a certain system of government as some strange 'gold standard' and compares everything to it. It's ironic under the circumstances, considering the UK Parliament's sullied reputation, whilst in Germany people were celebrating en masse their constitution.

    * meznarias, at no. 18: It's a point I make to starry-eyed Britons prone to worshipping the American Constitution (believe me, I know plenty of them on all sides of the political spectrum) whilst simultaneously smacking down the suggestion that parliaments are better suited to making decisions on difficult legal matters, such as treaties. They also ignore how the American central/federal government has no time for referenda of any sort; that the Constitution itself, a document infinitely more important to Americans than was the EU Constitution to Europeans, was not put to 'the people' for a vote; nor that political referenda often make a hash of stuff anyway. Evil politicians are the easiest examples, but one need only look at California's state constitution to see how good referenda have proven to be there. In the event, referenda in California have played a decisive role in malignantly straight-jacketing the legislature and sending the richest state in the Union to the edge of bankruptcy...

    Complain about this comment

  • 20. At 6:46pm on 26 May 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    "What would you like a new Commission president to do?"

    This rather assumes that we think having a 'Commission' is the best way to have democratic government in Europe - and many of us do not...

    Complain about this comment

  • 21. At 7:09pm on 26 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    'This rather assumes that we think having a 'Commission' is the best way to have democratic government in Europe - and many of us do not...'

    Erm, no, it doesn't. It just asks you to assume that we already have one. Which we do.

    Nor is it the Commission's role to be the standard-bearer of inter-EU democracy; it's an institutional compromise between the elected leaders of the member states and the people's representatives in the Parliament. The former selects the President of the Commission, who then choses his/her commission; and the latter, the Parliament approve it. That's where the 'democracy' part of it comes in. The selection of the President of the Commission is like the selection of a US Supreme Court justice: selected by one branch with approval for another--although, yes, the Parliament should have far greater power to scrutinise an in-coming President of the Comission. And the selection of the Commission is like the selection of any national cabinet in a parliamentary system; at no point are INDIVIDUAL cabinet members vetted by parliament.

    Complain about this comment

  • 22. At 7:47pm on 26 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 23. At 8:24pm on 26 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #17 threnodio, #14 Tortilein
    Im glad to get an explanation of the whip function in the British parliament. The word itself makes you speculate, and of course the mother of all parliaments is pretty old.
    The remarks about the democratic practice make absolutely sense. I believe they cover our common experiences.

    Since Tortilein didnt check the article I shall make a short quote from the German constitution. About the members of Bundestag it writes:
    [I have deleted this. I see BBC does not allow German. Read art. 38, section 1 of the constitution instead.]

    The Danish constitution explicitly mentions the voters: Whatever their directions may be they do not bind the parliamentarians in any way. Only the conviction of the MPs matters.

    As I mentioned the consequence of this is that MPs can ignore party programs, opinion polls, contracts with lobby groups et cetera, and refer to their conscience or conviction. Therefore the rule sets a limit to the pressure you can put on an MP, and helps parliamentarians keeping their head when the people is losing their.
    The first thing I would do, if I were elected as MP, was to define my personal red line for the party discipline. Therefore I will never get elected!

    Complain about this comment

  • 24. At 8:39pm on 26 May 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    "What would you like a new Commission President to do?"

    'Between the devil and the deep sea' scenario!

    An EU Commission President: Appointed in the back-room by a stitch-up amongst the 27 States' leaders, or somewhere down the line, if the wretchedly undemocratic Lisbon Treaty is ratified, he/she is elected by at most 35% of the EU Electorate, or the less than 40% Citizen mandated MEPs!

    I think in any of the above circumstances I would hope the Next EU Commission President has the simple grace and compassion to immediately make the following announcement to the 450,000,000 Citizens of Europe:

    "Citizens we have tried to act honourably and in your best interests but it is clear that in and by every 'democratic' measure we have not persuaded you of the value of an EU or that an EU could in the future substantially improve your lives. Therefore, with humility I achnowledge and confirm the game is up and the great EU project is no more."

    For once an EU President wins unanimous Public approval and a massive round of Public applause as he/she departs never to be replaced.

    Well, Mr Mardell, you asked, and I answered: What do you think the chances are?

    Complain about this comment

  • 25. At 9:08pm on 26 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    ikamaskeip, at no. 24:

    'An EU Commission President: Appointed in the back-room by a stitch-up amongst the 27 States' leaders, or somewhere down the line, if the wretchedly undemocratic Lisbon Treaty is ratified, he/she is elected by at most 35% of the EU Electorate, or the less than 40% Citizen mandated MEPs!'

    What makes the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty undemocratic? In fact what makes any treaty undemocratic? Is it that this one treaty was not approved in a referendum? In that case, aren't all treaties undemocratic? Should all peace treaties be put to referenda? Should trade agreements, extradition treaties, visa treaties? Besides I don't see you making an argument for the treaty's supposed undemocratic nature--it's not even clear what you mean; do you mean the ongoing ratification process, or do you mean what the treaty itself calls for?--since you only make a bald assertion that it is. An assertion, especially a fallacious and tendentious one, doesn't make something factual.

    By your dodgy metric every one of Margaret Thatcher's governments after 1979 lacked from legitimacy. If she only commanded 13.8 million votes (in 1988) out of a population of 55 million or so at the time, then 25% of the total population is hardly a mandate--right? Or does it only matter when EU elections are concerned? The same could be said for, well, EVERY post-war government in Britain.

    You should also take note that voting participation has been falling in pretty much EVERY major democracy in the world for the past 20 years. This might certainly be a problem...but this is hardly just a problem at the EU level. And in fact, turnout for EU elections are HIGHER than they are in US legislative/mid-term elections.

    I'm sorry, friend, but you haven't made a single defensible proposition in that entire mindless rant of yours.

    Complain about this comment

  • 26. At 9:14pm on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    18 - meznaric

    "You say the democratic process of electing the presidency has been discredited because the treaty was not offered in a referendum".

    No, I do not say that.

    I say that the treaty was not offered in referenda. The plural is very important. As I have repeatedly posted, it is the duty and responsibility of the individual governments to decide whether or not to consult the people. If they do so, they will stand accused of disrupting the process and if they fail to do so, they will be accused of neglecting the democratic process.

    They are in a no win situation. What better time to seize the initiative and return it to the people?

    Complain about this comment

  • 27. At 9:15pm on 26 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Rcmoya: We have democratic government within each nation state, but not in the EU.

    The 27 members of the EU Council or Council of Ministers only have a democratic legitimacy in their own country. Their collective democratic legitimacy is actually rather weak. Sarkozy has no democratic legitimacy outside France. Merkel has zero democratic legitimacy to make the law in the UK but has a greater weight in deciding EU law that is binding on us than our own government.

    The EU Parliament has less democratic legitimacy still. It suffers the same problem of the EU Council in that MEPs from other countries have no legitimacy here. But the legitimacy of any MEP is far weaker than that of a national politician. The elections to the EU parliament are second order elections with voters always voting based on the feelings about the national parties. And we do not vote for MEPs anyway but for parties who appoint the party list from which MEPs are drawn. Any system which allows political dwarves from different countries to overrule our governments t0clearly has a very serious democratic deficit that can only be corrected by reducing the powers of the EU institutions.

    Complain about this comment

  • 28. At 9:31pm on 26 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya: The Lisbon Treaty is undemocratic and is being ratified in defiance of public opinion. The treaty itslef is undemocratic because it allows law superior to national law to be created, which can be imposed on us against the wishes of the majority in the country, and which remains binding on us so long as we remain in the EU no matter how we vote in future elections. It allows such undemocratic law to be created in many new policy areas. And it modifies EU voting rules to reduce blocking thresholds making it more likely that law will be imposed on us against our wishes.

    Complain about this comment

  • 29. At 9:39pm on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #28 - Freeborn-John

    "The Lisbon Treaty is undemocratic and is being ratified in defiance of public opinion".

    Evidence?

    Complain about this comment

  • 30. At 9:44pm on 26 May 2009, GrumpyBob wrote:

    My choice would be the head of Network Rail who could ensure the gravy train grinds to a halt.

    Complain about this comment

  • 31. At 9:59pm on 26 May 2009, Tortilein wrote:

    @ 23, Mathiasen:

    "Since Tortilein didnt check the article I shall make a short quote from the German constitution. About the members of Bundestag it writes:"

    Your understanding of (German constitutional) law is very amateurish, sorry to say that but it is the truth. If it was that easy to understand law as you seem to think there were no university studies necessary. What do you think is a constitution? A constitution is something every institution of the state has to respect, be it the government, the parliament or the courts, nobody stands above it. And of course every member of the parliament has to respect it.

    By the way, I know Art. 38 GG better than I would like to. Last autumn I graduated in law from the university of Frankfurt and last summer I had to work (and write) more than 8 weeks about the German ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and how the constitutional court might decide (what I of course do not know as at this point only heaven knows but I had the chance and a lot of time to come to my own conclusion) as part of my exams. As I already told you that in 1993 Art. 38 GG was the main point for the Maastricht decision it is more than probable that it will be the main point again this time. So be sure, I know what Art. 38 GG says and I also know how to interprete it (the way the constitutional court does). I wanted to try to argument without mentioning what I studied but as you try to discredit my knowledge ("Since Tortilein didnt check the article....") I guess I should mention that.

    Complain about this comment

  • 32. At 10:00pm on 26 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    Freeborn-John, at no. 27:

    'The 27 members of the EU Council or Council of Ministers only have a democratic legitimacy in their own country.'

    And yet, all treaties create obligations actionable in the states that sign up to them. With respect to the EU those obligations are two-fold: first, in that individual member states accepted Community law upon joining; and secondly, by participating in the legal process.

    You're making a rather convoluted argument against collective legal obligations. But that is rubbish; if treaties didn't create obligations in other states--and remember, it's a two-way street, since all parties lay down treaty provisions and accept them--then there would be absolutely no point in having any treaty whatsoever. Even IF you make the argument that there is NO democracy at the EU level--and that is a terribly disingenuous argument at best--that still says nothing for the legitimacy of international legal obligations of any kind, especially not at the EU level where a substantial democratic element DOES exist.

    As for your turn on the European Parliament, I have to break this down point by point, because it's too good for its logical silliness:

    * 'It suffers the same problem of the EU Council in that MEPs from other countries have no legitimacy here.'

    And who confers that legitimacy? Are you to decide what is or isn't legitimate? As I've just argued above this premise is simply ridiculous. At best it argues against any sort of law-making--hell, any sort of deal-making--at anything above the national level.

    * 'The elections to the EU parliament are second order elections with voters always voting based on the feelings about the national parties.'

    Ah, I see! So you can discern from the 'collective will' that they have decided to make one rung of politicians less legitimate than others. You don't at any point advance any propositions to defend this argument, other than argue, risibly, that these elections simply advance politicians who are 'dwarves'. But considering I've never found any provisions in the treaties labelling MEPs as such, this is but a reflection of your personally tendentious view of the whole political process whatsoever. You're not making a reasonable argument at all: you're just saying these people are politically inferior.

