Monday, October 03, 2011

A Thorn In The Side

There have been some interesting pieces on the Autonomous Mind and EUReferendum blogs about taking positive actions to assert a degree on control in local politics. The starting point in both cases is a wish to exert direct, democratic control in opposition to the current ruling elites (both at the national and trans-national level). While it's part of established political conversation to bemoan the political apathy that is a persistent feature of the scene in this country, the establishment seeks only to address this through means which are largely symbolic and designed to further entrench it's power.

We see, for example, discussions about the central funding of political parties - as though this is anything but a means of securing the continued existence of political machines structured to protect the current system. And, as we see in Europe, central funding of political parties leads not to a renaissance of political activity in the broader population, but to increased levels of fraud, nepotism and corruption. At the same time there are suggestions that the key is to make political involvement easier - through postal voting, reducing the voting age, electronic voting etc. Again, rather than leading to greater involvement, it creates more scope for electoral fraud and serves again to entrench the current cosy system. The same goes for things like proportional representation or the alternative transferable vote - another fix that ignores the fundamental problem - our political class sits above the rest of us and treats us all as voting fodder.

Political labels, like left and right or Labour and Tory, are meaningless. They play at politics and jockey for position but there's a consensus amongst all the main parties and they make noise over trivial details. Non-issues are elevated to major importance by a compliant media and the real issues are ignored. Witness our so-called Prime Minister pompously expound on supermarket carrier bags while the global economy veers towards collapse. And then they wonder why we view them with nothing but hatred and contempt.

So why the interest in what Autnomous Mind and EUReferendum are saying? Because they're suggesting that we exert pressure where we have at least some chance of making a difference. Westminster is a branch office of our real government in Brussels, what chance do we have of making a splash there?

The key to exerting pressure locally is to make known to our friends and neighbours what our local authorities are doing. The Freedom of Information Act is something that we can use to expose the idiocies of local policies, where we can show how budgets are disbursed according to whim or in obedience to central government diktat.

Will this type of activity create a groundswell of opinion and renaissance of political activity? Possibly, possibly not. But what other choices are there? We can sit on the sidelines and rant, or we can become a thorn in the side of the bureaucrats who run our local services.


TomTom said...

Take Helmut Kohl and arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber extradited from Canada in 2009.

How Schreiber facilitated an arms deal to Saudi and bribed German ministers; how he met Schauble (current German Finance Minister) in a car park in Southern Germany and handed him a suitcase full of cash for transportation to secret CDU Slush Fund accounts in Switzerland.

How Elf_Acquitaine ran a slush fund for Mitterand and paid Kohl's Party for the Leuna Refinery in cash for the election; and how noone could find files relating to the refinery once Kohl was prised out of the Chancellery and Angela Merkel could move into pole position.

Yes, and all this on top of State-funded parties paid into the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Friederich Ebert else does the SPD maintain a cruise liner Princess Daphne


Makes the Tory use of River Companies in Hong Kong look positively amateurish

PS. The German Finance Minister is very hardline on cracking down on tax evasion in Switzerland !!!!

Autonomous Mind said...

You're absolutely right about the political labels.

The left-right divide of yesteryear has been replaced by consensus politics which makes the main parties indistinguishable from each other on the major issues.

The real political battle today is between an all powerful big state and those who want a small state that provides basic services.

One weapon in our arsenal is to hold the organs of state to account and force them to reveal information they would rather keep from us.

Let the FOI requests flow...

Contrarian said...

TomTom - Good examples. And we need to mention those whenever anyone floats the idea that tax payer funding of political parties aids democracy

Contrarian said...

Thank you AM. I've listed all of the London borough FOI email addresses for easy reference. Let's pile on the pressure.

Mike Cunningham said...

After receiving a 'proposal' from Durham County Council which would see all the maintenance costs for Council-supplied stairlifts passed across to the new 'owners',namely us; and also after blogging and correspondence with Richard of EUReferendum, I too have slung another FOI request towards County Hall, asking when this proposal was discussed with Councillors.

I forecast an intesting response!

Contrarian said...

Good luck, Mike. Please keep us posted. My own FOI request to my local council went in a week ago. I'll be posting the resply when it arrives...