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More to My MP

My MP replied within 24 hours with long, detailed, letter concluding "It is unfortunate that some groups are whipping up unnecessary fears and making misleading and hysterical claims in order to oppose these sensible proposals."

That is at least observing an MP's primary duty as my representative.

I replied:

Dear MP

Thank you for your speedy reply and comprehensive letter. Unfortunately, its content reflects my failure to communicate my point. I do not (unlike some of the people you mention) doubt either the Government's motives nor its good intentions in proposing these Bills. I am sure that the originators have no intention of abusing the powers they intend to take, and that they believe that they will implement adequate safeguards against their abuse by their successors in government. What I am trying to draw attention to is that they will fail in their endeavours due to the practical consequences of such legislation, and that their failure will damage the reputation of Labour as a governing party beyond repair.

Arguments in principle can be made for both a Poll Tax and a National Id Card. A Poll Tax may be proposed to reflect the principle that all individuals benefit from the services of the state and should thus all contribute to its costs. In practice, however, the Poll Tax failed because it could not be comprehensively implemented at reasonable cost. An Id Card may be proposed to meet security concerns, but the Id Card legislation proposes a vast, expensive, technocratic bureaucracy that cannot possibly meet its political and technological objectives. In practice when such systems fail, the poorest and most vulnerable members of society end up bearing the bulk of both the costs and the associated injustices. This is both inequitable and expensive, and, as the history of the Poll Tax shows, will not be borne by the British public. The Id Card (as proposed) will fail for similar, practical systemic and political reasons as the Poll Tax did. The Security aspects are merely among those desirable objectives that cannot practically be met by such means.

The situation with respect to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is more complicated.

The principle behind my objection to the proposals is encapsulated in the repeated use of the phrase "A Minister must be satisfied..." A Minister is person pursuing a political career in an administrative structure. He or she will make his or her decision on the basis of the information available to, and following the practices of, their Party and their Department. This privileges the executive over the representative, and negates the primary principle of a representative democracy, which is that as my MP you should be able to reflect the interests and concerns of your constituents in the nation's legislative process. I believe strongly that representative democracy is the least worst form of Government available to us. I am content that legislation, duly considered and passed by the House of Commons, reflects my concerns and interests in the overall context of the nation's concerns and interests (notwithstanding my reactions to the various results of that process). I am _not_ content for you to sign away your duty as my representative on the basis that "a Minister must be satisfied". I want the House of Commons to be satisfied. This is an essential safeguard against tyranny and one that must not be signed away in pursuit of administrative convenience.

In practice, of course, I cannot predict how, when and by whom this power will be abused. I am sure, however, that it will be, sooner or later, because that is the nature of both human beings and their systems. When that happens, it is today's Labour Government that will bear the historical responsibility for that abuse.

The net result is that, with these two Bills, I believe the Government risks destroying its democratic legitimacy as a governing party, much of its reputation for good governance, and the historical legacy of the Labour Party. I grew up under the series of Conservative Governments that ultimately destroyed themselves with the help of the Poll Tax. I do not want the Labour Party to go the same way. Please learn from history, and do not support these impractical Bills that contribute to the destruction of the Labour Government and Party.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
9th Apr, 2006 19:44 (UTC)
Good reply...

You might also wish to bear in mind that ex-heads of MI5 and MI6 have said that ID cards will not enhance our security, and one of them has gone so far as to say that it would be a gift to terrorists. You can get details of the quotes from the no2id website.
9th Apr, 2006 19:54 (UTC)
It is unfortunate that some groups are whipping up unnecessary fears and making misleading and hysterical claims in order to advance these senseless proposals.

The test of whether a proposal is sensible is whether it can legitimately address two questions:
  • What is it for?
  • Will it work?
The ID card and database proponents have given a different answer to the first question every year for the last twenty years, depending on the tabloid sensation of the day. That has been the "whipping up unnecessary fears and making misleading and hysterical claims" part.

They have never given a credible answer to the second question, which is the "senseless" part. And no, "trust us, we're sure it will" is not a credible answer.
10th Apr, 2006 07:08 (UTC)
10th Apr, 2006 07:09 (UTC)
Hear, hear!
Please may I link to this, and quote portions, in my LJ?
20th May, 2006 12:13 (UTC)
On much the same lines
You might want to note the Police & Justice Bill, which takes away the traditional 'tripartite' control of police and gives control firmly to the Home Secretary (whoever that may be this week).

I have no idea why the Labour Party is so determined to gain control of the police - both previous reductions in the numbers of police forces has occurred under a Labour government.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has already registered that it will be 'unable to comply with the bill in its current form'.

But - reducing the number of police forces = less chief constables, so the existing ones are pretty desperate to still have a job at the end of the reshuffle. So they aren't going to shout very loudly, are they? More's the pity - !

My own experience is the larger the organisation, the more unnecessary bureaucracy and paper-pushing that goes on. As one officer said to me, if four forces each have a person with a particular responsibility, chances are not only will they all keep their job but someone additional will be appointed to oversee them!
Police Forces have managed perfectly adequately for a very long time on a 'mutual aid' basis - if there's a serious incident in one Force area, other Forces will support the personnel shortfall. The resilience argument holds no water whatsoever.

And no, I won't be voting for this government again, either. My father, firmly old labour, and HIS father, a turn-of-the-century radical, must be revolving like dervishes. This does leave something of a dilemma, however, as I have little hope that Cameron would be any improvement.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline M

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