    Or is their 'second-rung' status to do with turnout? I've already mentioned that local elections sometimes have LOWER turnouts in many countries than do European Parliament elections. In fact, in the 2004 elections the turnout throughout Britain was slightly HIGHER for the European Parliament portion of the ballot (37.6%) than it was at the local level for the London mayoral race (36.95%) and the London Assembly.

    Would you accept, then, that both the mayor and the London Assembly are less legitimate than British MEPs? Do we, by this metric, therefore accept that MEPs are more legitimate than local councillors?

    If that's the best you can do, then...

    * 'And we do not vote for MEPs anyway but for parties who appoint the party list from which MEPs are drawn.'

    I've already addressed this above. You're making a politically ignorant argument against a system that is in operation in a large number of democracies around the world. No one is saying these systems are not legitimate/anti-democratic, nor should we or can we.

    Complain about this comment

  • 33. At 10:29pm on 26 May 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #19. RCMoya612 wrote:

    "...The system isn't THAT complex...."

    How exactly are we to understand this as there is no agreed way of running the place - even a golf club has a set of rules! The EU love it or hate it needs a constitution that clearly sets out the competences of the commission, the council of ministers and the European Parliament and the relationship with national bodies within the EU's members. For as long as we do not have a workable and agreed set of rules the situation provides the undemocratic forces of cabals of national leaders to ride roughshod over the rights and duties of the citizens of Europe - and put the blame on the Commission!

    I really don't care what the set of rules are called called they can be a constitution or treaty or whatever - the need is for an agreed way of efficiently and democratically running the EU. And further, the people of the EU need to understand who does what and who is to be praised and who is to be blamed when things are done well or badly. Having no agreement plays into the hands of the irrational and undemocratic lunatic fringes in all of the 27 nation states of Europe.

    Complain about this comment

  • 34. At 10:30pm on 26 May 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    RCMoya612 and #25.

    Straightforward one first: Well, of course the 55 million population were not all electorate - - I understand that as a 'pro-EU' lobbyist you only use factual statistics that suit but that was sloppy - - you know, like an Eire referendum result that said 'No' and stopped the ratification of Lisbon Treaty, must be held again so a 'Yes' will be in place (any chance if there is a 'Yes' vote there could be another Eire Referendum autumn 2010 in case they changed their mind!?).

    So, if that little piece (Eire referendum) of 'democratic' process does not quite explain my reference to 'undemocratic' Lisbon, I will illustrate in other ways.

    Lisbon will put in place powers and authority at EU level that either circumvent or replace National level Government and thereby reduce the individual Citizen's Rights and Responsibilities. As I have stated in many other contributions before this Blog article the EU has no mandate from its Citizens: The EU Parliament elections this June will again confirm the complete lack of Public support for that institution and yet Lisbon increases its MEPs legislative/supervisory powers!?

    Now, as for PMs Thatcher-Major-Blair-Brown of the UK, they were/are heads of Political Parties that in the centuries-established UK FPTP electoral system won majority numbers in the Palace of Westminster and thus as leaders were placed inside No.10 for good or ill. I realise again that as a 'pro-EU' this concept of Citizens electing their Government is a novel idea, but, who knows you may come to understand its value in time.

    Granted likelihood of that understanding is further removed by the start-up of the Lisbon Treaty measures, but, there must be a chance. Now, Lisbon Treaty is a Constitution for the European Union: This is denied by its promoters, but then, as they are the same leadership who with the exception of Eire refused to hold a Referendum on Lisbon there is no real need to accept anything they might say as gospel. The original EU Constitution was rejected in Referenda in Netherlands and France: With a few minor tweakings of key-terminology and a little applied cosmetic name-changes to key-post and key-activities the Lisbon Treaty is the EU Constitution mark II.

    I have noted the falling electoral participation rate across UK/England/Europe post-WW2 and I find it odd at the least and dangerously complacent at worst that a 'pro-EU' lobbyist would claim as part of defence of their own views that this in any way excuses the European Union from having to accept as a yardstick for its continuation 'democratic accountability and credibility': I.e. just because the UK National Elections only get a 65% Public participation does not justify an EU claiming a mandate to rule with a European Public participation consistently below 45%!?

    On the somewhat spurious point of "..should all peace treaties be put to referenda.." I am surprised you risk bringing up this point as by it you are suggesting the 1st Eire referendum on Lisbon is therefore sacrosanct!?
    Of course there are alternative logical arguments such as why would a 'pro-EU' lobbyist suggest that the UNO, NATO, Kyoto, WTO etc. cannot validate measures/agreements/protocols until the EU has given its approval!?

    Finally "friend", may I point out that as per usual with any and all 'pro-EU lobbyists' you are so full of your own importance you cannot resist being rude: I am sorry, but nothing I wrote was a "..mindless rant..", and you would fare better in your argument if you refrained from such unpleasantness.

    Complain about this comment

  • 35. At 10:54pm on 26 May 2009, GrumpyBob wrote:

    #33

    "....Having no agreement plays into the hands of the irrational and undemocratic lunatic fringes in all of the 27 nation states of Europe.."

    Would they be MEP's and the unelected bureaucratic commissioners?

    Complain about this comment

  • 36. At 11:19pm on 26 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Rcmoya: You are putting words in my mouth that I did not say.

    It is an obvious fact (that I trust you will accept) that the Merkel government only has a democratic legitimacy to govern in Germany, that the Sarkozy government only has a democratic legitimacy to govern in France and so on and that this legitimacy only extends to one parliament (unless re-elected bt the national demos from whom all legitimate power must be derived). Democracy is not a cartel of governments agreeing to run one anothers countries against the wishes of their voters.

    It is the case that a government in power has the authority to ratify an international treaty that creates obligations on the state (i.e. future governments). And that it can even do so against the wishes of the majority of the nation it is meant to represent, and even in defiance of the promises it made to those people to get elected. But that government has then acted without a democratic mandate and it has creates a problem that is not easily corrected by future governments. It is for this reason that we really need constitutional safeguards on the treaty obligations that the government of the day can enter into. International treaties should only be used to put basic matters of policy that enjoy near unanimous support (e.g. human rights legislation) outside the democratic arena. International law cannot be used to put the contested matters of politics that used to decide general elections outside the democratic arena. The Labour government abused the power of international treaties to put may politically sensitive policy areas outside the democratic arena when it surrendered the UK opt-out from the Maastricht treatys social chapter and signed the treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon. And that cannot be allowed to stand because it is a usrption of power that did not belong to the Labour government but which it merely exercised in trust on behalf of the British people.

    The legitimacy of political institutions is ultimately based on shared identity among the governed. And national identity is the strongest solidarity we have by far. That is why national political institutions are sovereign and confer delegated powers onto lower order political institutons such as local councils, the office of mayor of london or the EU. European federalism is based on the fallacy that is a European people with a nation-like solidarity that would agree to be bound by the majority in the EU Parliament. But there is no such people and the EU Parliament is therefore unable to derive any legitimate power of its own. What powers it exercises must be ones that we voluntarily confer upon it. The British people would not have agreed to ratify any of the treaties on European Union (including Maastricht) so the entire edifice of political union should be considered illegitimate.

    Complain about this comment

  • 37. At 11:33pm on 26 May 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #34 - ikamaskeip

    "I realise again that as a 'pro-EU' this concept of Citizens electing their Government is a novel idea, but, who knows you may come to understand its value in time".

    Here we go again. What about governments they didn't elect? The last time a UK government was elected by a majority popular vote was 1935.

    Complain about this comment

  • 38. At 00:27am on 27 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    * John_from_Hendon, at no. 33:

    But there are rules and agreed set of practices--that's what the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht set out. They may not be the BEST way of doing things--and here I agree. I agree that more can be done to streamline the system, and make it more readably digestable for the public. What I mean by that (and of course, one has to explain these things since some eurosceptic will take that as saying, '...so that we can trick the public...') is that it could be made clearer who does what so that accountability can be more properly channelled to the institutions that are to blame. I agree.

    What I would suggest, however, is that this has as much to do with the media as it does the EU. The EU gets on well enough operating as it does to get its legislation out. But the media either ignores it entirely (how often do you hear about EU legislation or processes on the BBC? Now compare that to coverage of small-fry political coverage of events in the US) or largely rounds against it through lies or distortions. The vast majority of the mass-market newspapers in the UK are virulently--not cool or rational, but virulently--anti-EU. And the two pro-EU newspapers (The Guardian and the Indy) have relatively small readership numbers, and in any case hardly report about it anyway--again, just compare ALL European coverage (EU and non-EU) to US coverage.

    It doesn't matter how simple you make the process; you can't have the filter to the people be so polluted by false, sloppy or lazy journalism, yet still expect to have an acceptable debate on the EU.

    * ikamaskeip, at no. 34:

    '...as a 'pro-EU' lobbyist...' LOL. You know, as an American, I've never been accused by non-co-religionists (i.e. Republicans) of being some sketchy 'lobbyist' for the other side. I guess Europe has cornered the market on paranoid citizens.

    How were the stats sloppy? You were talking about political legitimacy via the electoral box; I riposted by telling you, with concrete facts, that EU elections actually have slightly higher turnouts than do regional/council elections in this country, the UK--EVEN WHEN THEY TAKE PLACE AT THE SAME TIME.

    As for the Irish referendum: if they felt so passionately about it later they could elect a government that would promise a later referendum. But you seem to be confusing your euroscepticism with an understable Irish reluctance simply to rubber-stamp something they didn't understand. Under the circumstances it is right for the government to have them take a second look, but ONLY if the government do a proper job educating the public as to what the treaty actually says.

    Now, on your individual claims:

    Lisbon will put in place powers and authority at EU level that either circumvent or replace National level Government and thereby reduce the individual Citizen's Rights and Responsibilities.

    No. At most, where competences are transfered, it shifts power from one locus of power to another. I don't see ANY reference ANYWHERE in the Treaty of Lisbon that expressly (or even implictly) does what you claim, that is reduce RIGHTS and RESPONSBILITIES of individuals within the EU. How you arrive at such a bold claim without a shred of evidence behind you is for you to prove, as you've made ex nihilo, not for me to disprove it.

    The EU Parliament elections this June will again confirm the complete lack of Public support for that institution...

    And yet it's possible that Britons will do the same thing they did in 2004: still manage to cast more votes at the national level for their MEPs than choose to bother voting for, say, their mayor or assembly members at the London level--DESPITE BEING IN THE SAME BALLOT BOX. If I saw a substantial nation-wide bid to spoil ballots on MEPs, then maybe you'd have a point. But again, you're making a claim--that the EP doesn't have the support of people--whilst ignoring the sheer unprovability of that claim; nor, actually, the only bit of evidence that addresses this issue, yet throws up a mixed picture. Given that ALL local elections have abysmal turnouts in this country--LOWER THAN EUROPEAN MEP ELECTIONS--and given that national voter participation has been declining for the better part of 2-3 decades EVEN AT GENERAL ELECTIONS, you seem to be concentrating considerable energies not addressin the larger elephant in the room.

