Monthly Archives: May 2008

Parliament should have scrutiny powers? How radical can you get?

If you want evidence of how weak the UK’s model of Parliamentary democracy truly is, you only need to glance at this article:

Parliament should be able to bypass ministers and launch its own inquiries into issues of “exceptional” public concern such as the Iraq war, MPs say.

This is a power that pretty much every single Parliament in an established democracy takes for granted. It goes to the heart of the point of democracy, yet here it is considered to be radical and should be reserved for “exceptional” circumstances.

Meanwhile, the government’s Constitutional Renewal Bill, which was supposed to usher in a new era of Parliamentary scrutiny, only actually codifies existing conventions on things like the government’s (or “Crown’s” if you will) war and treaty-making powers, and actually proposes to reduce scrutiny of the attorney general. Even Charlie Falconer dismisses it as “trivial“. That is what Gordon Brown chose to launch his premiership on all those months ago – a complete figleaf. Is it any wonder his government is collapsing like a compost heap on a sunny day?

Henley and Paddy’s memoirs

The Tories seem to be having problems deciding on who should replace Boris Johnson as their candidate in Henley. Meanwhile I got an email this morning from Lord Rennard about why I should go and help the Lib Dem campaign there:

When Paddy publishes his memoirs, he will pay great tribute to a particular group of people. This group is the one that travelled across the country and worked so hard to bring about the famous by-election victories that established the Liberal Democrats.

A particular debt is owed to those who came to help in the early stages of the key campaigns. It took many hundreds of people throughout the campaigns to win successes for the party from Eastbourne (1990) to Winchester (1997).

I’m sure that is all true, but why is Paddy planning to publish his memoirs when he published his far more extensive diaries 7 years ago?

Boris Johnson’s crime maps, data protection and land values

Unaccustomed as I am to defending Boris Johnson, I’m not convinced that publishing crime maps would necessarily result in a breach of data protection. Didn’t we solve this problem with census data decades ago?

A more intriguing objection is the complaint by RICS that “publicising high crime areas in such detail could literally wipe thousands off house prices overnight, further disadvantaging those who are already struggling to make ends meet.” I think this is possibly true, although it is a particular problem for the UK where we don’t have proper land/property taxation. In countries which use property taxes more extensively and reassess them more regularly (or indeed, at all), such data is a double edged sword. Yes, it would lead to the value of their properties dropping but that in turn would lead to them paying less tax. If you don’t get the service, you get your money back: sounds like a fair deal to me. In the UK though it would be unambiguously bad news for many, whilst enriching those fortunate enough to live in safe areas still further.