Sunday, 28 April 2013

Vote For What?

On Friday 26 April, EU Referendum, under “UK Politics, Running Out Of Laws” says that MP’s are not being lazy in spending less time at Westminster, having other things to do which are part of the job and are properly occupied. 

He points out that as far as the trade of law making goes our rulers, elected or unelected have never been busier.  A veritable tsunami of laws has been coming in swamping both understanding and the capability to govern effectively.


Meanwhile, the European Parliament has rarely been busier, listing on its database 1,301 "legislative acts" so far, for its 2009-2014 session. That is where the action is, demonstrating how far the power has drained from Westminster.

This, of course, was precisely what Hugh Gaitskell predicted in his "thousand years of history" speech of 1962, with the Westminster parliament being reduced to the status of a county council.

And so it has come to pass yet, when it happens, not one journalist reports on the reason why Parliament has so little to do.


What I disagree with is the suggestion that the Westminster Parliament is reduced to the status of a County Council. 

If only, one thing this blog has been fond of saying that the onetime Counties of Clackmannan, Rutland, Radnor and Fermanagh had more real authority and power over the provision of services in the past than does the Westminster Parliament at present.

The equals of the County Councils in this respect were the old County Boroughs, which were the larger cities and some of those of middling size with a small number of ancient Cities.  Under the County Councils were the councils of the Municipal Boroughs, Urban Districts and Rural Districts, with in the latter two another level of Parish Council.

All alas swept away by Heath’s mad urge to centralize and consolidate in 1973-1974.  This was the very man who took us into Europe.  Quite where the Westminster Parliament now stands in relation to any of those would make an interesting parlour game.

My own view, as someone around and working back at the time Gaitskell made his prescient speech, is that the comparison is patchy.  There are some things where our Parliament is little better than a Parish Council, but the bulk look to me to be more like a badly run Rural District Council.

There is now a minority of small responsibilities which might rate County or County Borough Council level, but Europe is well on course to take those away as well.

We have local elections next week.  One of the grimmer ironies of all this is that our people at Parliament and on the local councils are pocketing personally payments and expenses that could have been only dreamed of in 1962.

So pay up, shut up, and don’t complain or you could get arrested.

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