    ...they were/are heads of Political Parties that in the centuries-established UK FPTP electoral system won majority numbers...

    LOL. Right, because tradition alone trumps reason. Because 35% of the vote for Labour, on record-low turnout, in the last general election should obviously translate into a workable majority in Parliament. By your own metric the British Parliament might as well throw out 19th century electoral reform laws and just let landed aristocrats vote...hey, they did it for 'centuries', and in Britain 'ancient' obviously means legitimate!

    Now, given the Lisbon Treaty is a Constitution for the European Union...

    No, on two counts: the EU already HAS a constitutional structure--that's what the existing treaties provide. It has MORE of a constitutional structure than does Britain, with its un-entrenched, uncodified constitution--PRE-Lisbon. Lisbon only amends those documents, not supplants them.

    Do you even know what the word 'constitution' means, at its most basic?

    I find it odd at the least and dangerously complacent at worst that a 'pro-EU' lobbyist would claim as part of defence of their own views...

    You should try reading what I said. I didn't use those numbers to buttress my argument, I've used those lamentable figures to destroy your own. :-)

    But in case you haven't read what I've said already--you're basically arguing that having a lower turnout in elections invalidates political legitimacy. Trouble with that is, you're basically saying the vast majority of local councils, the mayor of London, MPs voted at by-elections, US senators and representatives elected during mid-term elections, regional councils in France during non-general elections...well, basically, the vast majority of elected officials in the democratic world would have no legitimacy, because they tend to have a(n INCREASINGLY low) turnout rate.

    Now, I have no idea what you're trying to say in your penultimate paragraph. You seem to have missed my point about comparing the difference between treaty-making and legislation-making, and then my following point on why legislation STILL accrues to both types of systems. Now, scurry off and closely read what I've said then come back for more...and I don't know what you're claiming I'm saying about the UN (it's UN, not UNO; that usage dropped out of English a long time ago), NATO, Kyoto and the WTO...especially since the EU isn't a full member of the former two organisations...

    * GrumpyBob:

    Would they be MEP's and the unelected bureaucratic commissioners?

    Pithy remarks don't make an argument. :-)

    Complain about this comment

  • 39. At 00:53am on 27 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    It is an obvious fact...that this legitimacy only extends to one parliament (unless re-elected bt the national demos from whom all legitimate power must be derived)

    Well, no John, it's not an obvious fact. The German Basic Law (the constitution), for example, stipulates that the government may by treaty restrict its own sovereignty with respect to international organisations. I think we can safely say the European Parliament can count as such (never mind specific elements in the Basic Law dealing with the European Union).

    The same applies to every nation, though I can see you're trying to argue against that. Some systems of government accept that international obligations are directly and immediately actionable against a state, whilst others take the view that nation-states must entrench them within their own law. In the former case you have France's acceptance as such, under its constitutional structures. In Britain you had the same, with the European Communities Act.

    It is for this reason that we really need constitutional safeguards on the treaty obligations that the government of the day can enter into. International treaties should only be used to put basic matters of policy that enjoy near unanimous support...

    Yet it's not that simple. That's grossly oversimplifying matters at hand; abortion is a great test-issue as a source of conflict. There are reasonable arguments to say there are human rights issue at hand, which you suggest should make certain issues important at the international level. But then you say other issues--let's say social policy in general--shouldn't go farther than the national level. Yet, again, abortion is routinely treated as a social policy issue. That's the problem with those who would try to impose strict limitations on what any law-making, adjudicating or reconciliation entity can do: it ignores the nitty-gritty aspect of the law. So it is that many issues that have to do with aspects of the Common Market in Europe ALSO happen to have fundamental rights at their heart. Sometimes, one (economic) aspect cannot be teased apart from another.

    International law cannot be used to put the contested matters of politics that used to decide general elections outside the democratic arena.

    And what would those be? Defence? Defence isn't an EU competence. Social policy? The VAST majority of EU legislation that comes into effect in the EU is NOT to do with social policy, and where it is it's brought to the fore by your government. What line are you drawing in the sand? And do you not grasp that that line is by its nature arbitrary? There's nothing written anywhere that the way things have been done always are the way they should continue to be done; saying there is, as such, is pretending the laws are immutable. They are not.

    The legitimacy of political institutions is ultimately based on shared identity among the governed. And national identity is the strongest solidarity we have by far. That is why national political institutions are sovereign and confer delegated powers onto lower order political institutons such as local councils, the office of mayor of london or the EU.

    Again, then you're effectively invaliditing all not-national law as illegitimate. That goes against the whole train of human political thought since Aristotle.

    And on your argument for sovereignty and national identity: one DOES NOT stem from the other; and what you mean by sovereignty itself is rather cloudy, as even British constitutional law is rather muddled on the issue. The national identity > legitimacy > sovereignty is ridiculous because it is tendentious: it argues from the BRITISH political experience; and yet in America, for example, political institutions are NOT sovereign in a supreme sense--that power is reserved for the people. Nor does it even say much about the British experience, when Scotland itself was completely ABSORBED into a new political entity with nary a referendum in sight...and which was in effect greeted by rioting by the average Scotsman! But it was in the sovereign right of that parliament to enter into that agreement.

    The British people would not have agreed to ratify any of the treaties on European Union...

    I will say this once more. The British people were told--through government white papers, through public statements, even in the leaflets that the choice to enter/stay in the Community was one of the most important Britons would ever make. And they passed it. Despite the gravity of the undertaking; despite EU law being supreme over national law; despite British governments making no secret of the fact that political union WAS a part of the process from the start--as the Treaty of Rome said it itself when it baldly stated that there would be 'EVER CLOSER UNION'. The referendum was passed after the Treaty of Rome, after the UK's accession. You're effectively re-writing history here.

    Complain about this comment

  • 40. At 03:09am on 27 May 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    "What would you like a new Commission president to do?"

    You wouldn't publish it.

    Complain about this comment

  • 41. At 06:30am on 27 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    # 31 Tortilein
    You wrote: -Your understanding of (German constitutional) law is very amateurish-
    Youre probably right but I understand politics very well. My reading ability is also acceptable and I read a lot about you in this posting.

    You also wrote: - nobody stands above it [the constitution]. And of course every member of the parliament has to respect it -,
    I agree, however the point has no relevance to my posting whatsoever.

    Im sure you will agree that the conscience of the member of the Bundestag is mentioned in article 38, and Im not worried that we dont understand it the same way. However, I think everybody interested in democracy, which is mentioned here in this blog time and again, should consider why consciences and convictions are mentioned in constitutions.
    The most important thing particularly on the background of your legal studies is, I believe, when you write that you dont know how Karlsruhe will rule on the Lisbon treaty. I think everybody else here will notice that with interest. It is wise not to anticipate the sentence.

    Complain about this comment

  • 42. At 07:41am on 27 May 2009, GrumpyBob wrote:

    # 38

    "....Pithy remarks don't make an argument. :-) ....."

    I would agree and that is why I challenged the one sided, blinkered, biased and usual undemocratic comments in your statement

    "....Having no agreement plays into the hands of the irrational and undemocratic lunatic fringes in all of the 27 nation states of Europe.."

    People like you unfortunately have no vision, see only your side of an argument and pursue the end game no matter what the collateral damage and unintended consequences may be.

    A good Europe would work for all, a quasi dictatorship will be the reverse and unless we begin to unravel the power wielded by unelected and all powerfull commissioners then the outcome will be worse than a seperate Europe for all but the passengers on the gravy train of power and corruption.

    Complain about this comment

  • 43. At 08:19am on 27 May 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    What would you like a new Commission president to do?

    Justify to the public which areas of policy the E.U needs to control. Show that the E.U is not just Concentrating Power for it own ends. End the "gravey train" image/reality of the E.U. Abandon the defunct lisbon Treaty and start work on drafting a proper democratic Constitution for the E.U and then suggest that referenda are held in all 27 countries. That should keep him/her busy for a while.

    Complain about this comment

  • 44. At 08:24am on 27 May 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Oh yeah tell the Irish Government that they do not HAVE to have a second referdum on lisbon if they don't want to.

    Complain about this comment

  • 45. At 08:59am on 27 May 2009, Reiner_Torheit wrote:

    [[ Gordon Brown supports Mr Barroso, rather to the annoyance of other socialists ]]

    Shome mishtake here, shurely?

    Barroso's little darling, Mr Suckarse-vili of Georgia, is about to lose his CIA-appointed fiefdom to popular democracy. Mr Barroso will no doubt blame this on Vladimir Putin (as usual). It's hard to think of a more talentless fool than Mr Barroso, really - no surprise that he's Gordon Broon's nomination.

    Complain about this comment

  • 46. At 09:30am on 27 May 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    It is intriguing how the 'pro-EU' lobby are so often ready to point up the weakness/failings of the UK Electoral system.

    True enough the term 'majority vote' in the FPTP system has thrown up some odd results inc. 3 occasions when the Political Party with most electoral votes did not end up winning the General Election or forming the Government.
    Between 1918 and 2007 the 2 main UK Parties have largely been Conservative and Labour (with due rspect it is a fact post-1924 the Liberals really have only been a minor factor in coalition or opposition):
    Conservative lowest point was 31% in 1997 and highest 61%(1931 Nat Gov) share of the vote.
    Labour's share 22% in 1918 and peaked at 48% (1951 when it lost) and has hovered around 35 to 37% ever since.

    Of course these statistics suggest FPTP especially since WW2 has never accurately reflected voter-interest/support: However, since devolution in the 3 Union nations and the rise of devolved/nationalist Parties the overall voter-share for Con and Lab was inevitably going to fall.
    It is really only since Maastricht reasonable considerations on the UK/England and European electorates views of the EU can be undertaken. It becomes even more pertinent after 1997 and the success/failure (depending on a unionist/nationalist viewpoint) of 'devolution' referenda for that more or less coincides with the EU Parliament and Commission in its modern form (i.e. post Maastricht) with a distinct 'Federalist agenda' made known to the UK/England/European Citizens.

    All of which is interesting to those who like such matters, but, quite what the UK Election results have to do with the European Union's lack of 'election mandate' has never been explained or justified?
    The European Union is an entirely supra-national body and its Parliament is naturally pan-European in nature: It also uses an entirely different voting system, Proportional Representation, and thus the differences with the UK process are as milk and cheese - - some constituent parts appear related but there is no resemblance - - and the European Union and its supporters must address its own Electoral constituency weakness and failings.
    It does no good to harp on about the UK Elections when it is the EU that cannot encourage enough Citizen participation even with Pro-Rep to garner even 50% electoral investment in it.

    UK Governments may well not carry 'majority' voter backing, but, that FPTP still regularly sees voter turnout some 20 to 25% higher than that of the EU (even with compulsory voting in some nations): Such statistics clearly suggest no confidence can be placed in the EU claim of legitimacy through the Ballot box, whereas, the UK Governments within the system that prevails may justifiably make such a claim.

    Some 'pro-EU' have quoted Local Government election turnouts as their desparation over the appallingly low EU voter turnout continues to expose the institution's 'undemocratic' core.
    As I have pointed out in other Blog articles' comments alas and alack for the 'pro-EU' the UK Local Government are not Law-making but Law-enacting (local bye-laws are subject to National Government Statute and these days to EU Directives) and therefore have no relation ('milk and cheese' again) to the Law-making authority and powers of the EU. It is quite different matters for Citizens to be asked to vote if they approve of arrangements for local refuse bin collection to policing provision compared to determining who and what will formulate-deliberate-pass Laws governing the National/supra-National policy on refuse bin collection and police powers.
    Local Government elections are a form of local democracy and have their own quirks of process, but, relation to the voter turnout for Statute Book and Directives from Brussels is a real stretch of statistical evidence. That some LG voter turnouts in FPTP are lower than the EU Parliament and some are higher only lends more concern to doubts over the credibility and validity of anything that eminates from the EU claiming it has a Citizen Mandate.

    Complain about this comment

  • 47. At 10:44am on 27 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya612 (39): You are pretending that two different things are in fact the same, i.e the legal powers of government and the democratic legitmacy of that power. i.e. what a government has the legal right to do and the acceptabilty of this to the majority in the country. There would never have been a revolution in the world if these two things were the same, never a government that could not claim to be democratic. Your argument basically boils down to saying that if a legal loophole, a Constitutional Achiles Heel, can be found to establish EU governance without popular consent then this system automatically has a democratic legitimacy. Yours is the same argument that was used in pre-war Germany when the Enabling Act of 1933 was passed in accordance with the German constitution but which led (as intended) to government without democratic legitimacy.

    You would repeat this usurpation of power today by the means of the power of international treaties. You are saying that if a number of governments today ratify an international treaty without popular consent that establishes a new tier of law in contested areas of policy which is superior to national law, and which obliges all future governments (no matter how the people they represent vote) to avoid legislating at national level in these policy areas in any way that conflicts with this new tier of law, then that new system will have democratic legitimacy and will continue to enjoy such legitimacy into the future even when we vote out the governments that have done this. It will not.

    ----------
    "The Legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands, for it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others".( John Locke)

    p.s. 1: Abortion is not a basic issue of liberty akin to universal human rights, but rather one of morality. And since morals differ from nation to nation (mainly) based on the religious traditions of different countries they are not a suitable matter for putting permanently outside the democratic arena through international treaty.

    p.s. 2: It is a simple matter of fact that all international organisations (including the EU as described even in its Constitution) only excercise conferred powers, whose legitimacy is derived from the nation-states that are members of that organisation.

    Complain about this comment

  • 48. At 11:10am on 27 May 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #19, RCMoya612, (and #33, John_from_Hendon,)

    You mentioned "Of course, all treaties are dense, full of legalese; especially those that only amend pre-existing treaties. To the ill-informed/paranoid this obviously is a canard in disguise. To those who have to, sadly, trudge through such muck all the time it's the written compromise between legislative certainty and institutional flexibility..."

    This is precisely my concern about the Lisbon treaty, it is so badly written in cross referenced legalese to be often worthless since it can be interpreted in so many ways. For it to be of value it has to be clear and precise and never inconclusive, vagarious statements need removing. For me it is a document more resembling a cobbled together diplomatic statement that has lots of words that say nothing. The inherent vagueness may suit an EU cliché that seeks to implement a doctrinaire federalist EU by any means possible, but it does not lend itself to a free and fair democratic EU.

    Complain about this comment

  • 49. At 12:38pm on 27 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya612 (39): The government literature for the 1975 referendum (see below) did not say that political union was part of the process. It did not even mention political union at all. It did mention the 'threat' of European Monetary Union but said 'this threat has been removed'. It also said that Parliament would not lose its power because 'No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament.', something that has not been true since Maastricht.

    http://www.harvard-digital.co.uk/euro/pamphlet.htm

    Even if the 1975 literature had made it clear that joining the common market meant signing up to political union, no-one now under the age of 52 had any chance to vote in that referendum. You appear to believe that governments now out of office should tie the hands of those in office today. And that a past generation of voters, the majority of whom are now in their graves, can (through a vote about the common market!) lock the British nation into a political union that they do not desire today. You are deeply mistaken in that belief. If that principle had ever been accepted in the history of humanity then the collective decisions of past governments would long ago have reduced the room within which current governments can act to nothing, and thereby have shut down democratic politics. The living rule the world and we must be able to decide ourselves whether to accept European political union or not.

    --------------
    "We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another nation". (Thomas Jefferson)

    Complain about this comment

  • 50. At 2:11pm on 27 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    In answer to nos. 43-46:

    Justify to the public which areas of policy the E.U needs to control.

    Wait, why should the President of the European Commission do that? He's given that power by the member states. Why is it that eurosceptics demand for EU institutions to explain their powers, when those powers were given to them by the member states? If Britain isn't properly explaining why it's transfering certain powers then that is the fault of the British government. It's not as though Barroso or other European commissioners get any air time on the BBC anyway, the BBC is much too busy reporting on Obama's new choice for a puppy, or showing you video clips of ducklings jumping off a building, or on a more serious note, telling you about Obama's new choice for the Supreme Court--which has nothing to do with Britain...

    Show that the E.U is not just Concentrating Power for it own ends. End the "gravey train" image/reality of the E.U.

    On the first point, again: refer that to the member states. Why do they vest the EU with the (limited) powers it has? And they are limited: if they weren't, the EU would have kept a united voice on Iraq, a more distinct voice on Russia-Georgia, a tougher voice on Russian gas, hell, a much more important voice in the economic realm--which only PARTIALLY falls to the EU. So much for the 'concentration' of power, eh?

    This is one of those red herrings--the 'concentration of power' meme--which makes the least sense. It's as though eurosceptics haven't caught on to the fact that the individual member states have rendered the EU a largely toothless organisation in everything but competition policy...and even there, there have been calls to limit its power!

    ...tell the Irish Government that they do not HAVE to have a second referdum...

    The Irish could simply refuse to do so. Bare and simple. And no, the EU can't maliciously kick them out if they refuse.

    Barroso's little darling, Mr Suckarse-vili of Georgia...

    Since the EU has been a strong supporter of Georgia in the past year, right?

    However, since devolution in the 3 Union nations and the rise of devolved/nationalist Parties the overall voter-share for Con and Lab was inevitably going to fall.

    No. You're reading the tea leaves all wrong--again. Devolution only occured in 1998--the voter share has been falling since before then. Unless you can explain to me WHY this is so--NOT JUST IN BRITAIN, but in many countries in the West--your explanations are lacking.

    ...'Federalist agenda'...

    Ahem, Europe has always been federalist in its strictest sense. I'm always amazed to see some Europeans decry federalism--when federalism, as a political system, is about NOT concentrating power at the centre. I suggest you read about a bit more about comparative political systems before you make such an inane mistake.

    All of which is interesting to those who like such matters, but, quite what the UK Election results have to do with the European Union's lack of 'election mandate' has never been explained or justified?

    LOL. You're definitely not responding to what I've said, are you. Nice.

    It also uses an entirely different voting system, Proportional Representation, and thus the differences with the UK process are as milk and cheese

    What's your point? Scotland's devolved elections are also 'as milk and cheese' when compared to the UK at the national level. YOu're getting less and less interesting, ikamaskeip.

    It does no good to harp on about the UK Elections when it is the EU that cannot encourage enough Citizen participation even with Pro-Rep to garner even 50% electoral investment in it.

    Erm, actually it does. Because if your thesis is that a low turnout somehow renders a political institution less legitimate, then you'd have to disqualify the legitimacy of the vast majority of elected officials in Britain whose elections took place when voter turnout was less than 50%. Such as the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. Or does this rule only apply when it comes to Europe?

    You're losing coherence here, buddy.

    ...FPTP still regularly sees voter turnout some 20 to 25% higher than that of the EU (even with compulsory voting in some nations)...

    Yes, because general elections always get higher turnours in every election. But what's your point? In America a third of our legislatures are chosen during midterm elections--just like MEPs! And the same devolves upon many of our governors and state legislatures. And you know what? The voter turnout regularly--no, ALWAYS--falls below the 50% threshold.

    Case in point: the recent election in California (ON A REFERENDUM, to boot!) produced less than a 20% voter turnout. 20% turnout! And one state senate race at this election garnered--get this--a less than 8% voter turnout.

    So are you saying we should invalidate those elections? Again, you're losing me here.

    Complain about this comment

  • 51. At 2:40pm on 27 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    * Freeborn-John, at no. 47:

    There would never have been a revolution in the world if these two things were the same, never a government that could not claim to be democratic.

    See, you've just answered your own question in the negative. If the majority of the people really felt passionately on this issue they would be much more pro-active in actually doing something about this. It's the same on many issues they let fall by the wayside: THEY DON'T CARE. Let's be honest here, John, the people just don't give that much thought to the EU, at least as not as much as you obviously do. Revolutions happen when people feel passionately against the incumbent system. It's not about saying there should be 'legal loopholes'--and I'm sorry, John, but the moment you bring up the Nazis as an example with which to smack your opponents you know you've lost the debate.

    It means that the implicit acceptance of the people is manifest in their decisions and relative passivity. You bang on and on about the EU's malfeasance, it's very existence being a shock to your conscience. (I mean, really? The EU? Of all the 'bad' things one can label such, you focus your heart on the EU? I mean, at least I'm trying to defend what I consider--on the whole--a good thing...not a perfect thing, by a long shot, but something worth keeping, and yes reforming.) But let me let you in on a little secret--THE PEOPLE DON'T CARE. Witness the fury regarding MPs expenses; now juxtapose that with the less-intense hatred incurred by the banks. One can make a strong case that the people have passively admitted to the need to save the banks, even if they don't like it. Now witness the grass-roots campaigning to unseat certain MPs, the abusive telephone calls, the loads of mail...clearly, the people are NOT happy.

    You can bang on all you like about the 'illegal' EU. But the people don't care that much; they just don't give it that much a thought.

    You are saying that if a number of governments today ratify an international treaty without popular consent that establishes a new tier of law in contested areas of policy which is superior to national law... etc. etc.

    ::sigh::

    John, I'm not just saying it; I'm asserting it as an uncontested fact. European law long ago claimed this, a decade before the UK joined. The treaties created a new legal order; and you know what? The people DID give their voice, not only through occasional referenda, but--and this is where you seem t get hung up on--also through THEIR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES. That is the fact of the matter; and the British people endorsed it a referendum more than a decade after the supremacy of EU law was claimed, and after the unique nature of the Community legal order had been established. YOU'RE IGNORING THIS.

    I don't know what you consider democracy, John, but I put a premium on representative democracy--NOT only the whims of the rabble-rousing mob. You can call that anti-democratic all you like; I, on the other hand, will defend it to the death as the only credible democratic system for larger states. Just as my forefathers in the United States did--they knew NOT to trust the mob to make policy.

    ...and which obliges all future governments (no matter how the people they represent vote) to avoid legislating at national level in these policy areas in any way that conflicts with this new tier of law...

    Well, yes. That's the nature of international obligations; it's to keep a consistent adoption of law at all times. What, do you not think the WTO imposes similar constraints on national law already?

    You're spinning wheels here, John. You're trying to make a philosophical argument against Union law that doesn't square with the facts on the ground. You can quote John Locke all you like, friend--he was a philosopher, first and foremost, and the systems of government that have followed him haven't exactly panned out the way he said they should, now have they...

    It is a simple matter of fact that all international organisations (including the EU as described even in its Constitution) only excercise conferred powers...

    What's your point? The EU sticks to its competences. You're basically agreeing with me here.

    * Buzet23, at no. 48:

    This is precisely my concern about the Lisbon treaty, it is so badly written in cross referenced legalese to be often worthless since it can be interpreted in so many ways.

    Um, it's not 'badly written'. It's just an amending treaty. Read the Single European Act, and then tell me what makes Lisbon so distinctly terrible to read.

    And if you want to see the end product, fine, go to the European Commission's webpage. They keep an updated version of how the Treaty of Rome and the Treaty of Maastricht will look AFTER Lisbon has been adopted. If you can read those treaties now, in their present form, then I don't understand what makes post-Lisbon treaties less understandable to you.

    For it to be of value it has to be clear and precise and never inconclusive, vagarious statements need removing.

    LOL. Okay. So tell me, do you understand EXACTLY what the US Constitution calls for, especially as interpreted by subsequent Supreme Courts, Presidents and COngresses? Because it seems quite clear at first blush, but in reality...

    For me it is a document more resembling a cobbled together diplomatic statement that has lots of words that say nothing.

    Because it IS a cobbled together diplomatic agreement. It's how diplomacy works; you compromise on some things, you get your way in others. I'm sorry, but how do you think diplomacy works?

    'Lots of words' that say nothing? They sure don't say nothing to me, as a lawyer.

    The inherent vagueness may suit an EU cliché that seeks to implement a doctrinaire federalist EU by any means possible, but it does not lend itself to a free and fair democratic EU.

    Haha. No, the 'vagueness' isn't really vagueness at all--it's legalese, which means it means something to the legally-trained. There already IS a 'federalist' EU in the strictest sense of the word. What do you think the word 'federalism' means, anyway? Why are eurosceptics so politically uneducated on the BASICS of political systems!?

    Complain about this comment

  • 52. At 2:55pm on 27 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:


    The government literature for the 1975 referendum (see below) did not say that political union was part of the process.

    The White paper did, for both the Wilson and the Heath submissions to parliament. Harold Wilson said, in a speech:

    'the Governments purpose derives above all from our conviction that Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in POLITICAL UNITY and that we can - and indeed we must - play our full part in it... [my emphasis]

    The Wilson government white paper stated that 'Community law having direct internal effect is designed to take precedence over the domestic law of the Member States.'

    Edward Heath's government published its own White Paper, saying the Treaty of Rome called for an ever closer union among European peoples, NOT JUST on trade, but also on social progress, approximating the economic policies of member states, stability, and closer relations of the member states all objectives to which this country can wholeheartedly subscribe.

    And if you need a clearer explanation, then here you go, John:

    If the political implications of joining Europe are at present clearest in the economic field, it is because the Community is primarily concerned with economic policy. But it is inevitable that the scope of the Communitys external policies should broaden as member countries interests become harmonised. That is the Communitys clear intention. As regards the co-ordination of foreign policy, the practical obligations which the UK will assume if we join now will involve no more than we have already assumed in WEU. But we shall be joining at a moment when we will be able to influence the process of development. This will also be true of progress towards economic and monetary union...what is proposed is a sharing and an enlargement of individual national sovereignties in the general interest.'

    Finally, that pamphlet DID say that the referendum choice would 'probably the most important choice that the British people have ever been asked to make.' That doesn't seem to me like an effort to downplay the importance of the EU to Britain's national interest, now does it?

    You appear to believe that governments now out of office should tie the hands of those in office today.

    Well, to a degree, yes. The point is not to create an undissoluble union--it's why the House of Lords made the obvious point in the Factortame cases that Britain could obviously just exit the EU, and therefore parliamentary sovereignty wasn't theoretically curtailed.

    But you're arguing that unions should therefore gain the EXPLICIT acceptance of the people every generation. (I've already dealt with this issue above.) That is impractical and a-historical. For that matter, there were obviously severe doubters in America about the Union at its inception, and for MANY generations afterward. Now, the EU isn't America; but there is a SLIGHTLY similar vein here that you're suggesting, that all political unions need this constant re-appraisal.

    Okay, so maybe Britain should give Scotland and Northern Ireland, and even Wales, referenda every 25 years. Keep them on their toes. The same should go for France on the ideas of laicite, the French language and the powers of the President. The same should be done for Germany's federal system--why not go for broke every 25 years, seeking more power for the centre?

    That, my friend, is a recipe for political chaos.

    And you can quote TJ all you like; he also believed there should be revolutions every so often to settle political scores every generation. Nice. What makes for pretty ideals on paper make not for practical political or economic realities in the real world.

    Complain about this comment

  • 53. At 3:15pm on 27 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya (50) said "In America a third of our legislatures are chosen during midterm elections"

    I suggest that if you like the EU system so much you go back to America and persuade a majority of your own countrymen to progressively transfer their law-making powers to Brussels. Somehow i do not think you would be very successful in getting Americans to agree to live under anything like the EU (say a pan-Americas parliament where the political preferences of Americans would be outweighed by those of Brazilians, Mexicans, etc). Until you are successful in persuading your own countrymen of the desirability of multinational governance i fail to see why you are on here undermining democracy in Britain.

    Complain about this comment

  • 54. At 3:16pm on 27 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    RCMoya612 wrote:
    * democracythreat, at no. 2:

    "'The two party system has been perfectly distilled into a process whereby the parties negotiate to share authority, an the voter has absolutely no chance to influence to proceedings whatsoever...I would like [EU supporters] to take the time to explain precisely how a voter can influence the way power is distributed in Europe. No matter who you vote for, you have absolutely no way of knowing how the parties will horse trade on a European level.'

    In answer to that last bit: of course you don't. At least not entirely. But that doesn't IN ITSELF signal a 'democratic deficit'. Problem is, you're bringing to bear a singularly British way of analysis political accountability--that is, from a system where the theatrics of political combat as put on display daily--against a different, and equally legitimate, form of government found elsewhere in the world. "

    Yes, it is found in the former soviet union, and it was found in the soviet union. And I am not british, and I do not bring a British way of viewing these matters. I live in Switzerland, which enjoys direct democracy.

    You then wrote:

    "I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at comments like these; but I guess euroscepticism, like all sorts of fanaticisms, has a degree of myopia associated with it..."

    Myopia? Fanaticism?

    Look, you are new here, but let me lay down some ground rules for you. Firstly, insulting people is OK. It is perfectly acceptable to call people names, and to degrade them by suggesting hat they are fanatics with vision problems. No problems.

    The only rule is that first you have to establish yourself as someone who is worth listening to. If you don't do that, you come across as someone who thinks they are the smartest person in the room as soon as they walked in.

    For the record, I have read your posts and I do not think you are the smartest person in the room. You are not even the most self important person in the room. We have some astounding egos who post here.

    You may see yourself as someone with something to say, but as far as I can see you have said nothing except that other people are stupid and fanatical for posting their concerns at the phoney democracy of Europe. You waffle. You go on and on, and you say nothing. Then you insult people, to prove your own great intellectual worth.

    Tell me, what do you do for a job? Five francs says you work for the EU, and you are a card carrying party member.

    Complain about this comment

  • 55. At 4:07pm on 27 May 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    RCMoya612 and #50.

    "..losing you.." Well, not much doubt about that I'm afraid!

    I am not sure if you were reading mine and others' previous comments in full or selecting bits to cross-reference with issues basically unrelated to the debate: Reading your responses is a bit like switching every other page between an Agatha Christie whodunnit and a Len Deighton thriller but thinking the characters are in both novels!?

    Half of the issues you raise are bordering on irrelevant and the other half have in the main been answered already by me or others on this Blog page!

    How many ways can I and others explain to you that FPTP is wholly different from Pro-Rep and both are different from Referendum? You are not comparing like with like and thus no analysis that accords the UK/England Electoral results with the EU Electoral results has any basis on statistical grounds.

    I would like a UK/England Referendum on the issue of membership of the EU, but, I know that this will require predominantly a UK/England Political decision.
    I would like an EU-wide Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but, I know that this will require predominantly a pan-European Political decision.
    The requirement is the same, i.e. Referenda: The method of achieving such is entirely different, as is the impact of the results, but, according to you it is all the same.

    I am "..getting less and less interesting.." and that is surely because you, like so many 'pro-EU', are getting more and more concerned with ducking the reality and insisting 'No' by EU Citizens really does mean at the least a qualified 'Yes' (e.g. Eire Referendum)!
    Case in point: California! What are you on about? How far will you go to find the statistic to twist to suit your EU version of all is lovely in the EU fantasy world?
    China holds General Elections, the USA holds General Elections, France holds General Elections, India holds General Elections, even Zimbabwhe holds General Elections, but, no one in their right mind is going to claim all those General Elections start from the same point and have the same value: Not unless they are 'pro-EU' and think a comparison of the Mayor of London election with the European Parliament Election is one and the same thing!

    "..losing you.."! Frankly, I do not know how we can ever recover someone who fundamentally fails to understand various political systems/processes as badly as you appear to do, buddy!

    Complain about this comment

  • 56. At 4:58pm on 27 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya612 (51): You write a lot of words and attribute quite a number of them to me. Just to clarify I did not say that the EU is illegal (I said that it lacks democratic legitimacy). I further maintain that political institutions without legitimacy will not endure.

    Your argument now appears to be that unless we have a revolution we implicitly accept a European political union that our grandfathers should have known they were letting us in for when they voted to stay in the common market. Revolution is an extreme form of political protest against illegitimate govenance but should not be necessary in a democracy. All we need is a new government that is prepared to re-negotiate the British membership of the EU and there is reason to be optimistic that we will have this next year.

    You are also making a mistake in assuming that lack of opposition to the supremacy of EU law in the past(which is only based only on an ECJ ruling) implies we accept it in the future in politically sensitive policy areas. The supremacy of EU law was only accepted in the past because of the triviality of the issues where the EU could create such law. EU law lacked democratic legitimacy from the start but this was masked by the triviality of the issues of common market regulation that it decided (e.g. maximum curvature of cucumbers, etc) that simply were not salient enough to generate political tensions. But you are very much wrong to say that because people did not care about the lack of democratic legitimacy of EU decision-making when it was only used to regulate the shape of vegetables, that we do not care about it now that the same undemocratic methods are used to take more serious political decisions. Indeed i claim that the increasing unpopularity of the EU is a direct consequence of the lack of democratic legitimacy of the community method that has been there from the start, but which is only now becoming apparent as the method is used more widely, and that the increasing unpopularity of the EU that we see is just an early symptom of the de-legitimisation of the EU project that will end (without revolution) in its demise as more and more people realise their votes can influence less and less of the laws they live under.

    Since you have no alternative explanation for the increasing unpopularity of the EU i think you are just sticking your head in the sand and pretending this de-legitimisation is not occurring unless you hear the sound of bullets. When the system does crack it will in large part be due to EU supporters like you that refuse to acknowledge these signs.

    Complain about this comment

  • 57. At 5:44pm on 27 May 2009, meznaric wrote:

    #26 threnodio:

    But that does not change the point. More democracy is always a desirable outcome, whether confirmed in a referendum or not.

    Complain about this comment

  • 58. At 6:19pm on 27 May 2009, RCMoya612 wrote:

    * Freeborn-John, no. 53:

    Well, John, considering Britons always find it in them to give us 'advice' on how we should govern America, I just thought I'd give you a bit of advice on your own. ;-)

    But in all seriousness: I'm a young American who lives in Britain. I find most strains of euroscepticism to be a bit petty, and quite often divorced from reality. They don't seem to balance to upsides with the downsides; it's never a reasonable compromise between the good and ill, but always a race to the bottom. It's ridiculous.

    As for a Pan-American Union: America doesn't need it. Because, unlike Britain or any other individual country, it is large enough--economically and politically--and more able to withstand external shocks than are individual European countries. You can whinge all you like, but Britain is just not in the same position as America. Which is the reason why I find successive British governments' efforts to emulate American socioeconomic policies rather quaint: how to compare a tiny set of islands in northwestern Europe with a continent-wide country of 300 million? You don't. You look, instead, to what works in your own neighbourhood--with your largest trading partners, who are by the by rich and roughly the same size.

    * democracythreat, at no. 54:

    :-)

    To be fair, democracythreat, I wasn't quite insulting you as much as I was insulting a broad 'intellectual' current. It's kind of like insulting post-modernism at its most self-aggrandising/self-recognition; if you seek to fall into that category, then I'm sorry.

    As for my argumentation: What is troubling to me in this whole (rather useless) debate is the contempt for facts, for moderation and for a balanced judgment. One can endlessly spout facts, ad nauseum, to challenge media-created fear about the EU. You hear twaddle--and it is twaddle more often than not--with very little basis in established facts. And newspapers in Britain quite often, literally, create 'facts' out of thin air. It reminds me of the meme in Britain that 80+% of laws in Germany come from the EU, which was supposedly from a German source. NO ONE ever found this source; NO ONE could corroborate this 'fact'; and when this figure was put to the German government by the British government (in its attempt ascertain the figure of EU-originating laws within Britain) it was swatted away as groundless.

    Not even the American media--which is so often held up for ridicule in European countries--reaches this height of outright disingenuity.

    I could go on and on about how, on a per annum average, only 9-11% of European laws are made at the EU level, and that the bulk of these laws fall on the UK Department of Trade and Industry--not the ludicrous 70-80% figures routinely peddled by UKIP and the tabloid press. I could go on and on and compare what systems we have elsewhere in the world, such as Mercosur, Nafta, ASEAN and the WTO--and point out that, such is the success of the EU in the eyes of much of the outside world, that they're trying to mimic it--and pour the cold light of comparative analsyis on claims of 'anti-democracy', but you would have none of it. One could just put out the fact that the single market has been largely beneficial to the gross domestic product of individual European states. I could point out the fallacy that you can have a single market without equally-enforceable regulation (this is not addressing the NUMBER of regulations, only the direct-effect of them). One could also point out the honesty with which many European leaders have addressed their views on future European integration--some are very pro-integration, others not-so-much--against claims that the EU is some strange, secret cabal. One can also address specific concerns about 'corruption' at the EU level, such as those brought up by a British MEP candidate for UKIP. This candidate points to the Court of Auditors reports on EU accounts, which cite irregularities in the budget--and yet ignores that the Court of Auditors have (a) generally given the EU accounts a 'clean' bill of health, and where (b) there are 'irregularities' in the accounts, these tend to be (c) NOT the fault of supranational EU authorities, such as (d) the Commission's 'regular' and 'clean' internal accounting, but rather (e) a fault of regions in implementing structural funds and the CAP. The Court of Auditors ANNUALLY says the same thing--that those irregularities are, by and large, not fraudulent--and in any case funds that are deemed irregular (whether because of fraud, or as is more often the case, because of faulty if honest procedures) are usually clawed back by the Commission.

    It's from a dearth of factual analysis--from an understandable contempt for faulty logic--that one insults a largely irrational 'intellectual' current.

    So tell me, friend, who do YOU work for? What does my non-EU employment have anything to do with the substance of my arguments, but seemingly little to do with your own? Or do you think that pro-integrationists all work for the boogeyman/'EU Secrete Cabal'?

    Complain about this comment

  • 59. At 6:38pm on 27 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya612: Following on from the comment 55 of ikamaskeip, please feel free to insult me whenever you feel your case needs the fortification. To the extent that insults are the sound of EU federalism dying i am happy to hear them.

    Do not however expect anything in return from me except a reasoned case that also explains the observed crisis of EU legitimacy that is so evident following the rejections of the EU Constitution /Lisbon Treaty by the peoples of France, the Netherlands and Ireland, and the certain knowledge that many other nations would have delivered the same verdict had they not been denied a say by political chicanery of the type you defend.

    Complain about this comment

  • 60. At 9:31pm on 27 May 2009, Tortilein wrote:

    @ 41, Mathiasen:

    You cannot have a good understanding of politics without any understanding how a country works which means what it's constitution says. And of course it has relevance that I mentionned that the constitution stands above all and everybody simply because you said that the only limit for a member of the parliament was his conscience. The most important (because written down) limit for a member of the parliament is of course the constitution and not some conscience that nobody else knows (do you think they could legalize capital punishment if their "conscience" said it was okay? No, they could not because it was unconstitutional, conscience or not.)

    "I believe, when you write that you dont know how Karlsruhe will rule on the Lisbon treaty. I think everybody else here will notice that with interest. It is wise not to anticipate the sentence."

    Aha, as I already told you, the eight judges will have to decide whether the Lisbon Treaty takes to much "decision making" away from the Bundestag to Brussels. If they come to the conclusion that it takes away too much from Berlin, they will say that the Treaty is unconstitutional, if they say it doesn't, that Lisbon is okay. As I am not one of the judges (what a pity) I surely have no clue how they will decide. Law in real life is not objective but depends very strongly on the person who decides, for example was the German civil code (BGB) created in 1898-1900 and was used before the First World War, when Germany still had a Kaiser, it was used during the Weimar Republic, the Nazis used it, West Germany used it, East Germany used it until the 1970ies and the reunited Germany still uses it. So many so different countries with such different ideologies, could have worked only with very subjective interpretation, don't you think? Law has to be interpreted, without interpretation it only was a piece of paper.

    Complain about this comment

  • 61. At 10:22pm on 27 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    RCMoya (58): You say that Americans have no 'need' of multinational federalism but I would ask you what 'need' can justify that national referendums are ignored or the people asked to keep voting until they return a result a result acceptable to politicians? According to you EU-scepticism is based on so-called euro-myths in the press. But is it a myth that people of France, the Netherlands or Ireland voted down the EU Constitution? Is it a myth that the Danes were asked to keep voting until they said YES to Maastricht? Is it a myth that the Irish were asked to keep voting on Nice until they returned an answer that the politians would accept? Would your fellow Americans accept that their referendum results be ignored if their politicians do not like the answer of the People? I cannot imagine that they would. Or that Americans are somehow deserve a quality of democracy that is denied to others. I would suggest that I know the temperarant of Americans far far than you do if I say they would not tolerate being told to keep voting until they returned a result their politicians like.

    I therefore humbly ask that you explain to me (without insults) what 'need' can possibly justify that politicians demand that the people they are meant to represent keep voting until they return a referendum result that the politicians like.

    It seems to me that the only answer you will provide is that small nations are too weak to deserve democracy because power is the only thing that matters. In the real world however we see that nations as small as Singapore can be among the wealthiest in the world so long as tehy are open to the global econony while remainging democratic nation states. So what 'need' do you see that can only be met by being a member of the EU?

    Complain about this comment

  • 62. At 11:20pm on 27 May 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    RCMoya612 and #58.

    It is encouraging to know a young american in the UK is taking such a refreshing interest in the UK/England/EU debates; it also goes some way to explain the style/idiom of some of your comments and I'm not quite so surprised now as I was by the lively put-downs of mine and other's comments.

    Well you say you could go on and on about the British press making up statistics and I would just like you to refer to one specific article in one specific newspaper with the relevant date of publication to back up your claim.

    You see there is a myth put about by the 'pro-EU lobbyists' that all us 'antis' have a diet of raw meat, we drag our knuckles along the floor and are still learning to walk upright: Apparently those few 'antis' not drawn from that group are either looney-left or fascist or are throwbacks hankering after the British Empire in all its glory; a last segment have no ability to sort fact (and here your specific example comes into play) from fiction and lack the intellectual capacity to recognise when they are being misled/misfed information of a highly dubious nature.

    By contrast, every 'pro-EU' has the inate knowledge and logical reasoning powers to sift the information, locate that which is genuine and accurate and disgard any of questionable veracity.

    Naturally, we 'antis' feel humbled in their presence and are grateful for being allowed the opportunity to contribute/participate in these Blog debates. We, of course, are aware of our shortcomings and only wish for enlightenment from those clever 'pro-EU' contributors who never write rubbish or tell lies or are ignorant of the facts or simply don't understand complex arguments or have difficulty taking in detail or...

    Well, I'm sure you get the drift, don't you?

    Complain about this comment

  • 63. At 06:48am on 28 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    RCMoya612 wrote:
    * democracythreat, at no. 54:
    "
    :-)"

    : I

    "To be fair, democracythreat, I wasn't quite insulting you as much as I was insulting a broad 'intellectual' current. It's kind of like insulting post-modernism at its most self-aggrandising/self-recognition; if you seek to fall into that category, then I'm sorry."

    Whether you were insulting me more or less than you were seeking to insult the entire intellectual world does not concern me very much. I am astounded that you think this admission that you hold everybody in intellectual contempt will serve as some kind of apology for insulting me very directly and without provocation. Presumably you imagine I also hold everybody else in intellectual contempt, and that as a kindred spirit I will identify with you, and form some kind of bond. I don't, and will not.

    Furthermore, you would do well to cease using the phrase "To be fair.." before your statements. This, like the awful prefix "To be honest.." is a comment that can only be made by someone who is usually not fair (or dishonest, respectively).

    Fair and honest people are not in the habit of signposting their statements as such. They presume it is understood that they are both fair and honest.

    Given that people who see honesty and fairness as matters deserving a special flag should be treated as liars, it follows that whensoever you hear or read these prefixes, you are entitled to immediately presume that what follows is neither fair nor honest.

    You would be correct if you speculated that modern Britain is awash with people who use these phrases every time they open their mouths. I consider it the single greatest piece of evidence for the decline of British society. England is overflowing with fat and lazy people who are always warning you, falsely, that they are about to be fair and honest.

    "As for my argumentation: What is troubling to me in this whole (rather useless) debate is the contempt for facts, for moderation and for a balanced judgment. One can endlessly spout facts, ad nauseum, to challenge media-created fear about the EU."

    Your 'argument', sir. You don't have an "argumentation". You have an argument. At best. If you were a musical note, you might have an augmentation. That would mean you would have advanced slightly up the scale. Regrettably, this is not the present case.

    Now contempt for facts, for moderation and for balanced judgement are all lamentable. However with reason, conviction and sound judgement, progress can be made.

    So, for example, I would reason that it can not have been the media alone which creates fear of the EU, simply because the same political parties who control the EU spend truly vast sums of tax payer revenue on the media. Government advertising for job vacancies alone (none of which are actually available to outsiders) totals hundreds of millions of pounds a year that is pretty much pure profit for newspaper owners. Now given that media corporations are generally privately owned, I would present the conviction that commercial common sense reduces the likely capacity of the media to criticize the major political parties and their pet project, the EU.

    Ever since Ben Franklin, it has been understood that a newspapers owners best friends are his fellow party members. Lenin was a newspaper man, as was Stalin.

    "You hear twaddle--and it is twaddle more often than not--with very little basis in established facts."

    Sure do.

    "And newspapers in Britain quite often, literally, create 'facts' out of thin air. It reminds me of the meme in Britain that 80+% of laws in Germany come from the EU, which was supposedly from a German source. NO ONE ever found this source; NO ONE could corroborate this 'fact'; and when this figure was put to the German government by the British government (in its attempt ascertain the figure of EU-originating laws within Britain) it was swatted away as groundless."

    "80%+" is a term of estimation, surely? Therefore is must be a postulation of size, rather than a statement of fact.

    And just because it has not been corroborated to your satisfaction, this does not mean it is false. How much law is made by Brussels seems to me an impossible question without a better understanding of the term "laws". Given that Brussels and the ECJ claim to be the superior law maker in Europe, and that they therefore set precedent for national courts to follow, I think it is entirely reasonable to claim that the vast majority of European law comes from Brussels, and therefore that the vast majority of UK law, and German, also comes from Brussels.

    I can offer the advice that at least 80% of the legal arguments I make contain reference to ECJ judgements and the treaties of the EU, and to the national legislative instruments (such as the Human Rights Act 1998) that make this european law binding in national courts.

    "Not even the American media--which is so often held up for ridicule in European countries--reaches this height of outright disingenuity."

    If you are correct, it can only be because the journalists haven't the intellectual capacity to understand the rubbish they print. Right now I am told by CNN that North Korea is both a backwards little country with no electricity, and also a major threat to world peace and the USA. Now those two things can't both be true, and it seems only yesterday that we were told that Saddam was coming for us in 45 minutes. With Atom bombs.

    "It's from a dearth of factual analysis--from an understandable contempt for faulty logic--that one insults a largely irrational 'intellectual' current."

    Regardless of your inability to apologize for insulting me very directly and without provocation, I would offer the sincere advice that you abandon your love affair with factual analysis and logic. Reason and common sense are better guides in life, as even things which are true can be proved by logic.

    "So tell me, friend, who do YOU work for? What does my non-EU employment have anything to do with the substance of my arguments, but seemingly little to do with your own? Or do you think that pro-integrationists all work for the boogeyman/'EU Secrete Cabal'?"

    I work for myself. It is because I work in the free market and pay taxes that I object to large government, and party members in far away rooms living from my work, and then telling me how to live. So you can see, what I do for work has everything to do with my own arguments against the EU.

    And so, yes, I tend to think that people who are in favour of large government, or government authority generally, are likely to be paid by government, or have some other direct reason for promoting government.

    I don't believe in boogeymen, nor in a secret cabal running the EU. The political parties who run the EU are no more secretive than the party which ran the soviet union.

    Now I have responded at length to your statements, and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from demonstrating your very high opinion of your own mental competence in future. Just stick to the things you think are facts, and reason towards your convictions with some humility. The media will still be taking payments for advertising when you are finished saying your piece.

    Complain about this comment

  • 64. At 07:58am on 28 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #60 Tortilein
    Good points, I actually agree with most of it, there is just one problem: You are not dealing with the central point, which I consider very grave (do therefore not expect me to continue this thread): Admit that the last sentence of article 38, section one is speaking about the conscience and that it says that members of Bundestag (MdB) are subject to their conscience only. (BBC forbids me to quote the German text).

    Take your time to consider why the constitution is mentioning the conscience.

    You are interpreting this sentence wrongly. It does not mean that MdBs are above the law. The reason behind the last sentence of art 38 is actually hidden in the historical facts you are mentioning.

    Complain about this comment

  • 65. At 08:44am on 28 May 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    freeborn-john re your #61
    democracythreat re your #63
    And my #62.

    We come at things from different angles and do differ on various matters, nevertheless, on this occasion it seems we found instinctive agreement at almost the same moment via the www:

    Sometimes it just gets a bit too much to ignore, doesn't it!?

    Complain about this comment

  • 66. At 08:48am on 28 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    meznaric wrote:
    #26 threnodio:

    "But that does not change the point. More democracy is always a desirable outcome, whether confirmed in a referendum or not."

    That is a statement of political faith which I also share. To my taste, the practice of democracy is an unqualified good. What people do with it is a different animal, however people can do evil with any kind of political structure.

    The important question, it seems to me, is WHY democratic practice seems to be an unqualified good.

    My reasoning is base on the experience that government is a means whereby tax is raised from a populace and then spent on contracts which enrich the friends of the politicians. Sometimes this process is good for everybody, sometimes it is not. Hence, sometimes politicians have friends who build hospitals, sometimes they have friends who build bombs. Sometimes they build bombs when they need hospitals, and sometimes they build hospitals when they need doctors, and sometimes they build hospitals when they need hospitals.

    Now experience has taught me that people are fallible, and that governments of all persuasions make sure that media corporations are sustained with huge government contracts. Media owners are very much the best friends of political parties.

    So it seems to me that the sort of political system we should desire is one that takes into account the fallibility and the weakness of mere people. All people. I do not believe in great men, merely dominant newspapers.

    And democracy limits the power of government. Direct democracy limits the power directly, allowing the people to terminate bad law without delay, and without the media or the government frustrating the will to terminate bad law AS IT IS JUDGED BY THE PEOPLE. Representative democracy DOES NOT limit the power of government directly. It only works given two conditions: the first is that a variety representatives promising a variety of policies are standing for election, and it only works if the representatives keep their promises.

    Both those conditions have failed in the west, due to the evolution of the political party. Note that it is precisely the absence of these conditions that made a farce of the former soviet union. Everyone could vote in the former soviet union, and they did so, and the media talked endlessly about how great and free the people truly were. Even though they could only vote for the party, and the policies were always the same.

    It is because of the unnerving similarity between the former soviet union and the modern western idea of democracy that I dispute whether our system can truly be called "democratic". If ours can be so called, why not the soviet union? What was the cold war about, if the party is entitled to hold sham elections and call the result freedom and accountability in government?

    In the end, you want democracy if you think that power corrupts governments, and that society is best served if the common people have the power and the process that allows them to rid themselves of bad laws, and bad governments.

    And just so, if what you believe is that the people are too stupid to have this power of veto, and further that a few very wise and perfect individuals know what is best for everybody, then what you want is party based rule. Party based rule comes about when university students are signed up by organisations which tell the young recruits that they are very wise, very brilliant, and that the future of humanity depends on them and their wise ideas becoming the greatest power in the land. This can happen in communist regimes, or it can happen in the USA. Arguably, it happened. Past tense. In the USA. We know it happened in communist Russia.

    So that is my case FOR democracy, and my perception of the case FOR party rule. I am happy to hear arguments for party rule that are more delightful than my own views.

    Now threnodio wrote (to which this post ultimately responds):

    "As I have repeatedly posted, it is the duty and responsibility of the individual governments to decide whether or not to consult the people. "

    That is a curious statement. threnodio is not stupid, and so sometimes he says the most striking things. He clearly thinks faster than he types, and so very often he starts to say one thing, and then changes it mid sentence as he reflects. He is intelligent enough to pull off the trick without disturbing the fundamental grammar of his writing. But the result can be curious.

    So here he is talking about the duty of governments. He starts off saying what these duties will be.... then he decides that they actually have a discretion. So he states that the duty is to decide..... whether or not to let the people decide.

    And thus, he states a nonsense. But what an enlightening nonsense it is! It is honest nonsense, based on the truth of what he sees. It is useful, accurate nonsense.

    This is, after all, how we live in the west. We look upon our participation in government decisions as being entirely a matter for our leaders to decide upon. We see their duty as extending towards occasionally wondering if we might like to be consulted on some harmless issue.

    I put it to threnodio, but also to everyone else, that a great deal can be learned about a power sharing process by substituting the nouns for the primary actors in the relationship.

    So consider:

    "As I have repeatedly posted, it is the duty and responsibility of the KING to decide whether or not to consult the PARLIAMENT. "

    Now what do you think of that?

    Would that fly? Is that a legitimate power sharing deal? Why?

    It is a farce, and historically we understand that this understanding underwrote the rule of divine Kings, NOT the rule of parliament. This statement describes the rule of kings before the magna carta. Sure, kings have always been at liberty to consult their aristocrats when it suits them to do so. If that is their only duty to this body, then we define the power system as the rule of divine kings.

    Therefore Threnodio should, if he is intellectually honest, admit that he has described a system of rule where the political parties have absolute legal power, and the demos has no real power.

    A "duty to decide" is otherwise know as a power. If the ordinary people don't have it, the special people do.

    Complain about this comment

  • 67. At 11:45am on 28 May 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    democracythreat (66): Bravo for an excellent post.

    Complain about this comment

  • 68. At 2:01pm on 28 May 2009, meznaric wrote:

    #66 democracythreat:

    You raise good points. I agree with your assessment of the political situation in the west and the lack of direct democratic rule.

    It is true that in a direct democracy people have the power to overturn the law that is given to them. But the question is whether the people will vote for the law that is truly the best.

    Clearly the people will vote for whatever they deem is best according to their information. But where does their information come from? It comes from the very same media corporations that have such a strong influence on the politicians today. Can such a situation where the people decide based on the information coming from the dominant media companies still be called truly democratic? Democratic system only works if the people making the decisions are informed about the consequences of those decisions and if that information comes with as little bias as possible.

    From this I would conclude that the representative democracy, for all its shortcomings, fulfills this criterion better and in this respect takes into account at least the fallibility of the people, if not their weakness (the criteria that you mentioned in your post). Having said that, the main shortcoming of many of the democratic systems in the west is the relatively low power of the parliament, the main place where opposing views from different political factions can be heard, and the relatively high power of the government. If these are balanced out I believe that the representative democracy can work very well.

    Complain about this comment

  • 69. At 4:20pm on 28 May 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #51, RCMoya612,

    You replied to my comments on the Lisbon treaty by saying
    "My (Buzet23) comment :-For me it is a document more resembling a cobbled together diplomatic statement that has lots of words that say nothing.

    Your reply :- Because it IS a cobbled together diplomatic agreement. It's how diplomacy works; you compromise on some things, you get your way in others. I'm sorry, but how do you think diplomacy works?

    'Lots of words' that say nothing? They sure don't say nothing to me, as a lawyer."

    I think you just confirmed the reason so many people do not understand the treaty, when it is written by lawyers it is deliberately laborious in a failed attempt to make it accurate, however we all know that the more complicated something becomes the more loopholes there are, and lawyers make a fortune from exploiting those loopholes. In the political or diplomatic sense those loopholes and inconsistencies mean the treaty can be abused by a country for its own ends by deliberately exploiting them. This is why any future treaty should be short, concise and precise without the legalese that most often creates the problems the EU is suffering now. As a former computer consultant I can only say that in my career my experience was that if you keep it simple it works, complicated solutions create complicated problems.

    As for the treaty itself, it is true that a consolidated version has become available since the Irish referendum but it still leave a lot to be desired due to either the content of certain proposals or the vagueness that was introduced due to the diplomatic 'horse trading' process.

    Complain about this comment

  • 70. At 4:51pm on 28 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    meznaric, i fail to grasp your argument.

    Please bare with me, as perhaps i simply don't follow the logic, but it seems that you are presuming a variable something that is not consistent between your two case studies.

    Precisely, you seek to compare direct democracy with representative democracy. You then isolate the variable of available information. Now in the system of direct democracy, you presume the variable to be faulty. Bad information begets bad decisions under direct democracy. then you compare this result to the representative system.... but now you change the variable. Representative democracy works .... because the representatives have better information than the represented.

    But how? Surely if the media are generating bad information, representatives MUST respond to this information in order to follow the will of the people?

    It seems to me that what you are saying is that everything in the pubic domain is lies, and that we need special representatives to guide us because only they have the true information. Furthermore, your analyses only works if we presume that representatives are expected to go AGAINST the will of the people, and therefore AGAINST the policies they promote publicly. For how can a politician be elected by a misinformed public, if he tells the truth based on the information he has at hand? Logically, he cannot.

    Now your ultimate postulation is practically worthless for the simple reason that if the public are really told a bunch of ridiculous lies, then it doesn't matter what sort of government they have. Everyone is a fool, and the world is a bad place. So, therefore, only a fool cares how things are managed in such a world.

    I think we must presume that everyone has access to information that is more or less accurate. If we cannot presume that, then there is really no point discussing what is to be done.

    But I cannot accept the logic that says that people are foolish, whereas politicians know best. At best, I am prepared to accept that politicians are equal to ordinary people. There is no way in hell they are any smarter. I know quite a few people who strike me as honest and intelligent, and truthful despite their own best interests. I have yet to see a party member who fits this bill.

    One last point to mention is that various studies have concluded that the best newspapers in the world exist in societies with the most direct systems of democracy. (google is your friend if you doubt this claim)

    Swiss newspapers have an especially good reputation. This raises the issue of the chicken and the egg. Which came first, good newspapers or democracy? Supply or demand?

    Necessity being the mother of invention, my bet is that demand precedes supply, and that democracy creates a highly responsive, responsible society. You can see what happens to a society when everybody stops listening to the government. It becomes listless, it produces little economic activity, and innovation stagnates. And you can see that people who feel left out of government often become this way, even in the west.

    I suspect this is why the head of the anglican church has spoken out against the media bashing of MP's. he is concerned that politics has reached a new low, and that grave damage will be done to the whole society if the rot doesn't stop. Well it isn't the first time I have reckoned Rowan to be correct, but I don't think anybody listens to him much anymore.

    Complain about this comment

  • 71. At 01:15am on 30 May 2009, meznaric wrote:

    #70 democracythreat:

    The point is not whether the media spread lies or not. There are two effects here, of course. The media do spin things in the way that suits their political agenda. But even more important effect is that people many times do not make the effort to inform themselves even when accurate information is available. Therefore they make decision based on information that is at best incomplete and at worst misguided. I often encounter people who speak against a certain phenomenon in politics simply because they do not know all the details.

    I am not saying people are less intelligent than politicians. There is a difference between intelligent and informed, though. Even a person with average intelligence can make a good decision if given good information. A highly intelligent person who does not make an effort to inform themselves though is more likely to make a bad decision.

    Take Lisbon treaty. There was a poll in Ireland after the referendum asking people why they voted the way they did. The largest group of people who voted no were those who said they voted so because the government did not educate them enough about the treaty. And this makes my point exactly - the information about the Lisbon treaty is available. You need only google it. But the people do not make the effort to inform themselves and so we only have a proportion of people who vote based on the information. Is this really how we want our country to be run?

    Complain about this comment

  • 72. At 10:04am on 30 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    meznaric wrote:
    "#70 democracythreat:
    I am not saying people are less intelligent than politicians. There is a difference between intelligent and informed, though. Even a person with average intelligence can make a good decision if given good information. A highly intelligent person who does not make an effort to inform themselves though is more likely to make a bad decision."

    You strike me as the sort of man who can cut a pizza into 6000 equally sized pieces, Meznaric.

    Let us stick to the logic and the variables. You claim intelligence is separate from information. OK, if you want. Whatever. You still haven't explained how the party member has BETTER information than the voter.

    Remember, politicians are not in power until AFTER they are elected. Right? That means that they are NOT different from their fellows before the election to power. Therefore, it is not power that gives these people better information. So what is it?

    Party membership?

    Divine grace? Both?

    Where do these people we vote for get their special information? And how? Who distributes it? Do they go to special schools and Universities? Do they speak a secret language? Are they marked with the sign of the cross, or the beast?

    Who are these special people you speak of, with their excellent information?

    But in any case, even if we accept that some people went to the right universities, and the right schools, and read the right papers...... that is no argument for democracy. It is an argument for precisely the opposite, in fact.

    If you accept, as Winston Churchill did, that some people are born superior to others, then it follows that you do not want democracy. You want the special people with the special parents and the special information and the special friends to make the decisions for everybody. And, of course to spend their money.

    There's the rub. The special people are ever so special, but they are not so good with money. They need taxes, and lots of them.

    I have no objection to special people from special schools and special families and special universities being special and exclusive. I do not object to jews saying they are the special children of god. They can knock themselves out with their special, exclusive status.

    I only object when special people tax me in order to carry on their special schemes. You see, that makes me a slave. That makes me untermensch. That means I am working so that someone from a special class of humans can sit around and tell me how to live.

    No way, meznaric. no way on earth am I going to work so that special people can tell me how to live. I am not a dog. I am not a subhuman being. i am not the property of a higher class of person, to be sent this way and that, to be used for this purpose or that, like a chattel.

    You see, that is where you end up, if you believe in special information and special people who somehow have access to the special information. It doesn't matter if you believe in the special communists like Lenin or the special Lords like Churchill or the special priests like the Ayatolloh Khomeini.

    Once you believe in special people from special families, you have lost your freedom, and your humanity. It is only a matter of time before you accept being treated like a dog by your superiors, and before you start treating your inferiors like dogs.

    Remember, we love dogs. Dogs are man's best friend. They just aren't human beings, you see. Human beings are special.

    Complain about this comment

  • 73. At 12:22pm on 30 May 2009, meznaric wrote:

    #72 democracythreat:

    You are misinterpreting my argument. All I am saying is that most people do not make the effort to inform themselves sufficiently even though information is available. Go to the tube in London and check out what people are reading. Now I do not believe these people are unintelligent or unable to grasp the subtleties of politics. They simply do not make the effort to find good information.

    Obviously people who do not make an effort to inform themselves are much less likely to want to actually become politicians. How many people know the details of what the Lisbon treaty is about? I would say at most 20% (and this is a generous estimate). You know how many people are calling for a referendum? 80%. How do these people decide how to vote is beyond me but they do decide, possibly on impulse, and they do vote. This is why representative democracy is better. People who make decisions are people who actually go and inform themselves.

    Complain about this comment

  • 74. At 1:51pm on 30 May 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    I understand that you are claiming that part members inform themselves about issues whereas ordinary people on the tube do not.

    But how?

    Practically, how is this done? Now I agree that a lot of people are not interested in politics in the UK, but a huge number are apathetic precisely because they have decided, correctly, that what they think doesn't matter. Why should they be interested in politics? It has nothing to do with them.

    But that doesn't mean they are not informed about issues that matter. It just means they don't care about the party system, and the things the party system says are important. You say the people were not interested in the Lisbon treaty. I say that lack of interest is, of itself, the fundamentally crucial point to take away from the situation.

    Why should people try like hell to understand the Lisbon treaty? What demigod came down from the heavens and said that every piece of horrible legislation created in Brussels must be, axiomatically, the most important issue of the day?

    And this is no trite point. Representatives often frustrate the legitimate will of the people by deciding that some things are not issues when they are, and some things are issues when they are not. The invasion of Iraq is the most striking case, but this happens all the time.

    You see, we are arguing about who owns the cake, but you've already eaten it. You presume the people are not interested in the issues, because you've already taken away their right to define the issues. What the people are interested in is stupid, because the people are stupid. It is circular logic, and comes back to the crux of every argument against direct democracy and for representative democracy: the people are too stupid, they need clever chaps like me to save their babies.

    Anyway, there is a even greater flaw in your reasoning. You presume that the job of government is to make the "right" decisions, not the popular decisions. You think the will of the people should not sway the views of a politician who is right, and who knows they are right.

    Ergo, you don't believe in democracy at all. You would rather accept that a politician knows that they are right than accept that it is the job of the representative to represent the views of the popular will that elected them to that office. Crucially, this means you are actually 100% against the fundamental premis of representative democracy and democracy itself. What you call representative democracy, you actually mean sham democracy. You want politicians with good access to special information to be able to ignore the will of the populace and to represent opinions that are contrary to the will of the populace.

    Thus, you do not want representation OF the populace. You want representatives FOR the populace.

    This is why the swiss say that in Switzerland the people do not trust the government, but in England the government do not trust the people. You basically do not trust the people. You don't trust them, and they should listen to and follow the lead of people you do trust: politicians.


    Complain about this comment

  • 75. At 6:09pm on 02 Jun 2009, meznaric wrote:

    Why they should or should not try to understand the Lisbon Treaty is besides the point. The point is, they do not make the effort to understand it. To have a meaningful direct democracy you require an informed electorate. If you want to have a meaningful referendum on a topic, you need people who are informed on the topic. These criteria are not fulfilled for the Lisbon treaty, I am afraid.

    As for me not believing in democracy. I do not believe in *direct democracy*. However, I do think that the representative democracy is a good system of government and a good balance between the popularity and quality of the decisions. In direct democracy you have popular decisions that are not necessarily of high quality, and in totalitarianism you have decisions whose quality and popularity vary depending on the leader.

    You are right that I do not trust uninformed people to make the decisions that affect everyone. I would rather a representative, whose job is to get informed, make the decision for everyone. If he did a good job or not can get judged at an election day.

    Complain about this comment

View these comments in RSS

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.